Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG: Power meets luxury
Seat massage settings introduce new era of comfort
Driving in flowing weekend motorway traffic, I quickly caught up with a Ford Mustang pottering along in the middle lane.
Tapping the accelerator of Mercedes-Benz NZ's newly released S63 AMG, I indicated and overtook him - much to the shock of the 60-something male driver.
He must have seen the Mercedes emblem on the bonnet of the large sedan in his rear-view mirror and assumed the driver would be either an industry leader or a chauffeur for a flash Auckland hotel.
So when he glanced across and saw me - neither of the above - he was galvanised into action.
He too tapped his accelerator and tried to catch up with me.
Powered by a 5.4-litre, eight-cylinder bi-turbo engine producing 430kW of power and a stonking 900Nm of torque, this Mercedes meant Mr Mustang's attempts at overtaking were fruitless.
Not that I needed to trouble myself with a power play or speeding, instead I was smugly enjoying the flagship car and its impressive AMG features.
Priced from $330,000, my S63 was specced with such optional features as heads-up display, 20in AMG 10-spoke alloys and AMG exterior package, taking the total price to $347,050.
To visually show the difference from the other S-Class sedans, the vehicle had the AMG front and rear aprons and side skirts, plus the twin tailpipe exhausts.
If Mr Mustang could have seen inside the car then maybe he would have backed off and appreciated the luxury I was being enveloped in.
While there was plenty of AMG badging - from the floor mats to the top of the central armrest, it was topped off with the plush upholstered leather seats with the fancy stitching.
While the rear seats reclined, the winning spots were the front two seats. The S63 came with an elegant comfort package including dynamic function (where panels "hug" you when you corner), heated seats and more massage selections than your usual spa.
You could dial in classic style, mobilising, activating, and hot relaxing massage for the shoulders or back, with driver and passenger individualising their massage.
The seats totally changed the vibe of the journey. Gone was my road rage ("sure, go on pass me Mr Mustang"). My front passengers were silent except for whimpers when the massaging component hit a tight muscle, and one passenger refused to get out of the car altogether, instead dialling up the intensity of the massage style then reclining the seat.
I too was guilty of coveting the seats. Twice I was early to pick up my teenage kids from classes, so I twirled in my massage of choice, added heating function and dialled in the television function in the front infotainment screen.
There was an impressive line-up of TV channels - though the screen stopped working once you began to drive.
And yes, I was also guilty of numerous Facebook gloating posts of watching TV in my luxurious Mercedes-Benz while having a seat massage me.
But it's not just the seats that entice buyers (though I can't blame them if they did). It's the AMG performance from the vehicle.
The rear-wheel-drive S63 gets the AMG speedshift seven-gear transmission, hitting optimum gear in quick time.
While it can hit 100km in 4.4 seconds, the weight (2045kg) and the potential power means you don't need a hurried start, because within a few seconds of acceleration you have launched off and are in the car's peak performance.
This is a vehicle that loves cruising around 100km/h on the motorway, with the suspension in comfort and the promise of more power from the 5.4-litre petrol engine. But dial in sport mode with sport suspension and the S63 shows who's boss - and it wasn't me.
Through the back roads around Waiuku and Pukekohe, it surged ahead, smoothly taking the bumpy inclines while itching to show off its power - making it a vehicle designed for long road trips.
But whatever the potential power, the underlining factor is that this is a large vehicle. At 5116mm long, 1899mm wide and 1496mm high, it takes over the road - and on the practical side took up one-and-a-half parking spots lengthwise at my supermarket carpark.
The latest S63 AMG is 100kg lighter than the previous model due to the use of carbon fibre, a lithium-ion battery and AMG's weight reduced AMG wheels.
The weight means better fuel economy figures (official numbers are 10.2l/100km while I managed an average of 12 litres) and lower emissions - important for European owners.
Since it was first launched in 1972, the S-Class has always been used to debut the German company's huge array of safety features and technology that have now filtered down to the likes of the Toyota Yaris.
First introduced in the S-Class were ABS, air bags, active cruise control, traction control, stability control and, in this latest model, such a huge array of technology that the large luxury sedan can have twice as many lines of code in its computers than a modern airliner.
Sure, its AMG peers in the Mercedes-Benz line-up are power hungry performance machines with delightful exhaust notes, but the S63 is first and foremost an elegant, large, luxury sedan - and don't forget, fantastic massaging seats.