It is very possible to train an elephant to dance; the real trick is getting them to want it. Not that we’re comparing the 2024 Mercedes-AMG S63 E Performance to the world’s largest and most powerful land-traveling mammal, but considering the car weighs an estimated 5500 pounds, measures 17.5 feet long and packs nearly 800 horsepower. the similarities are undeniable. The Selenite Gray Magno satin paint of our example car only encourages analogy.
Fortunately, AMG has been defying the laws of physics for decades, starting with the original Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.8 “Red Pig” in the 1970s. But even the most robust species need to evolve; for the S63 E Performance, this means the addition of an F1-derived electric motor and battery to the S63’s 4.0-liter 603-hp twin-turbo V-8. Together they’re good for a claimed 791 horsepower.
AMG makes it clear that the focus of the S63 hybrid powertrain is “less on electric range and more on best-in-class performance.” Fittingly, the S63 E Performance places a 188-hp electric motor at the rear axle and integrates a two-speed transmission and an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential. This allows total output from the V-8 and electric motor to be delivered simultaneously. The car starts in EV-only mode, and we estimate the electric-only range should be around 20 miles at speeds up to 87 mph.
F1 derivative hybrid system
It takes a bit of complex choreography to keep the S63 moving gracefully. At the risk of being oversimplified, the system, referred to as the “P3 hybrid,” delivers instant torque from a standstill for quicker launches and, if pushed subtly, smoother disposal around town. In the event of wheel slip on the rear axle, the AMG Performance 4Matic+ all-wheel drive system performs two steps and directs the output to the front wheels via an electronically controlled clutch pack. Likewise, 4Matic+ provides all-wheel drive when the S63 is running on electric motor alone.
The 10.5-kWh battery, developed with UK-based F1 engine manufacturer High Performance Powertrains (HPP), uses a lithium-ion energy storage system derived from the unit used in the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team’s Formula 1 hybrid racing car. Relatively light and compact, it can withstand the stress and heat build-up of repeated rapid discharge and recharge cycles while maintaining high current flow thanks to advanced cooling circuits. Designed to keep the battery at an optimal 113 degrees Fahrenheit, the cooling system circulates liquid around all 1200 cells before entering an integral heat exchanger mounted directly on the battery and then to another exchanger at the front of the car. A safety system is in place to reduce output if the temperature wanders too far from the sweet spot and to protect the battery from accelerated degradation.
Four levels of onboard regeneration are available, ranging from almost Freewheeling Level 0 to almost Level 3 single-pedal driving, which can return over 90 kilowatts of energy to the battery, depending on driving conditions. We found the Level 2 to be the ticket for comfortable cruising and the Level 0 to be the perfect choice for winding roads in the Santa Monica Mountains. Interestingly, AMG says the only way to charge the battery to 100 percent is via the onboard 3.7-kW AC charger. Again, the battery is optimized for fast power delivery, not record-breaking running economy, and the regeneration algorithm takes this—and battery life—into account.
Driving the S63
Although the hybrid system sounds a bit complicated and intimidating, any concerns about its viability disappear after a few drives. The various elements come together invisibly thanks to the careful calibration of the software, together with the unique nature of the electric motor and its ability to deliver torque instantly directly to the rear axle. Whether we’re cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway or traversing the mountain roads above, the powertrain remains firm with zero soft points or clumsy handovers. Like a performance EV, plenty of thrust can be tapped at almost any speed, but in the S63 it comes with a pure high-performance V-8 exhaust, tuned just short of full blat in Sport and Sport+ modes.
You use Launch mode by selecting the Sport+ drive mode, hitting the brakes hard and mashing the accelerator; step off the brakes, and the S63 steps out with a burst of uninterrupted acceleration that defies the weight of the vehicle. Mercedes-AMG claims a 60-mph sprint in just 3.2 seconds. Note that the 2018 S63 sedan carries an estimated 3.4-second 60-mph time; we managed to shave three-tenths off that estimate in our testing of the model, giving us reason to think sub-3.0 second real-world times are within the realm of possibility for the 2024 model.
Stay on the throttle, and the electric motor’s two-speed transmission on the rear axle shifts imperceptibly into second gear at 87 mph, with the electric motor spinning at about 13,500 rpm before the shift. Both ratios play an important role in optimizing maximum torque for low and high speed situations. While the motor’s full torque is available from idle, it decreases at higher rpm, according to AMG. Top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph.
The position of the electric drive unit above the rear axle should pay dividends in the form of front-to-rear weight distribution. Coupled with standard adaptive air springs, up to 2.5 degrees of rear-wheel steering, and active anti-roll bars front and rear, this technology seems to shrink the big sedan’s footprint, encouraging you to cut the rug when the mood strikes. The electric motor’s instant torque helps the S63 spin out of corners with noticeable results.
S63 E Performance design
In terms of styling, the S63 looks on the conservative side. Notable is the absence of the Mercedes star hood ornament, replaced by a flat silver-and-black AMG hood emblem. There’s also an AMG-specific grille and some tweaks to the fascia. At the rear, one finds trapezoidal tailpipes and a rear diffuser. The 21-inch wheels are specific to the S63. But overall it cuts a clean, respectable sedan profile rather than a flashy extrovert.
The interior includes the usual S-class luxury channeled through AMG lenses. This means extremely comfortable seats in all four positions, bespoke upholstery and stitching in exclusive colours, and the necessary embossed AMG emblem to remind passengers that you’ve spent a lot of money.
We found the relatively conservative infotainment screen to be a stylish and refreshing break from the recent series of big screens and information overload. Elegantly integrated into the central waterfall above the console, it is legible and easy to reach. Combined with the excellent head-up display, there is more than enough data available for the driver to use safely. While the MB Hyperscreen seems to fit in the brand’s largest EQ electric model, its omission here helps preserve the authenticity of this vehicle.
With the Mercedes-AMG EQS sedan catering to the high-zoot luxury EV market and the traditional S-class having the same demographic as it always has, the AMG S63 E Performance is a small but profitable niche. The Audi S8, BMW 8-series Gran Coupe, and BMW Alpina B7 offer relatively similar four-door land yacht options, but only the Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid can match the S63’s sophisticated and effective one-foot-in-the-hybrid powertrain. then one in the future. In addition, the rear seat of the S-class remains the segment benchmark. Best of all, the S63 will dance the night away whenever the mood strikes.
2024 Mercedes-AMG S63 E Performance
Vehicle Type: front engine, rear motor, all wheel drive, 4 or 5 passenger, 4 door sedan
PRICE (C/D EST)
twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve 4.0-liter V-8, 603 hp, 664 lb-ft + AC motor, 188 hp, 236 lb-ft (combined output: 791 hp, 1055 lb-ft; 10.5-kWh lithium – ion battery pack; 3.7-kW onboard charger)
Transmission, F/R: 9-speed automatic/2-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 126.6 inches
Length: 210.1 in
Width: 75.6 inches
Height: 59.6 inches
Trunk Volume: 11 feet3
Curb weight (C/D approx): 5500 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 2.8 seconds
100 mph: 7.1 seconds
1/4-Mile: 10.9 seconds
Top Speed: 155 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
Combined/City/Highway: 17/14/24 mpg
Combined Petrol + Electric: 50 MPGe
EV range: 17 mi
Andrew Wendler brings decades of sad, writing and editorial experience with many outlets for Car and Driver. A rust-belt, tireless local organizer in the region, he once won a $5 bet by walking the elevated People Mover track that circles downtown Detroit.