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Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG adds performance to luxury

It's deliciously sweet when you're surrounded with almost everything you want. We were like kids in a candy store as we test-drove the 2009 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG. This performance sedan was loaded to the hilt, with a long list of features and options that would make a gearhead drool. But you'd expect that out of a sedan with a sticker price of $141,290. So what's in a car that costs about as much as a small house? Pure performance and pampering.

Appearance: The S63 AMG has the signature Mercedes-Benz look, complete with chrome grille and hood ornament. Added are the sporty body kit, bi-Xenon headlights, dual chrome tail pipes and 20-inch wheels to set it apart from its S class brothers.

Performance: The 6.3-liter hand-built AMG V-8 delivers a smooth, seat-plastering acceleration of 0-60 mph in 4.5 second with 518 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. Not bad for a large 4,960-pound sedan. The seven-speed automatic transmission is programmed for three modes — sport, comfort and manual — to control the shifting, suspension and engine. Combined with performance tires and an adaptive damping system, this car was surprisingly agile as it hugged the asphalt on turns. The most frustrating part is that you can't test its full potential on our roads. Getting stuck in traffic on the Howard Frankland Bridge is an injustice. However, there's plenty to keep a driver occupied …

Interior: Inside, road noise is just a quiet background drone, except when you hit the gas as it wakes up the engine with a refined roar. The cockpit design is elegant, with the dash curving to embrace the front passengers. The 14-way power seats come with plenty of adjustable bolstering to hold you in place during turns. Stressed from driving in bad traffic? Turn on the front-seat massage for a relaxing commute. Each passenger gets an individual climate control setting. The main console is a command center of knobs and buttons controlling a GPS, a Harman Kardon surround system, CD/DVD changer, radio and more. Your voice can control the phone, audio and navigation, or use the multifunction turn wheel or numeric pad in the middle.

Gadgetry: Technology is what makes the S63 AMG above its class. The car is loaded with safety features:

Blind-spot assistance: The side mirrors flash a warning if there's a car in the adjacent lane, then audibly "dings" if you try to change lanes.

The Distronic adaptive cruise control detects the distance between you and the car in front of you and adjusts the speed if you get too close.

Night assist: The tach area turns into a video screen that displays what's ahead in higher-definition black and white.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Attention to details: The seat controls on the door are easy to get to.

Safety features: Economy cars deserve them, too. Let's hope for the trickle-down effect.

The Mercedes mystique: It's not the luxury I appreciate as much as the engineering.

Lyra Solochek

Spa day every day: Bring on the traffic jams. I'll just enjoy the massaging seats.

Electric roller shades: Cover up the rear windows to keep the sun out.

G-force: Punch that gas pedal for some powerful acceleration.

Bottom line: If you want luxury, the regular S series sedan will give you that. But if you also want top-notch performance, and you have an infinitely deep wallet, this car is worth a look. For the rest of us? Just keep dreaming.

2009 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG

Price: $131,350 base, as tested, $141,290

Powertrain: Hand-built AMG 6.3-liter naturally aspirated V-8 with seven-speed automatic.

Horsepower: 518 at 6,800 rpm

Torque: 465 pound-feet at 5,200 rpm

0-60 mph: 4.5 seconds

Curb weight: 4,960 pounds

in inches: Wheelbase, 124.6; Length, 205; Width, 73.7

Fuel economy: 11 miles per gallon city, 17 mpg highway ($3,000 gas guzzler tax)

Gas type: Premium unleaded

Safety features: Electronic stability program; Predictive Occupant Protection System; front, side and curtain air bags.

Other models to consider: Others in S class

Options worth considering: Distronic cruise control, parking guide; blind-spot assist; iPod integration kit; and panoramic sunroof.

Web site: showroom/models/s63

Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG adds performance to luxury 07/10/09 [Last modified: Friday, July 10, 2009 5:13pm]
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