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Car of the Year: No. 2: Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG

Robert Ross

One carmaker continues to advance standards for technology, safety, and performance in automobiles designed for real-world use. This year, Mercedes-Benz ups the ante once again with what may be the most impressive big sedan on the market. Just when Bentley, Rolls-Royce, and even Mercedes’ Stuttgart stablemate, Maybach, are laying claim to the fanciest and the fastest cars, the engineers at AMG (Mercedes’ performance division) unleash a version of their fresh new S-Class massaged to the nth degree.

The S550 is a great car in its own right, but the S65 AMG is something else altogether. The handbuilt AMG is roughly twice the price of the basic model, and at first glance, one wonders how it can be almost $100,000 better. But time behind the wheel quickly (quickly being the operative word) convinces any driver with a penchant for performance that the money is well spent.

AMG equips the S65 with every creature comfort on the Mercedes-Benz menu, and its trump card is a twin-turbocharged V-12 engine that produces 604 hp and a disc-rupturing 738 ft lbs of torque. Numbers cannot adequately describe the effortless acceleration—at any speed—that is available. “It lulls you into this very restful place, then wakes you up with a snap of your neck,” said Steve Levitan after his eye-opening drive.

 
This is a rocket ship of a sedan, and one that handles with dexterity uncommon in such a substantial automobile. To put its capabilities into perspective, consider that the S65 shares the same drivetrain that powers the new Maybach 57S, yet at approximately 5,000 pounds, it is about 1,000 pounds lighter than the $375,000 übersedan. Performance addicts already will have done the math.

The S65 also will appeal to drivers seeking a sophisticated sedan. “The user interface is amazing,” opined Bob Maron, an owner of multiple Bentleys. “The S65 is leaps and bounds beyond the technology of the Bentley Flying Spur.” The big Mercedes offers relative value along with a modicum of understatement. Although it makes you feel, as Darryl Frank said, as though you are sitting on a throne when you are in its driver seat, the S65—apart from the quad exhaust tips and the discreet V-12 biturbo badges on the fenders—displays no signs that it is the king of the horsepower hill.
 
SPECIFICATIONS:

ENGINE: 6-liter, twin-turbo V-12
TRANSMISSION: 5speedautomatic
POWER: 604 hp at 4,800 rpm
TORQUE: 738 ft lbs at 2,000 rpm
CURB WEIGHT: 5,035 pounds
LENGTH: 205 inches
ZERO-TO-60: 4.2 seconds
TOP SPEED: 155 mph (limited)
BASE PRICE: $182,275

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