2018 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Expert Review

Editor's Overview

The 2018 Mercedes-AMG S-Class S63 and S65 are the high-performance variants of the German luxury brand’s flagship. In addition to the stately full-size sedan, these models are also available as elegant and imposing 2-door coupes and cabriolets. At over $200,000, they can cost more than a house.

You'll Like The 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class If...

If you crave not just the prestige and envy that come with driving a new Mercedes S-Class, but also want a serious dose of performance, these AMG variants grant it all. For those seeking even more rarefied air, the Mercedes-AMG S65 models are among the few new cars still available with a V12 engine.

You May Not Like The 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class If...

With prices that can reach well past the $150,000 mark and even into the $200,000 range, you might want something even more showy and further from mainstream luxury. For example, a Bentley Flying Spur sedan or Continental coupe or convertible comes to mind.

What's New

Like the standard models, the Mercedes-AMG S-Class line gets a mid-cycle refresh for 2018. New features include a host of active safety and driver-assistance features that offers Level 2 autonomous-driving capabilities, plus the Energizing Comfort system that aims to bring comfort, vitality and even joy to the driver via climate, fragrance and seat massage. S63 models replace the former 5.5-liter V8 with a smaller but powerful 4.0-liter.

Interior Features

The S-Class cabin remains one of the most opulent available. Just about every touch point is covered in quality material made from leather, wood or metal. Even the aroma of the cabin itself is special, thanks to the standard Air Balance fragrance system with a replaceable vial of olfactory serum in the glove box. The 12.3-inch central display is impressive, as is the twin screen next to it as the instrument cluster -- an otherwise optional feature in base S-Class models that’s standard in these AMG variants. The 2018 Mercedes-AMG S-Class sedan offers laudable rear-seat room. By their nature, the S-Class coupe and convertible are tighter in back but still respectable for a 4-seater. Befitting a vehicle costing over $200,000, the Mercedes-AMG S65 variants feature a handcrafted cabin with some of the plushest materials around. Both AMG sedan models can be further spruced up with a 4-passenger seating option that replaces the rear bench with a pair of individual bucket seats. One of the few complaints we have is the lack of sliding sun visors.

Exterior Features

The revised 2018 Mercedes-AMG S-Class sedan, coupe and cabriolet retain the basic lines of their standard Benz counterparts, but all boast unique and more aggressive details that enable them to stand out. Exclusive lower bodywork, gaping front fascias, big 20-inch wheels and AMG badging provide details to the larger story. As we mentioned, most eyes will be familiar with the S-Class sedan’s shape. Still fresh are the Mercedes-AMG S-Class coupe and fabric-top cabriolet, introduced just a few years ago in their latest form. Don’t let the 2-door designation deceive you. At just under 200 inches, they are roughly a half-foot shorter than the AMG S-Class sedan but still massively elegant and imposing in their own right.

Driving Impressions

Think of an S-Class full-size sedan, and you’ll likely imagine wafting along in serene comfort and quiet. These AMG versions can absolutely do that, especially when the Dynamic Select driver-adjustable mode is set to Comfort, but they also have a not-so-secret aggressive side. With 603 horsepower and an AMG-specific all-wheel-drive system, the S63 is blisteringly fast. We’re talking to the tune of 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds. And this isn’t a motorcycle; it’s a nearly 5,000-pound executive car. Beyond this lightning-quick acceleration, the Mercedes-AMG S63 also boasts deceptively deft handling when Sport or Sport+ mode is selected. The V12-powered S65 is a beast all its own. Though it has more power and four additional cylinders, it’s actually slightly slower off the line as the S63. This mainly is due to it being rear-wheel drive, and thus only having two patches of rubber clawing at the ground vs. four in the all-wheel-drive S63. Beyond hustling, the Mercedes-AMG touts all the noteworthy driving attributes of the standard S-Class, even those that involve driving on its own. We were impressed with the S-Class’ semi-autonomous capability, in which it can pace the car ahead and keep you in lanes while your hands merely rest on the steering wheel.

Pricing Notes

Adding those three “AMG” letters to your Mercedes S-Class may as well be extra dollar signs. Whereas a standard S-Class sedan is hardly cheap at around $90,000 to start, the beginning price for an AMG model is closer to $150,000 for the S63 sedan. Coupe and cabriolet models are even more, starting over $165,000 and $177,000, respectively. The top-dog, V12-powered S65 models are higher still, and by a significant factor. The 2018 Mercedes-AMG S65 sedan starts over $230,000, more than the median price of a U.S. home. Here again, coupe and cabriolet models are even pricier, starting over $241,000 and $251,000, respectively, after factoring in the gas-guzzler tax. At these prices, the Mercedes-AMG S-Class models are in rarefied air for 1-percenters, who no doubt already have a collection of luxury cars. Still, for comparison sake these prices span everything from a well-equipped BMW 7 Series (and forthcoming 8 Series) to a Bentley Continental coupe/cabriolet or Flying Spur sedan. The Mercedes-AMG’s resale value isn’t all that great, and combined with their lofty starting prices equates to tens of thousands quickly lost due to depreciation.



Notable Equipment

It shouldn’t be a surprise that $150,000 buys a lot of features. That’s about what it takes to get into the least expensive Mercedes-AMG S-Class, the S63 sedan. For that money you get a hand-crafted engine, AMG-enhanced performance bits like adaptive suspension, high-performance brakes, and limited-slip differential. Even if you never exploit this performance the S-Class holds, there’s still plenty that you likely will enjoy on a daily basis, such as Nappa leather upholstery, front seats with heating, ventilation and massaging function, dual-zone climate control, hands-free power-operated trunk, power-operated soft-close doors, power rear sunshade and universal garage remote. This 2018 Mercedes-AMG also packs a robust infotainment system that has twin 12.3-inch screens, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, and an amazing Burmester audio system. Safety features abound, with systems that do everything from automatically apply the brakes to prevent an accident to monitor for driver drowsiness.

Notable Options

The S-Class’ list of options is extensive and extravagant. From a rear-seat refrigerator to in-car Wi-Fi and massaging rear seats, there are myriad ways to make a flagship vehicle even better and accustomed to your tastes. Among the more recommendable features is the Driver Assistance Package with proactive safety features like active lane-keeping assist, active blind-spot monitoring and enhanced active cruise control (the package is standard on S65 models). If you want to show you are as serious about stopping as you are about going, these Mercedes-AMG models offer high-performance carbon-ceramic brakes to the tune of nearly $9,000.

Favorite Features

ENERGIZING COMFORT CONTROL

Called a world-first feature, this system aims to refresh, relax or invigorate the driver through six programs. Select one, and the S-Class plays mood music, adjusts the climate control and in-cabin fragrance system optimal settings, and activates the seat massage. One of them even guides you through stretching exercises behind the wheel.


SPLIT-PERSONALITY

The Mercedes-AMG S-Class is an automotive Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. On one hand, it’s as plush and opulent as you’d expect for a flagship Mercedes-Benz. On the other, it packs a serious performance punch that can leave dedicated sports cars in the dust. If you’re a millionaire who wants a sleeper, this is it.


Under the Hood

Mercedes-AMG S63 models use a new, handcrafted 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine that replaces the former 5.5-liter V8. In addition to boasting over 600 horsepower, these models are all-wheel drive (Mercedes names its system “4Matic”), which enables 0-60-mph times in the 3-second range. The even pricier Mercedes-AMG S65 models are among the few new cars still offering a V12. In this case it’s a twin-turbo 6.0-liter unit. Compared to the V8, it doesn’t have that much more horsepower -- 621 vs. 603 -- but grants locomotive-like torque of 738 lb-ft. Unlike the S63, the Mercedes AMG S65 models are rear-wheel drive (if you must have a 12-cylinder car with all-wheel drive, you can find it in the BMW M760i or Bentley Flying Spur). The S63 uses a 9-speed transmission, while the S65’s power is routed through a 7-speed unit. Fuel economy isn’t exactly thrifty. Almost ironically, both have a start/stop system that shuts off the engine at idle. Restarts, especially for the 12-cylinder, can be abrupt. We found ourselves quickly deactivating the feature during our tests.


4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 (S63)

603 horsepower @ 5,500-6,000 rpm

664 lb-ft of torque @ 2,250-4,500 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/26 mpg (sedan), 17/27 mpg (coupe), 15/24 mpg (cabriolet)


6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 (S65)

621 horsepower @ 4,800-5,400 rpm

738 lb-ft of torque @ 2,300-4,300 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/22 mpg (sedan), 13/21 mpg (coupe), 14/21 mpg (cabriolet)

Editors' Notes

The 2018 Mercedes-AMG S-Class S63 and S65 are the high-performance variants of the German luxury brand’s flagship model. As with the standard S-Class (reviewed separately), most buyers will be familiar with the full-size sedan, but also available are stately 2-door coupe and cabriolet models. The AMG variants take the S-Class’ highly regarded attributes and kick them up a few notches. Each has a hand-made, twin-turbocharged engine -- a V8 in the S63 and a mighty V12 in the S65 -- and backs up the extra firepower with improvements to their suspension, transmission, brakes and other performance bits. As the highest and most expensive versions of the S-Class, these AMG variants pack equal amounts of panache with their added performance. 

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Owner Reviews

4.75

4 Reviews

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Owner reviews are verified by our team and cannot be altered or removed.

It's features like the navigation system, the audio system and the safety features

I like the ride. I like the features. I like the luxury.

- Bob P