Seat time: Mercedes' top-line AMGs impress
The problem with spending a day driving £300,000+ worth of cars is that driving home in your own worn out old banger makes a measured article tricky to write. Such is my issue having spent last Friday with three of Mercedes' top-end AMGs, the C300 BlueTEC Hybrid Saloon AMG Line – the S500 Plug-in Hybrid AMG Line L and the S63 AMG Coupé. So apologies in advance for any gushing.
Each of these vehicles is, of course, designed with its own type of use in mind, but they are linked by their shared features and functions. Among these are semi-automatic transmissions with flappy paddles, head-up displays and Mercedes' Distronic Plus radar system that keeps you a safe distance from the car in front. All, of course, sport luxurious AMG interiors and other features commonly found in today's Mercs, such as keyless starting, sophisticated in-car entertainment and communications systems and seats with positions can be customized to the extent of a yoga workout.
C300 BlueTEC Hybrid Saloon AMG Line
Many people would immediately discount the C300 BlueTEC Hybrid as the lightweight of the three, being, as it is less than half and a third the price of the others respectively, with the model I was driving priced at £46,015 (which converts to roughly US$72,000). Make no mistake, though, this is a thoroughly enjoyable car to drive. The diesel hybrid engine picks up quickly when you put your foot down and knocks out 204 hp (150 kW) of power. Accelerating from 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) takes 6.2 seconds and the car tops out at 152 mph (245 km/h).
Despite all this, the ride is glidingly smooth and the C300 BlueTEC Hybrid produces just 99 g/km of CO2, which puts it very much among the more virtuous of cars to run. Mercedes says it will give a combined urban and extra-urban return of 78.5 mpg (27.8 km/l). Pleasingly, though, it still gives out a satisfying growl when you put your foot down.
One other point to note about the C300 BlueTEC Hybrid is its excellent visibility. It's easy to see all around the car when driving, which is not always the case with other vehicles. This sensation of airiness is increased by the panoramic electric sunroof option, which fills the interior with natural light.
S500 Plug-in Hybrid AMG Line L
If you're planning on being driven rather than driving, then the S500 Plug-in is perhaps more suitable. That is, if you can spare the requisite €108,945 ($136,000), depending on with what optional extras you choose to add.
The S500 Plug-in is grandiose and luxurious, filled with technology and yet potentially incredibly cheap to run. Indeed, its electric-only mode has a range of 20 mi (32 km), so if you're only driving, or being chauffeured, to and from work then it's conceivable that you could run solely on mains power by plugging in and recharging the battery. In reality though, this is a car that's more likely to be doing a lot of miles, but even then Mercedes reckons you'll get 100.9 mpg (35.7 km/l).
At over 5 m (16.4 ft) long and 2 m (6.6 ft) wide, the S500 Plug-in is a big car. Despite its size, though, I found it deceptively easy to drive. This is in part due to its semi-automatic transmission, but also due to the wealth of gadgets built into it to help. These include the Active Lane-Keeping Assist technology (that can automatically keep you within road markings), visual and audio warnings of cars coming up alongside you and haptic pedal response to let you know if you could be driving more efficiently.
The S500 Hybrid's tech features aren't limited to helping with driving performance, they are also designed to help make the car as comfortable as possible to be in. I personally found the massager built into the seat to be more of a novelty than a great masseur, but I was certainly taken with some of the other gadgetry. The compensation provided by the driver's seat when turning a corner at speed is a genuinely considered touch, essentially propping you up in the turn to avoid your slipping out of the seat. The built-in fragrance generator, meanwhile, helps keeps the car smelling fresh.
S63 AMG Coupé
If speed and showmanship are more your priorities over economy or stateliness, then the £149,165 ($234,000) S63 AMG Coupé I drove may be just the thing for you. This really is a remarkable car. Powered by a 585 hp (430 kW) engine, it will accelerate from 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) in 4.2 seconds and has a top speed 186 mph (299 km/h), which is raised from the limited 155 mph (249 km/h) in the standard version.
The semi-automatic transmission means that you don't take off immediately when you hit the gas, there's a slight delay. If you're in a rush though, that can be combated by putting the car into manual mode and dropping a gear or two before opening it up. The roar and sheer power of the S63 mean that when you do get going, it's somewhat of a spectacle.
Aside from its raw flamboyance, perhaps the most noticeable thing about the S63 is its size. At 5 x 2.1 m (16.4 x 6.9 ft) it's no shrinking violet and it feels every bit of that size and more once you're behind the wheel. Visibility is not great at any point immediately around the car, so negotiating parking spots can be a trial, even when using the parking-assist.
The S63 isn't really designed for dealing with things in close quarters though. Rather, it's for looking towards the horizon as it eats up big distances. It's a fabulously voracious yet smooth ride with many of the same gadgets to keep you comfortable and in control as the S500 Plug-in.
All three of these cars were a pleasure to drive and, for all their differences, that Mercedes AMG level of luxury and attention to detail ensures the driver is spoiled with driving and comfort options. Perhaps most remarkably, they are all nigh on idiot-proof to drive. Although, having said that, the in-car systems can require a PhD just to wrap your head around.
In short, if you're commuting to work then the C300 BlueTEC Hybrid will do nicely. If your work is a few hundred miles away, then the S500 Plug-in may be a better bet. And if you're an F1 driver traversing a continent to your next race, you'll be wanting the S63. If you get offered any of them, though, just say yes.
You can take a closer look at all three cars in the gallery.
Source: Mercedes AMG