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2024 Mercedes-AMG S63 E Performance first drive review: high-performance plug-in

Front three quarter view of the 2024 Mercedes-AMG S63 E Performance.
Stephen Edelstein/Digital Trends

It’s a time of transition at Mercedes-Benz. The venerable automaker is looking toward an electric future with EVs like the EQS, while introducing updated versions of its traditional internal-combustion models like the S-Class. The 2024 Mercedes-AMG S63 E Performance bridges the gap.

For those not fluent in Mercedes-speak, AMG is the automaker’s performance version, and the S63 is a hot-rodded version of the S-Class. This 2024 model is the latest in a long line of big, powerful Mercedes sedans that combine limousine-like luxury with sports-car thrust. But this time, there’s a twist.

Like its predecessors, the 2024 AMG S63 E Performance has an old-school V8 engine under the hood. However, it’s now supported by a plug-in hybrid system — hence “E Performance” — that provides a power boost while enabling limited all-electric driving. That either makes the latest AMG performance sedan a jack of all trades, or a master of none. To find out, we absconded with one to Southern California.

Design and interior

Interior of the 2024 Mercedes-AMG S63 E Performance.
Stephen Edelstein/Digital Trends

The AMG aesthetic is all about subtlety. Aside from exterior badges and wheels, most AMG models have traditionally resembled the Mercedes models they’re based on. The S63 E Performance follows that template but stretches it a little bit.

With its graceful, smooth body lines interrupted only by pop-out door handles, this is still very much an S-Class. The front fascia has grown larger air intakes, the exhaust tips now protrude more obviously from the rear bumper, and there are sportier AMG-specific wheel designs. But Mercedes didn’t go all “Fast and Furious” here.

With its graceful, smooth body lines, this is still very much an S-Class.

A significant departure from S-Class orthodoxy can be found at the front, though. This is the first S-Class — AMG or otherwise — to have the Mercedes star in its grille instead of a hood ornament. Where the hood ornament would normally be, there is now a medallion with the AMG crest. These are small changes, but ones Mercedes fans will definitely notice.

The interior mostly carries over from the standard S-Class, which already sported one of the most luxurious cabins around. A new steering wheel, available carbon-fiber trim, and AMG-specific color options put a new spin on the existing interior design, which includes niceties like Nappa leather upholstery, massaging seats, and 64-color adjustable ambient lighting that turns the interior into a scene from Tron every time you drive through a tunnel.

Tech, infotainment, and driver assist

Rear three quarter view of the 2024 Mercedes-AMG S63 E Performance.
Stephen Edelstein/Digital Trends

The Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system is essentially the same as the standard S-Class. That means you get a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 12.8-inch central touchscreen, along with wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity and natural language voice recognition.

The infotainment experience hasn’t diminished since we first drove the current-generation S-Class. The instrument cluster and touchscreen are well-integrated, with the latter elegantly reclining onto the angled dashboard. The voice-recognition system, which responds to the prompt “Hey Mercedes,” remains one of the best of its kind. It’s good enough that you can rely on it for most tasks, rarely touching physical controls. If using the embedded navigation system, the screens and head-up display can also project arrows to ensure you don’t miss a turn.

The infotainment experience hasn’t diminished since we first drove the S-Class.

Like other S-Class models, the screens also feature elaborate graphics. The instrument cluster has a 3D effect that makes the digitally-rendered speedometer and tachometer appear to stand out from the background like physical gauges. Instead of the usual menu tiles, the touchscreen is designed around what Mercedes calls the “Zero Layer” concept, which defaults to a map with other functions overlaid as expandable widgets. That means you don’t have to dig into menus to find out the name of the song that’s playing, but other functions, such as the power-flow display that shows the distribution of power between the engine and electric motor, do require leaving the main screen.

The AMG S63 E Performance also has the same array of driver-assist features as other S-Class models. The list includes adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, Active Steering Assist (designed to help drivers keep this land yacht centered in its lane), lane keep assist, lane change assist, automatic emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, and a hazard-warning function that uses the ambient lighting to warn occupants of oncoming vehicles when exiting the car.

Driving experience

Front end of the 2024 Mercedes-AMG S63 E Performance.
Stephen Edelstein/Digital Trends

Tech and luxury features are expected in any Mercedes, but a true AMG should elevate the driving experience. To that end, the S63 E Performance gets a unique powertrain. Mercedes offers a V8 engine and a plug-in hybrid system elsewhere in the S-Class lineup — but not together.

The 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 is coupled to a nine-speed automatic transmission, with an electric motor mounted at the rear axle with its own two-speed transmission, fed by a 13.1-kilowatt-hour battery pack mounted below the trunk floor. Gasoline and electricity combine to produce 791 horsepower and 1,055 pound-feet of torque. That will get the S63 from zero to 60 mph in a factory-estimated 3.2 seconds — just 0.2 second slower than a base Corvette – and on to an electronically-limited top speed of 155 mph.

The tremendous amount of available power is sent to all four wheels in hybrid mode. All-wheel drive is available in electric mode as well, but only kicks in when the rear wheels are determined to have insufficient traction. That, along with four levels of regenerative braking, means all-electric driving is pretty easy to manage in the real world.

All elements work together, making the driving experience as satisfying as it is improbable.

The S63 also has a reinforced body shell, bigger brakes, and every piece of chassis tech in the Mercedes catalog to enhance ride quality and handling. Standard rear-axle steering turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction of the front wheels at low speeds for increased agility, and in the same direction at higher speeds for added stability. The standard air suspension system includes adaptive damping and automatic leveling, while active roll stabilization can decouple the wheels on a given axle so that when one goes over a bump, the force isn’t transferred to the other.

All of these features combine to create a spectacular breadth of capability. In electric mode at moderate speeds, the S63 is quiet and comfortable. It’s perfectly capable of playing the traditional luxury car role of a living room on wheels. Once we turned off California’s Pacific Coast Highway, switched to a sportier driving mode, and headed into the hills of Malibu, the car’s character completely changed.

When driven hard, the S63 is a luxury sedan that thinks it’s a sports car. It has the nimbleness of a much smaller vehicle and explosive acceleration, even if you’re rarely using all 791 hp. More importantly, all the elements of this incredibly complex car — from its plug-in hybrid powertrain to its various chassis components — work together harmoniously, making the driving experience as satisfying as it is improbable.

Range, charging, and safety

The 2024 Mercedes-AMG S63 E Performance sedan's rear seats.
Stephen Edelstein/Digital Trends

Official electric range and efficiency figures weren’t available at the time of publication, but we saw an indicated 13.8 mpg in hybrid mode. We weren’t making much of an effort to maximize fuel economy, but it’s a reminder that the S63 is more about less-inefficient performance than outright fuel savings.

A 3.7-kilowatt AC onboard charger is included, but Mercedes isn’t discussing charging times, or availability of DC fast charging for the United States market.

Even the standard S-Class is built in numbers too small to justify full Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash-test ratings. Warranty coverage should carry over from other S-Class models, meaning a four-year, 50,000-mile, new-vehicle warranty and a six-year, 62,000-mile, warranty for the battery pack.

How DT would configure this car

Trunk-lid badge on the 2024 Mercedes-AMG S63 E Performance.
Stephen Edelstein/Digital Trends

Aside from paint colors and interior trim, Mercedes doesn’t offer much configurability for the S63, as it’s just one model in the greater S-Class lineup. Pricing wasn’t available at the time of publication either, but you can expect the S63 to land between non-AMG S-Class models (which top out at around $120,000 before options) and the roughly $194,000 starting price of the more rarified Maybach S-Class.

If you plan on driving rather than riding in your new S-Class, the AMG S63 E Performance plug-in hybrid is the clear choice. It retains the virtues of the base S-Class while adding a new dimension of driving enjoyment and drama. In S63 form, the S-Class is just as satisfying to drive on twisty roads as it is on long stretches of highway.

Front three quarter view of the 2024 Mercedes-AMG S63 E Performance.
Stephen Edelstein/Digital Trends

In the absence of an official electric range rating, we can at least say that the S63’s electric mode is usable in real-world driving. The engine doesn’t start unless you floor the accelerator, and the powertrain’s capacity for electric all-wheel drive provides extra bandwidth for electric driving. You can even recover a decent amount of battery charge after driving with the engine on for a little while. The focus may be on performance, but the S63 is still a true plug-in hybrid — one that bridges two eras of automotive engineering.

From the Lucid Air to Mercedes’ own AMG EQS sedan, there are plenty of fast electric luxury sedans. But for those not ready to make the shift to an EV, whether for convenience or an attachment to the more visceral brand of performance embodied by this twin-turbo V8 bruiser, the AMG S63 E Performance shows the clock hasn’t quite run out on internal combustion.

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Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
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