According to the undeniable power of aphorisms, “there are no maybes in math.” According to the great chronicler of the upper classes F. Scott Fitzgerald, “the very rich are different from you and me.” By applying the transitive property, this begs a rather obvious question: How do the rich do math?
Let’s say, for example, that you’re a hedge-funded oligarch in the market for an expedient and exclusive new sedan, and in your comparison set are vehicles like the $200,000 Bentley Flying Spur, the $250,000 Rolls-Royce Ghost, and the $300,000 Bentley Mulsanne. (These are the base prices for each car, if such prices can fairly be referred to as “base,” and in Rich Math, they can.) These cars are all astounding. So, within the realm of the remarkably recherché, how do you perform the cost/benefit analysis and decide whether the Mulsanne is 50 percent better than the Spur, or the Ghost is 20 percent worse?
This mathematical word problem is further complicated by the existence of upgraded, up-powered executive sedans like the Audi S8, BMW Alpina B7, and Jaguar XJR. One afternoon behind the wheel—or behind the passenger seat in the reclining, massaging, first-class rear accommodations—of any of these mid-$100,000 cars will quickly rationalize their price tags. Mollycoddling, and produced in numbers that rival the rarity of the bespoke Brits, how can you not factor these into your calculations?
Adding a complex variable to this equation is the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG. We spend more than our fair share of time sampling from the Beluga buffet of luxury vehicles, and we can say with confidence that, in this category of Brobdingnagian chariots, we often find the newest car is often the greatest, simply because it has the latest updates. And while, with its massaged Bentley engine the Audi can hustle to 60 mph more quickly; and, with its stasis-annihilating Ian Callum design, the Jaguar has never stopped looking like the loveliest .50 -aliber sniper’s bullet to ever be fired at our foreheads. But the S63 has, at least for the moment, laid claim to the mathematical mantle.
Want 90 percent of a Bentley for 45 percent of the money? This is your car.
More aggressive and less formal, the S63 improves on the new S550’s undeniably slickened exterior. Assisting in this transformation are deeper and more aggressive nostrils, deeper and more aggressive wheels and tires, deeper and more aggressive chrome-accented side-sills, and deeper and more aggressive exhaust ports, the last of which hide a dual-mode system that is, you guessed it, bombastically deeper and more aggressive. Also available are weight-saving carbon-ceramic brakes and carbon-black forged alloy wheels. Order both on an Obsidian Metal-flake sedan, and the car looks crueler and more lethal than third shift at a Chinese coalmine.
This being the dawn of the era in which automakers have finally started throwing the anchor overboard, this AMG S-Class can be configured about 225 pounds lighter than the outgoing model. This Richard Simmonsization is due in part to the aforementioned un-sprung mass reducers at each corner, as well as a lithium-ion battery and a carbon fiber spare wheel well. Would that shedding the weight gained by beer consumption during the launch event in Bavaria was this simple. (Note to AMG: consider production of an auto journalist-specific carbon spare tire.)
Inside the cabin, fitments improve on the already spectacular appointments of the “standard” S-Type—and we’re not just talking about the “three-dimensional arms” on the model-specific IWC dash clock. We’re more interested in the upgraded sports seats, which hug your hide like Temple Grandin; the perforated and Alcantra-breaded steering wheel; gauge needles redder than a Russian tea room; and all manner of Affalterbach-branded additions to the door sills, floor mats, pedals, and ambient lighting, the last of which we set to fuchsia and basked in as if it were a tanning bed, but with less melanoma and more unicorn.
Surpassing even the profundity of the cosmetic adjustments, was the realization that Mercedes has taken a vehicle that was designed, at its core, to be fundamentally autonomous and made it into a vehicle that—with 577 hp, a four-second 0-60 time, and a Hurstian blat erupting from its hand-built twin-turbo V8—cries for you to drive it.
If you want. We thoroughly enjoyed putting the S63 to its triple-digit paces from the upper left-hand quadrant. But to be perfectly honest, we would’ve been just as happy pulling the two front seats into their forward-most positions, reclining into a prone position, and letting the Benz-enabled robots take charge of the effort (or effortlessness) themselves. In fact, we pressed our driving partner into just this kind of service, and peacefully slept off a Bavarian hangover.
Our complaints, because of course we have them: Carbon fiber is sporty, but its failure to differentiate itself from plastic—which is what it is—precludes it being a true luxury material; in its current form, we think it has no place decorating a luxury vehicle. Also out of place here is dash-meets-door-panel stitching that falls out of third-dimension alignment faster than an M.C. Escher print; this would not stand at Bentley. And the COMAND infotainment system, which, despite our radical familiarity, still occasionally shocks us with its new spiraling car icons and old baklavian layers.
The price of the S63 AMG starts just south of $140,000. Were we were to outfit an S63 to our exacting specifications — with the executive rear buckets, four-place massagers, Burmeister stereo, and the suspension Mercedes insists on calling MAGIC BODY CONTROL in spam-like capitals — we have no doubt its price would rapidly approach Flying Spur territory. But for the discerning executive that wants to avoid any Crewe-ian stigma, ordering an S63 with a badge delete will get you everything you need, while masking your ability to be differentiated from any other ordinary rich jerks. And, mathematical certainties be damned, in our current economy, that may be the most cost-beneficial form of subtraction.