The penultimate word at the end of the car's name says it all: final. The Mercedes-AMG S65 Final Edition marks the last time a V12 engine will be found beneath the hood of an AMG-branded Mercedes; it's the last time the Affalterbach craftsmen who proudly and famously take personal ownership over the assembly of every true AMG engine will bolt together a 12-cylinder masterpiece. It's the end of a long, proud tradition of V12-powered AMGs that stretches back decades, and has resulted in some of the most noteworthy cars in the company's history.
Granted, the V12 isn't being killed off just yet. The new S-Class that's set to debut in September will still offer a 12-cylinder powerplant — but it'll only be available in the Maybach version. The future top dog of the AMG S-Class lineup will almost certainly be a twin-turbo V8 hybrid, going by a name like S73 or S63e and packing even more horsepower and torque (alongside better fuel economy, should anyone care).
Still, there's more to a V12 AMG than just raw power — which is why some of Mercedes's most loyal customers have insisted on nothing less for years. Those buyers, presumably, will find a way to move on. But the S65 Final Edition serves as a damn fine memento to remember their beloved engine by.
The S65 proves there's nothing like a V12
12-cylinder engines are increasingly rare things these days. Environmental regulations march on, making giant, inefficient motors look less and less appealing by the year; at the same time, modern technology means carmakers can squeeze more and more power out of smaller, lighter engines than ever before — which also makes giant, inefficient motors look less and less appealing. AMG's current 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 may be two-thirds the size of this V12, but it can crank out more horsepower than the S65's twin-turbo 12 —and the future hybrid version is sure to beat it on power and torque alike.
Still, while AMG's V8s roar like thunder and propel cars around like air hockey pucks, they can't match the character of a V12. There's a smoothness, an effortlessness, an omnipotence to such a giant engine that's unlike any other type of internal-combustion motor.
Floor the throttle in the S65, and it's less like being fired out of a cannon and more like being launched on a rocket: a growing pressure forcing you back into your seat that never seems to stop increasing. Rear-wheel-drive means the car is traction-limited in a way the AWD S63 isn't, so off the line, it's not quite as quick as its less potent sibling; you either have to let the traction control dole out power as best it can through the first couple gears, or let the 738 lb-ft of torque turn the tires to smoke.
Once you're rolling, though, the acceleration just keeps increasing in a way lesser cars can't match. Combine that with the S-Class's isolation chamber of an interior, and you'll almost certainly find yourself rushing along at 100-plus miles per hour without realizing it more than once.
The Final Edition isn't just badges —it's genuinely special two
For many car companies, making an end-of-an-era sendoff special edition would be as simple as slapping on a few badges inside and out and finding an unused color in the corporate paint bin. Not for Mercedes — at least, not for the end of the S-Class's V12 era.
The copper wheels and accent trim are the most obvious evidence of the brand's commitment; the former, in particular, are a matter of personal preference, but I can say that in person they're far more elegant than I expected. Harder to tell at a glance is the uniqueness of the paint; there's a hint of bronze shimmering in its metallic blackness.
Inside, the Final Edition's carbon fiber is interwoven with copper-colored threads in a way that's truly impressive to behold, and sets this S-Class apart from others. Copper stitching for the leather trim and other color-matched details scattered around the interior add a little extra panache.
It may be aging, but the S-Class still has an incredible interior
Of course, the Final Edition doesn't just commemorate the end of the V12-powered S-Class; in effect, it also serves as a sendoff for the current-generation car, known internally as the W222. It may have debuted in 2014, but the outgoing S still boasts one of the finest interiors in the automotive world. And the S65 Final Edition comes packing just about everything but the kitchen sink — including a refrigerator for the back seat occupants big enough for a bottle or two of champagne.
Sure, the massaging front seats are spectacular, the added heating elements for the interior that toast up the armrests as well as the seats are delightful and the Burmeiser stereo is an audiphile's delight — but the true marquee experience is the First Class rear seat. Mercedes calls it a "rear suite," but it's really just the right rear chair: a bevy of electric motors allow it to stretch out into a fair proximation of the seats found in business class on an international flight. Even at six-foot-four, I was able to stretch out to almost horizontal (albeit by taking my shoes off). Furthering the business-class vibe: fold-out tray tables for both rear seats, which I used to great effect while working on my laptop in back.
Just 130 Final Editions S65s will be made, and I'd buy one if I could. Not just because that rarity means it's likely to escape the Niagara Falls-like depreciation that usually greets V12-powered Mercedes-Benzes, but because it feels worthy of being the end of an era.
2020 Mercedes-AMG S65 Final Edition
Price as Tested: $265,745
Powertrain: 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12; seven-speed automatic; rear-wheel-drive
Torque: 738 pound-feet
EPA Fuel Economy: 13 mpg city, 22 mpg highway
Seats: Four, in extreme comfort