Mercedes-Benz S Class Convertible (2016 - ) review
Based on the Coupe, the Cabriolet could just be the ultimate S-Class, and the ultimate in luxurious open-top motoring, with amazing levels of comfort, refinement and quality
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Despite being a large vehicle, the S-Class Cabriolet – which is based on the S-Class Coupe, rather than the saloon – pulls off the neat trick of not appearing to be hulking. In fact, it looks lithe and limber, thanks to neat side detailing, slender rear light clusters and a low-set number plate. Buyers can specify the roof in one of four colours (red, blue, black and beige) at no extra cost, and while the ‘basic’ S500 has slightly less aggressive front and rear bumpers than the AMG models, it still looks a million dollars. If you do stretch to one of the AMG models, they have a full AMG bodykit and chrome-plated tailpipes, while the S 65 has LED headlights that include Swarovski crystals.
Even by the rarefied standards of the cars that you could spend this kind of money on, the S-Class impresses. The leather that clothes the seats gives a suitably luxurious feel to an interior that features the very latest in connectivity and gadgetry, as well as all the classic sophistication and comfort you would expect of something in the S-Class family. That includes a glorious dashboard (which can be finished with horizontal lines reminiscent of decking on Riva motorboats), complete with two sharp-as-a-pin 12.3-inch display screens. There's a collection of buttons underneath the four central air vents, as well as Merc's normal Comand dial controller, in order to operate all the car's various functions through various on-screen menus. It all works pretty well and, with loads of room up front and a fine driving position, there aren’t many better places to be a driver.
It’s hard to find much to moan about in this car, and overall we have just one real complaint: despite what Mercedes might like to claim, this isn’t really a full four-seater. Legroom in the two rear seats is rather too tight for adults to want to spend any significant amount of time there. On the other hand, boot space is a reasonable 350 litres – more than in, for example, a BMW 6 Series Convertible – so there’s more than enough room for a couple to pack their bags for a weekend away.
Ride and handling
What’s perhaps most impressive about this car is how smoothly it rides, especially when you consider just how fast it can go and how sharply it handles. You’d expect something capable of such performance and such a sure-footed feel through bends to offset that with a punishing ride, but not a bit of it. The air suspension that is standard on every model smothers pretty much every lump, bump or rut that our far-from great British Tarmac can throw at it, even when you choose sport mode. Ok, so the soft-ish reactions mean this is still more a Grand Tourer than sports car, but it’s still a tremendously rewarding and enjoyable car to drive. Throw in the fabulous refinement inside the cabin – whether you have the hood up or down – and the result is one of the most luxurious cars you can imagine. That said, when you do want a sporty soundtrack, the beauty of the open-top configuration is that you can always drop the roof to get an even clearer listen to the wonderful engine going about its business.
The S-Class is not intended to be an out-and-out sports car, but even so, the performance still leaves a big impression. Especially when you remember that this is a car that weighs well over two tonnes. To cut a long story short, even the engine in the ‘basic’ S500 has no trouble shifting such a big car, and the stronger engines in the AMG cars just make it all that little bit easier still. You can hustle the Cabriolet along, yet it’s much more fun to simply make composed, rapid progress without troubling the upper reaches of the rev-counter. Every engine pulls off that wonderful double-whammy of being docile, but responsive, at low speeds at the same time as having genuinely sportscar-like reactions when you want them. Likewise, the standard automatic gearboxes have a welcome knack of being in the right gear at the right time, as well as swapping beautifully smoothly between its seven ratios. That means that this is car that feels effortless along the High Road – well, more likely, a boulevard – but is also stunningly fast across country.
While the S-Class saloon is aimed at company directors with one eye fixed on balancing the books, the Cabriolet makes no great concessions to lowering its carbon footprint, so there are no hybrids, diesels or plug-ins with dazzling mpg figures. That being said, the Mercedes is still cleaner than its British V8 or V12 rivals, with combined economy figures ranging from low twenties to low thirties. On a long drive in the S500, you can probably expect around 30mpg, but this figure drops rapidly in town. As with all cars of this price, heavy depreciation, costly servicing, insurance and maintenance are all facts of life, but if you can afford to buy a car this opulent, then you can probably afford to run it, too.
There hasn’t been a Mercedes like this for many years, but if previous versions of the S-Class are anything to go by, there’s no reason to expect anything other than excellent reliability from this car. Owners of previous-generation cars are almost uniform in their praise of their cars’ reliability.
The S-Class Cabriolet is so packed with safety equipment that it’s almost easier to list what it hasn’t got. However, for the record, every model comes with six airbags, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control, the latter also including the Curve Dynamic Assist system that uses the brakes to limit understeer (the tendency for the car to plough straight on even if the wheels are turned) when accelerating out of a bend. Beyond that, the standard kit also includes Attention Assist (to alert the driver to potential fatigue), Crosswind Assist (to help control the car if it’s caught by a sudden gust of wind) and a tyre-pressure monitoring system. AMG versions also have the Driving Assistance package, which includes the Blind Spot- and Lane Keeping Assist systems, adaptive cruise control and Pre-Safe Brake, which can initiate emergency autonomous braking at speeds of up to 30mph. Last, but not least, the S 65 also has the Night View Assist Plus system (an option on the other models), which helps the driver spot pedestrians or large animals at night by showing them on the dashboard display.
The standard equipment reflects the car’s position in the upper echelons of the Mercedes range. The S500 is the cheapest way into an S-Class Cabriolet, but it comes with heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, full leather upholstery, 'intelligent' climate control, 19-inch alloys, LED lights front and rear and satellite-navigation, as well as DAB, a DVD-player and Bluetooth. Beyond that, the AMG models also have an upgraded stereo, smarter nappa leather upholstery and massaging front seats, while the flagship S 65 also has a head-up display, TV tuner and the Splitview feature, which allows the driver and front-seat passenger to see different images on the main screen.
Short of heading to a Bentley or Rolls-Royce showroom, you simply can’t find a more luxurious and glamorous four-seat convertible. In fact, perhaps the only reason you wouldn’t want one is that you prefer the slightly sportier set-up of the two-seat SL instead. Put it this way: if you have the money to buy the grandest of Grand Tourers, the sublime blend of abilities in this car mean it certainly should be near the top of your shopping list.