Mercedes are no stranger to big four-seat convertibles. Even so, the German marque are stating that this is the first luxury open-topped four seater they've produced since 1971. The experts at Car and Driving check it out.
Ten Second Review
The sixth generation S-Class family has slowly been growing in size since its introduction with this Cabriolet model set to be the last of six variants. Based on the S-Class Coupe, it goes up against the likes of the Bentley Continental GT and other super-luxurious four seat drop-tops.
Mercedes-Benz has a long and rich history of producing open-topped luxury vehicles from the Twenties onwards. Despite their popularity in the post-war years, the last of the line was produced way back in 1971 just before the first generation S-Class was launched. Up until that point, the SE cabriolet was one of the most glamorous ways to get around and one that is proving increasingly valuable in this day and age.
Wishing to tap into this rich heritage and also compete against modern luxury four seat convertibles, Mercedes decided to re-enter this segment of the market. Initially previewed by the 2006 'Ocean Drive' concept, it was only a matter of time before the German brand lopped the roof off of their S-Class Coupe to make a production version. Available - like the Coupe - with the biggest engines only, it's most definitely the preserve of the wealthy.
Those hoping to get the relatively sensible V6 diesel or hybrid powertrain in an S-Class Convertible will be disappointed. As befits such a luxurious automobile, the base engine is a 4.7-litre twin turbocharged V8 that pumps out a healthy 455bhp in the S500. For those that think this may be a little common or just lacking in muscle, there's the Mercedes-AMG S63 Cabriolet. Whilst still packing a turbo V8, capacity is up to 5.5-litres to give a power output of 585bhp. Even weighing in at over 2100kg, you can still hit 62mph from standstill in 3.9 seconds. If you must have the ultimate, the 630bhp V12 S65 will be the one to have.
Power is only part of the equation; there's also 900Nm of torque to consider which is usefully deployed through an all-wheel drive system. Being a German, you'll headbutt the limiter at 155mph although it would no doubt go considerably faster. Despite the performance, this is no out-and-out sports car so don't expect the last word in feel or feedback or for it to enjoy being hustled along. Sure, it'll get down a twisty road at a fair old lick but it's unlikely you'll feel rewarded by doing it. It's much better to waft along safe in the knowledge that although you could out-drag most cars on the road, you just don't need to prove it.
Design and Build
As you would expect, the S-Class Convertible owes much to the S-Class Coupe on which it's based. At first glance you might think Mercedes just took a hacksaw to the roof and then added a canvas covering. While they do indeed share a great deal of bodywork (including the slightly controversial rear end), the Convertible has a steeper rake to the screen which has a strengthened frame. There's also added reinforcement in the floor of the car's shell and extending roll bars that deploy should you manage to flip your Cabriolet.
The soft top itself is said to be the largest folding canvas roof currently used by a production vehicle. This three-layer hood has a new butyl outer layer to not only ensure no water can permeate into the cabin but to lower noise levels as well. Should you find yourself in the middle of a sudden downpour, it only takes 20 seconds to raise or lower the roof at speeds up to 37mph. For added pose factor, you can even use the key fob to open or close the roof. Step aboard and you'll again notice much is shared with the S-Class Coupe - in other words there are few more luxurious places to be.
Market and Model
There's a premium of around £15,000 to get this Cabriolet S-Class over its Coupe stablematemate. That means the S500 variant will cost you around £110,000. The Mercedes-AMG models start at around £135,000 for the V8 585bhp S63 variant - or you can blow around £193,000 on the V12 630bhp S65 derivative.
While leather seats, intelligent climate control and many other features that would be options on normal cars are included, there are still plenty of extra-cost items available to make things even more opulent. One that stands out is the 'Warmth Comfort' package that adds heated centre and door armrests along with a heated steering wheel. There's also the 'AIRCAP' pop out aerofoil located on the windscreen surround that reduces buffeting and 'AIRSCARF' too. This is a neck level heating system that should ensure occupants remain toasty on even the coldest of days. As for safety, there's all the features you'd expect plus 'DISTRONIC PLUS' with 'Steering Assist' and 'Stop&Go Pilot'. In effect this is the first step to autonomous driving and allows the car to drive itself to a certain extent as long as someone is behind the wheel.
Cost of Ownership
With no diesel option and the smallest engine packing 4.7-litres and a couple of turbos, you'd expect some pretty horrific running costs. Mercedes however, have a pleasant surprise for tight tycoons; official figures put carbon emissions for the S500 version at a bearable 204g/km, with economy on the combined cycle 33.2mpg. When you consider the size of the engine and weight of the car, that figure is not bad at all.
Naturally, if you opt for the S63, those figures tumble somewhat. Emissions increase to 237g/km with economy down to 27.2mpg - still reasonable for a car also capable of a sub-four second sprint to 62mph. With the S65, emissions fall to 272g/km. As for the warranty, it may be a standard three years but it is at least unlimited mileage. Depreciation will be particularly painful though, after all the more money you spend the, more you have to lose.
Mercedes may have been absent from the luxury convertible market since 1971 but that doesn't seem to have caused an issue. That Mercedes have continued to produce the C and E-Class convertibles no doubt helped but even so, the S-Class Cabriolet is clearly a cut above either of its lesser siblings. Compared to the Bentley Continental GT Cabriolet, you could even argue the Mercedes is good value, being both larger and with a lower entry price too.
Saying that, it's unlikely price will be a major consideration to those after an S-Class Convertible. Nor is it likely to be something you'd buy to be sensible; something like this is an object of desire that you want rather than need. Is it the ultimate expression of open air luxury? I'm sure Rolls-Royce may disagree but then in S63 guise especially, the Mercedes is much faster. It's a tough life having to spend more than £110,000 on a car.