Review: Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet (2016)
Amazingly quiet, comfortable and refined. Beautifully finished cabin. Tastefully designed and of course very quick.
Poor rear seat space. High price and running costs matched by far cheaper Mercedes-Benz models in many ways. Dated-looking infotainment.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet (2016): At A Glance
- Insurance Group 50
There’s something majestic about the way the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet glides across the road. It’s the most refined convertible this side of a Rolls-Royce.
Mercedes has imbued a four-seat and long wheelbase drop-top with nine-tenths of the refinement of the Zen-like S-Class luxury saloon, which is some achievement. However, the S-Class Cabriolet is far from flawless.
For a start, rear leg room is disappointing. Some sort of space compromise is inevitable when a car is converted into a soft top – the complicated mechanicals that operate an electrically folding fabric roof, and the roof itself, need to be stored somewhere. However, when you buy an S-Class you might expect more rear space than you’d get in a city car, which is near enough with this Cabriolet provides.
Where the S-Class Saloon is built very much with rear seat comfort in mind, the Cabriolet makes the front two its clear priority. The front seats are packed with comfort-aiding technology including heating, ventilation, massaging functions and an ‘Airscarf’ neck warmer. This makes them as thick as a pair of Chesterfields and ensures that rear occupants need to be built like Shaggy (the Scooby-Doo one, not the one who didn’t do it) to squeeze their legs in. Zoinks!
What that does mean, though, is that for the lucky two in the front the Cabriolet is the undiluted S-Class experience. It smothers the edges of anything the wheels encounter with gentle nonchalance. The adaptable air suspension is only one part of that – double glazed windows and a multi-layered fabric hood also help dampen the world outside.
And in an effort to cement the S-Class Cabriolet’s place in the upper echelons of the luxury convertible game – competing in a league of its own, really, because a BMW 650i Convertible costs from £70,000 or so, then there’s nothing else until you hit the Bentley Continental GT Convertible, which is smaller and starts at £160,000 – the engine range is limited to high-powered stuff.
The entry level car comes with a 455PS 4.7-litre twin turbo V8, in AMG Line trim, starting at around £110,000, or you can have one of two Mercedes-AMG models, the latter knocking on the door of £200,000. All come extremely well equipped – find the highlights by clicking the ‘in the cabin’ tab above, but know for now that it lacks nothing – albeit there’s still a healthy options list.
And that’s the thing about the S-Class Cabriolet –it’s in a league of its own. There is simply no other four-seat drop top that offers this sort of comfort and prestige at this price. There is, however, the small matter of the newer Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet, which offers much of what’s great about the S-Class, but at a vastly reduced price.
What does a Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet (2016) cost?
Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet (2016): What's It Like Inside?
The S-Class Cabriolet interior is undoubtedly a place of quality and beauty, but if there’s a problem it’s that the cabin occasionally fuses luxury and technology in a ham-fisted way.
The basic architecture, designed with subtlety and combining wood, leather and metal in that pleasant way Mercedes-Benz does, is pockmarked with incoherently designed buttons. There’s an arc of them in front of the infotainment controller, a row way out in the north-east of the dashboard and a line of toggle switches below the central vents.
Added to that, one or two of the trim parts just seem out of place – the matte plastic housing of the COMAND controller is like finding a Coco-Pop in your caviar. And then there’s the twin-screen setup that adjacently houses the digital instrument panel and the infotainment. Somebody at Mercedes-Benz really needs to employ a graphic designer to sort out the displays, which all have a slightly cheesy 12PT ARIEL BOLD ITALIC feel.
We’ve already mentioned the lack of rear seat space, but it does warrant further comment because it’s the car’s main – and possibly only – real flaw. Put a long-legged person in the front and behind them remains mere inches of knee room. The S-Class Cabriolet seems to offer less rear space than the E-Class.
Boot space suffers too, naturally – compare 510 litres from the S-Class saloon with 350 litres here, and 400 in the S-Class Coupe. For further reference, this is 20 litres less than the space afforded to BMW 4 Series Cabriolet owners, and as per usual, the aperture is stiflingly thin. Take note, golf (the sport not the car) enthusiasts.
However, every passenger enjoys the same level of refinement. And it’s about the best you could hope for from a car with a retractable fabric hood. Even the rear seats are heated as standard, while Mercrdes-Benz has thought plenty about the details – including making entry and exit relatively easy for rear passengers by making the doors long and the front seats slide a long way forward.
Of course, there’s plenty left to the options list, so much so that it’s possible to spend £5000 on a package of luxuries including individual scents for all four seats (a four-seat layout is standard, with a proper centre console running the length of the car), plus heated armrests on both sides for the front seats.
And for those interested, it takes 18 seconds to fully retract the roof, which you can do at speeds of up to 37mph.
AMG Line includes AMG body-styling, 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with Intelligent Lighting System and Adaptive High Beam Assist Plus, AIRMATIC air suspension with continuously variable damping control, satellite navigation with COMAND Online system including dual 12.3-inch TFT displays, AIRSCARF neck-level heating, AIRCAP, comfort heated and ventilated seats with electric operation and memory function, heated rear seats, leather upholstery, intelligent climate control and an automatic boot separator.
Mercedes-AMG S 63 adds a front splitter in matt silver, AMG radiator grille with twin louvre in matt silver, AMG chrome-plated twin tailpipes, ‘V8 BITURBO’ lettering on the front wings, 19-inch AMG alloy wheels, Burmester surround sound system with 13 speakers, Driving Assistance package, AMG sports exhaust system and Nappa leather upholstery.
Mercedes-AMG S 65 adds LED Intelligent Light System with Swarovski crystals, AMG sports exhaust system with two polished chrome twin tailpipes, 20-inch alloy wheels, ‘V12 BITURBO’ lettering on the front wings, designo Exclusive Nappa leather with diamond quilting, illuminated door sill panels with ‘AMG’ lettering, heated steering wheel, Night View Assist, head-up display and Burmester 3D surround sound system with 23 speakers.
Child seats that fit a Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet (2016)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet (2016) like to drive?
- Engines range from S 500 to S 65 AMG
Mercedes-Benz has perfected pillowy ride quality by now and the S-Class Cabriolet is no exception. That itself is slightly surprising, because the work it takes to strengthen a chassis after chopping its roof off often means ride quality is compromised - the result of compensating for extra weight with the suspension.
Not so here. Like the S-Class Saloon, the Cabriolet is a lesson in how to make four wheels ‘float’ over a surface. Only on the most scabrous roads does the S-Class Cabriolet do anything other than gently undulate, regardless of speed. It’s a truly calming experience.
The steering feel follows suit, very light and with no pretention of sportiness, equaling a car that feels designed to relax in – whether you’re the driver or a passenger.
That said, the engine in the S 500 feels like a Formula One unit wrapped in an Arctic sleeping bag. Most of the time the 4.7-litre V8 barely musters a whimper, save for a subtle, smooth burble. Its peak 700Nm torque (equivalent to two Volkswagen Golf GTI engines) turns up at just 1800rpm, so the whole thing feels the definition of ‘effortless’ – you never really need to squeeze the throttle more than an inch to make proper progress.
But when you do, the sound and power are deeply impressive. The 455PS takes the S 500 Cabriolet to 62mph in 4.6 seconds alongside a beautiful V8 crescendo. The nine-speed automatic gearbox is an old-school torque convertor – albeit very modern in execution – which might not provide quite the quick-fire changes of a dual-clutch setup, but is much, much smoother.
To negate as many of the irritants outside as possible – wind and road noise, mainly – the roof comprises three layers of fabric. It works – with the roof in place, the Cabriolet is very nearly as refined as the saloon, with only a little noise entering occasionally though the area between the side windows where there’s normally a pillar – a problem shared with the Coupe.
And with the roof down, measures like ‘Aircap’ – a rear wind deflector, basically – and the ‘Airscarf’ neck warmer (a blower below the headrest) help make this one of the most bluster-free drop-top experiences available.
It’s very safe too, with the full range of Mercedes-Benz active and passive safety features as standard, including automatic braking, a crosswind assistant (which uses the brakes to prevent the car moving sideward), understeer prevention, traffic sign recognition, ‘pre-safe’ occupant preparation if a collision is inevitable and attention assist, which detects when the driver is flagging.
Though the S 500 in AMG Line is the only ‘standard’ S-Class Cabriolet available, the range also includes two Mercedes-AMG versions: S 63 and S 65, which despite the closeness in nomenclature are priced a good £60,000 apart, at £137,000 and £196,000 respectively.
The difference? 45PS (585 vs. 610), 100Nm (900 vs. 1000) and 0.1 seconds to 62mph (4.2 seconds vs. 4.1). Oh, and four-cylinders – the 65 is a V12 which, of course, alters the character way beyond those numbers.
|S 500||31–33 mpg||4.6 s||204 g/km|
|S 63 AMG||28 mpg||4.2 s||237 g/km|
|S 65 AMG||24 mpg||4.1 s||272 g/km|
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