Three-pointed star reintroduces drop-top limo after 45 years
Rule one for those looking to enter a class for the first time: find a gap in the market and occupy it. Now, this generation of S-class cabrio is by no means the first true luxury drop-top to be marketed by Mercedes-Benz, but as the most recent ceased being offered for sale 45 years ago and this is the first to be called an S-class, I think we can deem it to be sufficiently new.
And don’t go looking for rivals for either the £115,115 S500 model or this £135,675 AMG S63. The least expensive Bentley GTC costs almost £20,000 more and all others you might buy for this kind of money, such as the Aston DB9 Convertible or Ferrari California, are really rather different kinds of car.
To me the cabriolet is less attractive than the S-class coupé upon which it is based, but it’s superbly engineered. Mercedes says it has the largest convertible roof of any such car on sale (though I wonder what the engineers of the Rolls-Royce Dawn would say about that), but you can still raise or lower it at any speed up to the urban limit. Refinement is every bit as good as you might expect from an S-class, while its body is so stiff you’d need to go off-roading before being able to feel the compromises inherent in the structure of any convertible with a metal monocoque.
Which leaves me in something of a quandary. When the coupé version of this car first became available a couple of years ago, I spent two days driving it back to back with the equivalent Bentley and, after some deliberation, judged in favour of the Benz. I’m far less sure I’d do the same if we repeated the exercise with their open counterparts.
It’s not because the Cabrio has some fatal flaw, just that it seems to me a little less suited to its job description than the coupé. When people fork out a six-figure sum on a convertible, I think they are buying into an image and a sense of occasion. And good though it is, the admittedly more expensive and technically less able Bentley is better in these regards.
The Mercedes interior is generously equipped, but the Bentley’s is opulent and elegant too. Were I minded to cruise the Croisette in Cannes, it would be in the Bentley. The fact that the S-class would out-perform the Continental GTC all the way up the Col de Vence would be rather less important, because that’s not how cars like this are driven.
There is much to like about this car, from its thundering 5.5-litre engine to the fact that, unlike most open cars, there’s actually a sensible amount of space in both the back and boot. On an objective level it’s hard to fault. But such cars sell to the heart and, on this measure, it falls ever so slightly short.
Price – £135,675
Engine – 5.5 litres, 8 cylinders, twin turbochargers
Power – 577bhp@5500rpm
Torque – 663lb ft@2250 rpm
Transmission – seven-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Weight – 2070kg
Power to Weight – 279bhp per tonne
0-62mph – 4.1sec
Top speed – 155mph
Economy – 28mpg
CO2 – 237g/km