First Drive: 2016 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Convertible

First Drive: 2016 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Convertible
 

Said to be inspired by the design of a luxury yacht, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class convertible, which is now available in SA, is the company’s latest offering in the highest echelons of the brand’s line-up. It is the second four-seat super luxury convertible since the first S-Class based open top was launched back in 1971.

In our review of the S-Class coupe we heaped praise on the vehicle and deemed it a lounge on wheels. Now the company has made available the convertible variant of the model, just in time for driving the Garden Route this summer.

S500 Cabriolet

Launched in the Western Cape, the S-Class convertible truly takes all the design hallmarks of the svelte coupe version but adds the basking-in-the-elements factor that moves up the cool element to even dizzier heights. With genuine space for four and a cabin that melds the latest technological items with the plushness and comfort of a first-class aircraft seat, the model truly has that you-have-arrived demeanour about it. From the long bonnet to the curvaceous rear end, it is one of those designs you can pore over for a long time.

The fabric roof, which is said to be one of the largest currently on offer, can be operated while on the move at speeds of up to 60km/h. Once opened it washes the whole cabin with light that adds verve to the already regal cabin. Thankfully, the cabin is well insulated from buffeting winds and one can easily hold conversations even at the national speed limit.

S500 Cabriolet

This is enhanced by the optional Aircap and wind deflectors, which further dispel wind drafts. Also, thanks to the triple-layer roof, wind and road noise are kept to a minimum with the roof in place.

At launch, three models are on offer, mirroring its coupe sibling. At the bottom of the range – if you really want to call it that – is the S500, powered by a 4.7-litre V8 twin-turbo pushing out 335kW and 700Nm via a nine-speed automatic transmission.

The next rung up is the S63 AMG model powered by a 5.5l V8 making 430kW and 900Nm through a seven-speed automatic, claimed to haul the big convertible from 0-100km/h in 4.2 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 250km/h. At the highest echelons of the range sits the S65 AMG powered by a 6.0l-litre V12 twin turbo with 463kW and 1000Nm pushing the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic gearbox. It has a claimed 0-100km/h time of 4.1 seconds and a top speed of 250km/h.

S500 Cabriolet

We spent time in all three derivatives driving through the long winding roads of the Western Cape and, for me, it was the S63 AMG (R2.9-million) that felt like the sweet spot in the range. Not to say that there is anything wrong with the S500 (R2.3-million), quite the contrary, but there is a distinct weight carried by the AMG badge, particularly at this level. The AMG S65 (R3.5-million) is the big daddy of the range, the one that commands the most bragging rights of the three models, but it does command a R500 000 premium over the S63, which I feel is not warranted in the grand scheme of things as there is very little between the two AMGs in the performance stakes. Both are rapid in their own right, all the while able to cosset occupants with the most comfortable, wafting ride.

S500 Cabriolet

On the subject of pricing, I have heard many argue that the AMG S65 is too expensive, but I beg to differ. At this level, you will have to pay close to, if not well above, the R5-million mark to buy a V12 cabriolet with this amount of power and torque elsewhere. It is in that disposition that the AMG S65 offers relatively excellent value for money at this level of the market. I would gladly buy an S-Class convertible ahead of a Bentley GTC such is the impression the S-Class convertible made on me.

The model is at home cruising Gordon’s Bay and Camps Bay and even the more affluent and exotic place such as Monaco. It is the perfect chariot for the well-heeled plutocrat looking for a set of wheels befitting their social status.

It was not all about the big S though. Mercedes has also introduced the C-Class convertible in SA, which we drove in Italy in June and you can read our impressions of that vehicle on the Business Day website. It is priced from R699 900 for the C200 to R1 559 900 for the AMG C63 S. – Lerato Matebese