Mercedes S-Class Cabriolet
Glamorous, imposing and blisteringly quick, the S-Class Cabriolet is a spectacularly stylish drop-top
The S-Class Cabriolet is Mercedes’ take on the cream of the ‘Grand Touring’ crop. The even more expensive Bentley Continental GTC is the big Merc’s most obvious competitor, but its luxurious interior means the S-Class can even rival models like the £265,000 Rolls-Royce Dawn.
The Mercedes S-Class Cabriolet is available in three spec levels. The entry-level S 500 uses a 4.7 litre turbo V8 with 448bhp, and as there’s no SE or Sport version, you’ll have to make do with AMG Line trim. The two other variants are both AMG-powered, starting with the S 63, which features a 5.5-litre V8 making 577bhp. The range flagship is the mighty S 65 which comes with V12 power to the tune of 621bhp. Both AMG variants swap the standard car’s nine-speed auto for a seven-speed box.
The S 500 AMG Line runs on 19-inch alloy wheels as standard, while all cars have AIRMATIC air suspension and adaptive damping – plus, of course, about as much luxury kit and on-board technology as it’s possible to imagine. The S 63 model has a much more performance-focused look with bespoke AMG styling and special 10-spoke alloys, while you also get Keyless-Go, and an AMG sports steering wheel. Sports seats and an upgraded Burmester stereo are also included.
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Used car tests
The range-topping S 65 comes with LED Intelligent lighting, 20-inch AMG alloys and chrome tailpipes, while inside there’s Nappa leather covering everything including the headlining. If the standard specs aren’t lavish enough, Mercedes also offers Premium and Exclusive option packs that add climate-controlled massage seats, a heated steering wheel and a 360-degree cameras.
The Mercedes S-Class Cabriolet offers bruising performance in a package that’s exceptionally refined and comfortable. It looks special, too, although the image is not quite as ‘bespoke’ as some even pricier rivals like the Rolls-Royce Dawn.
You can’t fault the technology, lavish equipment levels or build quality though, and while the AMG versions are the most exciting, we’d go for the S 500 starter model for its greater value and softer feel on the road.
For cruising the Riviera with three passengers, the S Class Cabriolet is hard to fault. You can blast there in limo-like comfort, and waft along the waterfront with the roof down. Vicious depreciation and high running costs are only a fly in the ointment, but if you’re buying a £100,000 convertible that’s unlikely to matter.
Engines, performance and drive
The S 500 is a superlative cruiser, with advanced air suspension that provides exceptional comfort over bumps. While it’s excellent on the whole, the set-up can’t quite isolate the chassis from the odd shudder over Britain’s biggest potholes. Switch the adaptive suspension from Comfort to Sport mode and the stiff chassis reined-in further, but whichever setting you choose you can’t get away from the fact that cutting the roof off has made the big drop a little less composed.
As you’d expect, the sporty AMG models are more dynamic, and the car has controlled and responsive steering – making it easy to place the big S-Class on the road. It’s also endowed with fat sticky tyres that keep it stuck to the road in corners with a tenacity that belies the car’s impressive size and weight.
Refinement is impressive too, but you’d expect nothing less from a top-end Mercedes. The fabric hood has three layers and is acoustically engineered for near silence on the move when it’s raised. The driving experience is not quite so unruffled with the top down, when a bit of turbulence can be felt at motorway speeds. But if it’s any consolation, the same can be said of the Rolls-Royce Dawn, too.
The smallest V8 engine in the line-up is our favourite. The 4.7-litre V8 has 700Nm of torque to complement its 448bhp, and will sprint from 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds. It’s plenty fast enough then, while it’s a little more comfort focused than the AMG variants, too.
That said, the bi-turbo S 63 makes a monstrous 577bhp and 900Nm of torque, allowing it to sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.2 seconds. If that’s not impressive enough you can opt for the V12, with 621bhp and a phenomenal 1,000Nm. Both AMG cars continue the performance division’s tradition of hand built engines assembled by a single engineer with his or her nameplate under the bonnet.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
If you’re buying an S-Class Cabriolet with your own money, you’ve got enough of the stuff not to worry about running costs. Spending the company’s money is a different story though, and if you opt for the most expensive V12 version, you’re looking at an annual Benefit-in-Kind tax bill of nearly £29,000. Opting for the S 63 will net you a tax bill of just over £20k, while the sensible shoes S 500 is a relative bargain – costing around £17,000 each year.
Road tax costs look pretty marginal against all that, but with all models emitting more than 200g/km of CO2 and falling in VED band K, you’re looking at a first year cost of £1,200 followed by £450 annually thereafter.
Official fuel consumption figures range from 16.5mpg (S 65) to 23.7mpg (S 500), but you do get a big 80-litre fuel tank.
The insurance grouping for all the S-Class Cabriolet models is group 50, which is the most expensive bracket when it comes to insurance quotes. This is another reason why S-Class buyers tend to be very old, very rich, or both.
There’s no doubt depreciation on a car like the S-Class would be ruinous to anyone of ‘ordinary’ means. If you buy a car like this, you have to have enough stashed in the bank not to care – otherwise, the numbers can be hard to get your head around.
The most expensive AMG S 65 loses the biggest proportion of its value, as you’d expect, with a three year predicted residual value of below £70k. That means you’ll have lost more than £120,000 in depreciation over three years and 30,000 miles. The S 500 is better, but it’s all relative…
Interior, design and technology
The Mercedes S-Class Cabriolet is basically an S-Class Coupe with the roof chopped off, which means it’s not quite as large as the S-Class saloon, but still enormous for an ostensibly sporty model.
Design-wise, the S-Class Cabriolet looks much as you’d expect, including a superbly engineered convertible fabric roof that Mercedes claims is the largest currently in production. When it’s folded for open top motoring – which takes less than 20 seconds at speeds of up to 30mph – a wind deflector appears out of the windscreen header rail. The deflector is not pretty to look at, but helps keep your hair flat and unruffled at speed.
All three models are similar to look at, but the AMG cars feature a more aggressive front apron and side skirts, while the V12 gets some extra chrome embellishments to set it apart.
The interior fit and finish is superlative and equipment levels lavish, although the S-Class can’t quite match the more characterful ‘bespoke’ feel of rivals from Bentley and Rolls-Royce. It’s still wonderfully comfortable though, and a technological tour de force.
The S-Class Cabriolet comes with an updated version of Magic Body Control, which has a stereo camera to detect deformities in the road surface, allowing the car to tune and ready the dampers accordingly. In Cabriolet and Coupe models, there’s an extra function called Active Curve Tilting which leans the car into corners (subtly) in the manner of a motorbike.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The S-Class Cabriolet comes with Merc’s impressive 12.3-inch Comand Infotainment system as standard, which integrates everything from key vehicle functions to the sat-nav, DAB radio/DVD player and connectivity options. You can control it with the rotary switch, touchpad or voice command, and the huge screen at the centre of the dash means you can split it between map and info functions while everything else remains visible. Go for the upgraded top-of-the-range Burmester sound system and you’ll get 24 speakers dotted around the car and 1500 Watts of ‘3D’ sound.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
There’s only the one bodystyle for the S-Class Cabriolet, but of course you can buy an S-Class Coupe or saloon, too – the latter available in short or long wheelbase guises.
The Cabriolet, like the Coupe on which it’s based, features a full four-seat interior with a relatively roomy rear cabin. The driving seat is set quite high, so vision out is good all round, and in spite of the car’s dimensions it’s easy to place on the road. It’s remarkably easy to drive in town – and parking is simple, especially with the 360-degree camera option.
Practicality isn’t a problem for the Cabriolet either, as the spacious cabin means there’s plenty of space for personal items in the big glove box, door pockets and compartments in the centre console.
The S-Class Cabriolet and Coupe models are built on a slightly shorter platform than their saloon sister cars, but they’re still an imposing sight at 5,027mm long and 2,108mm between the door mirror tips. All models are 1,417mm tall.
If you want a Cabriolet to look more imposing, you probably need a Rolls-Royce Dawn, which measures 5,296mm from nose to tail and is 1,502mm high.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Comfort and space for S-Class Cabriolet occupants cannot be criticised for those up front – there’s loads of space in all directions, and the seats are supremely comfortable, too. Things aren’t quite so impressive in the back, where you might struggle to fit a tall adult behind an equally tall driver – although shoulder room and headroom are great, even with the hood raised. There’s no middle seat option in the rear, so it’s strictly a four seater.
The S-Class Cabriolet’s boot is rated at 400 litres when the roof is up, but you lose a fair chunk when you’re motoring roof down. In that case you can still fit a couple of large soft bags into the car, but you’d struggle if you were going away with a full car load of passengers.
Reliability and Safety
The name S-Class has always been a byword for advanced safety, and the Cabriolet model is no exception. There really is no function you can think of that hasn’t been included – or is available – in the vehicle spec, and as a result you should have no fears about being looked after. Apart from the usual traction and stability controls, you get autonomous braking, road sign recognition, crosswind and lane-keeping assistance, plus blind-spot alert and fatigue monitoring amongst the highlights on the spec sheet.
There hasn’t been an NCAP crash test as it’s a low volume seller, but it’s hard to imagine driving a car that’s so focused on occupant safety. Reliability is unlikely to be an issue either, and build quality feels peerless.
You get an unlimited mileage warranty that’s good for three years with all Mercedes models, and the S Class Cabriolet is no exception.
As well as routine service costs that will be relatively high, any car that weighs as much as an S-Class, is going to eat expensive consumable items such as tyres and brakes at an alarming rate.