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First drive: Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

First drive: Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet
Revived after 45 years, the Mercedes S-Class Cabriolet - and it was worth the wait.

 



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Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet

5 5 5 5 5

Everyone knows that the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is 'The Best Car in the World', so whipping the roof off the elegant Coupé model is hardly going to ruin that glittering reputation. Thus, the sixth entry into the current S-Class family is the Cabriolet and there can be few finer all-round motoring experiences available anywhere than the one provided by the, er... 'base spec' S 500.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz S 500 AMG Line Cabriolet
Pricing: from £110,120
Engine: 4.7-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmission: nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: two-door, four-seat cabriolet
CO2 emissions: 204g/km (VED Band K, £650 first 12 months, £295 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 32.5mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Power: 455hp at 5,250- to 5,500rpm
Torque: 700Nm at 1,800- to 3,500rpm

What's this?

The Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet, model one of a three-tier UK range of extremely luxurious, extremely grand and extremely expensive four-seat convertibles based on the existing S-Class Coupé. The other two in the line-up are both Mercedes-AMGs, namely the S 63 and the S 65, with all the Cabriolets using the drivetrains found in that aforementioned Coupé and also the recently revised two-seat SL roadster (save for the 3.0-litre V6 in the SL 400). The last time Mercedes did an open-top version of its 'Sonderklasse' was when our currency was decimalised, so it is 45 years since we last saw this most opulent cabriolet. That's quite a wait for a replacement model.

Saying the S 500 Cabriolet is simply a 'Coupé S-Class with a fabric roof' rather underplays the gravitas of the big Benz when you first see it. It's a fabulous shape, blessed with that dominant face, the really attractive rear-end styling of all current Mercedes coupés and convertibles (symbolised by slim light clusters and a number plate set low down in the bumper) and the nicely sculpted flanks dominated by two swage lines that curve in to meet each other near the tail. The triple-layered fabric hood was chosen because it is neater, lighter and less complex than a massive metal roof, while it also better preserves a profile that echoes that of its Coupé sibling. Said folding top can be had in four colours, including beige if you're feeling really brave, and owners can raise or lower it within 20 seconds on the fly at speeds of up to 31mph.

All things considered, the S-Class Cabriolet is a beautiful machine, large but not visually weighty, impressive without being ludicrously showy. The S 500 is only available in AMG Line specification in the UK, which means it's very hard to spot it's not one of the two bona fide AMGs from a distance. And, as you're paying £110,120 for it, the standard specification is high: 19-inch alloys, LED lights all round, headlights that steer and dip bits of the main beam field automatically, Airmatic air suspension with Adaptive Damping, and much more.

However, the area where it really feels like it earns its high-end crust is the interior, which is beyond compare. It shares architecture with the Coupé and we're inclined to say that these two rakish versions of the S-Class have the best cockpits of any Mercedes we've yet seen. The dashboard is dominated by not one, but two fantastic 12.3-inch TFT screens that display all the critical information required in pin-sharp clarity. The lovely sweep of the trim on the passenger side is reminiscent of high-end nautical vessels and if the driver glances about their position, they'll notice three main arrays of buttons - to one side of the instrument cluster, nestled underneath the four central air vents, and arranged in a bowl formation ahead of the 'Comand' controller. These banks of exquisite switchgear further reinforce the feeling you're piloting a multimillion motor-yacht, rather than a mere car.

Standard equipment inside is also generous, including full leather upholstery, heated, cooled and massaging front seats, heated rear seats, the Airscarf neck-heating system, Aircap (this features not only a wind deflector behind the back two seats, but also one that pops up on the windscreen header rail to minimise interior discomfort) and an intelligent climate control system called Thermotronic. With the hood up, boot space is 350 litres and it is reduced by 100 litres with the top folded away; an automatic boot separator, as seen on the SL roadster, allows for easy access to luggage if it's a sunny day and the Cabriolet is running open.

How does it drive?

The S-Class Cabriolet has a simply faultless ride. Its air suspension strikes a perfect balance between comfort and body control, so while the S 500 often feels like it is floating above the road surface, by the same score it never feels like it is wallowing and lurching longitudinally or laterally. Coupled with all the luxury comforts within, double-glazed windows, doors that have a unique sealing method to reduce wind noise and enough sound-deadening to smother the annoying racket from other traffic, the result is a car that is the very epitome of effortless cruising. The S 500 sails along the road, never once transmitting a single surface imperfection to its occupants, in a display of civility unmatched by anything we can think of save for a Rolls-Royce. Honestly, you just cannot criticise the way the Mercedes covers ground: it's eerily smooth and supple. In terms of a grand tourer in which every one of a thousand miles would be a pleasure, the S-Class Cabriolet is peerless.

It's not without merits if you decide to up the pace, though. That 4.7-litre engine has to propel 2,115kg (that's 85 kilos heavier than the equivalent S 500 Coupé), but it does so with almost disdainful ease. With a creamy rumble from the twin exhausts, the S 500 Cabriolet hurtles forward with an almost alarmingly rapid accumulation of pace, all aided by that slick 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic - it always knows which gear to be in at any given moment. The steering is clean, precise and enjoyable to deal with, and while it'll roll a little in bends, the S 500 never feels like it is out of its comfort zone when being asked to link together a series of tight, mountain road twists at speed.

Sure, the SL is geared more towards sportier driving than the S-Class Cabriolet, while the two AMG S-Class Cabriolet models higher up the range have recalibrated air suspension and steering, and bigger brakes and multi-clutch transmissions, to make them just a tiny bit sharper to drive - yet the obvious pay-off here is that, incredibly comfortable though they are, the AMG Cabriolets don't quite ride as brilliantly as the S 500. If it's languid genius you want, pick the 4.7 V8.

Verdict

You could find an extra £25,555 and plonk yourself behind the wheel of the Mercedes-AMG S 63 Cabriolet, and we wouldn't blame you for doing so; that car has an astonishing noise and far better handling than anything weighing 2.2 tonnes with a soft-top has any right to. But in the sister SL range, it's the 400 'entry' model that will take the most UK sales and we have no reason to doubt the 500 will do the same job for the S-Class Cabriolet - because, aside from its wonderful exterior styling, its sublime interior, its remarkably deft chassis and its deceptively brawny drivetrain, the S 500 Cabriolet is absolutely defined by the most marvellous, cosseting and entrancing ride in the business. Cheap, this sort of magnificence is not, but the £110,120 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet is so blinking special in all departments that it could almost be called a bargain.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 11 Apr 2016









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2016 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

2016 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.



2016 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 






 

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