Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: August 8, 2018
When you think Mercedes, you undoubtedly think S-Class. When you think S-Class, you think luxury, a regal automobile fit for monarchs, celebrities, and the upper echelon of society. Now in your mind you might envision the four-door sedan, which won our recent comparison test against the Porsche Panamera and Jaguar XJ, but standing before my eyes is the S-Class Cabriolet, a topless boulevard cruiser that adorns the sedan’s regalia but combines it with the extravagance of open-top thrills.
In line with the S-Class Sedan, the 2018 Cabriolet models receive a slight nip and tuck with new front and rear bumpers, sparkling LED headlights, and alluringly patterned organic LED tail lights that look like a 3-D sculpture of a bird’s feather. Coupe and Cabriolets do not get the new triple-streak headlight design from the sedan though, meaning from certain angles on the front quarter, the S appears eerily similar to the smaller E- and C-Class variants. Though I find the Cabriolet oddly proportioned versus the Coupe with too much emphasis below the shoulder line and without much visual mass above it, it is still one of the most lavish convertibles that you can buy before hitting the stratospheric prices commanded by Bentley and Rolls-Royce.
The cabin is replete with elaborate Mercedes regalia, soft leather surfaces worthy of a king, and switchgear that will make the finest craftsmen in the world salivate. The optional Designo seats appear like an exoskeleton of a leather goddess: textured, checkered, and puffed up for that quilted pillowtop effect. This black on black spec (as shown in our photographs) would not be my preferred choice, as I don’t believe the dark shades accentuate the beautiful setpieces and grand scale of the cabin layout - best to stick with a shade of red or brown instead.
The Cabriolet adorns a new steering wheel that is shared with the sedan. Aesthetically, I am not a fan of this design but functionally, the wheel is void of any ergonomic foibles. It cleverly utilizes the thumb-sized touchpads derived from the E-Class: the left pad controls the driver’s instrument cluster while the right controls the infotainment unit. And who am I to complain when the wheel is covered with a fresh-smelling mix of veneered wood and sumptuous leather? We’ve covered much of the infotainment and cabin details in our S-Class Sedan review which you can read here, but long story short, the electronics work, the infotainment layouts are simplistic, and the massaging seats are spot on. Shame though that the gear and signal stalk are the same ones that you would find in the $40,000 GLA, and the Cabriolet does not come equipped with the analog clock sandwiched between the center vents like the sedan either.
Aesthetics aside, the real magic of the Cabriolet begins when you flip the roof switch hidden inside the center glovebox. The roof operation is a silent work of art, a muted ballet, a black and white film, if you will. Rather than the typical noise of winding motors and retracting gears, there’s nothing but a slight whirrr as the roof neatly folds into the dedicated slot behind the rear seats. Same goes when summoning it back up, emitting the sound you would hear when pulling up cold and wrinkled bed sheets over your body at night. I have been told to make an ASMR video out of this.
The triple layer cloth top is impossibly thick and impeccably built with a suede like-headliner. As a result, the S Cab encapsulates occupants in a quiet and encapsulating bubble, offering nearly as quiet of an interior as the Rolls-Royce Dawn - not bad for half the price of one. Who needs hard top convertibles when soft tops are this good? On an interesting note, the hard top SL 63 AMG actually has the same $166,600 MSRP as this non-AMG S 560 Cabriolet.
Prime real estate falls to the front passengers, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call the two rear seats unusable. Sure, they are much smaller than the sedan’s but are still appropriate and spacious for an averaged sized adult. I stand six feet tall and my only problem was the way-too-upright seatback, though headroom was infinite with the top down, and I suspect most Cabriolet owners will be seeking sunshine every chance they get. The Burmester speaker panels on the rear decklid behind the headrests look the money as well. All that it’s missing is some teakwood for that Rolls-Royce effect. As expected, the retractable roof eats away at much of the trunk space. It will still fit a slim suitcase and a fair amount of grocery bags but the entry portal is much narrower and not as voluminous as the sedan’s. If you’re packing for a family of four, do so sparingly.
Brand new under the hood is a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 punching out 463 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque from as low as 2,000 rpm. It’s a smooth operator and never feels taxed or left gasping for air. Power is plentiful and will get this land yacht up to speed in a jiffy. As to attest to an engineer’s prowess, the Cabriolet zips from 0-100 km/h in 4.5 seconds, the exact same time as the lighter Coupe. But the S 560 delivers said power in a relaxed manner - it’s the perfect fit for this Cabriolet’s laid-back personality. A V6 simply wouldn’t cut the mustard and sure, the S 63 AMG engine is much more powerful and aggressive, but why would you want to drive fast when you can extravagantly cruise down the boulevard and announce your presence, slowly? When a vehicle is this calm, driving quickly is the last thing on your bucket list.
A new 9-speed automatic replaces the jerky 7-speed from before, distributing buttery and unnoticeable shifts though will find some rough edges when taking control of the gears manually via the paddles. Left to its own devices and you may as well think of it as a CVT - you won’t feel any gear shifts at all unless you take a stethoscope to the chassis.
The S 560 Cabriolet cannot and does not hide its gargantuan mass, rather it embraces and adds that weight to the overall driving experience. Ungainliness will be a regular occurence when loading up in corners but the S stays incredibly flat when transferring weight from side to side, the air suspension keeping it tamable. Those who have driven the sedan won’t feel much difference here and we have these 19-inch wheels to thank for absorbing every kind of malignancy on the road. Sure the optional 20s may look better, but you cannot deny the superior ride quality of the 19s. There is no need to brace for impact when you see the car in front crashing into a pothole - the S-Class will glaze over it like warm butter under a rolling pin.
Even with the top cut off, the S remains effectively rigid. Chassis flex never shows its face and body control never falters. The overly light steering will mask the grand scale of the weight problem. In fact, the steering pretty much masks everything on the road too - you’ll nary feel a bump or a pothole. Mercedes thinks S-Cab drivers shouldn’t be bothered by these plebeian issues and will effectively mute the outside world from sensory distractions.
To my amazement though, the S560 does have a dark side, a mischievous persona that I did not discover in the sedan - maybe I just wasn’t listening. Flip the switch to Sport+ mode and that V8 exhaust comes alive and emits sonic hints to the C 63 and E 63 AMG. Of course, it’s not nearly as loud as the latter two but with the roof down, you have front row seats to this burbly baritone exhaust replete with barks and farts on downshifts. Proper good fun. Have a listen to our Exhaust Notes video above to listen for yourself!
Again, nobody needs an S-Class but when a vehicle can distill stress from a driver and induce a tranquil submission, it becomes a necessity. Adorning luxurious armaments and a powertrain smooth enough to melt butter, the S 560 Cabriolet not only soaks the occupants in sunshine, but in excessive status and unparallelled cabin insulation. The S 560 ranked as our favourite luxury sedan and the Cabriolet unsurprisingly follows suit. Top down cruising at this price point really doesn’t get much better than this.
Model: 2018 Mercedes-Benz S 560 Cabriolet
Paint Type: Obsidian Black
Base Price: $166,600
Price as Tested: $173,100
Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,051 / 1,910 / 1,417
Curb weight (kg): 2,175
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8
Horsepower: 463 hp @ 5,250 - 5,500 rpm
Torque: 516 lb-ft @ 2,000 - 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 13.9 / 9.2 / 11.8
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 12.5