Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - S-Class
Sublime AMG performance, oodles of new-age technology, glides around corners, luxurious interior, dramatic price cuts
Room for improvement
Ride is harsher than expected on country roads, feels big and heavy to drive, even more expensive when options are added
Mercedes-Benz’s facelifted S-Class Coupe and Cabriolet give a lesson in opulence
3 Aug 2018
CAR-MAKERS have always found themselves in a race to the bottom of sorts, introducing new technology on luxury models before it eventually filter down to entry-level offerings. One such pioneer in this race is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which is a model that often claims world firsts among its extensive features list.
Fast forward to 2014 and the Stuttgart-based brand offered its S-Class flagship in two-door form for the first time since 1996. Four years later, it is time for this generation’s Coupe and Cabriolet to have a mid-life facelift, which usher in significant upgrades to powertrains.
However, being a facelift rather than a new-generation model, the fresh S-Class Coupe and Cabriolet are shorter on world firsts than usual, but does that matter? Surely it is a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’? More importantly, do wholesale changes to their V8 engines upset the already successful formula? We put the pair through their paces to find out.
Truth be on told, on looks alone, the S-Class Coupe and Cabriolet are similar to before. But, dig a little deeper and you will find a heart transplant has resulted in renewed purpose. While we didn’t sample the V12-powered S65 flagship, we did spend some time cruising in the S560 and S63, which have upped the ante in the engine department.
Mercedes-AMG has been kind enough to shoehorn its revered 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine under the S560 and S63’s bonnets, and the result is stupendous. While both grades already used bent eights, a reduction in displacement has not resulted in a reduction in outputs.
The S560 produces 345kW of power and 700Nm of torque, up 10kW over its 4.7-litre predecessor. Meanwhile, the S63 punches out a ludicrous 450kW and 900Nm, up 20kW over its former 5.5-litre unit.
How do they translate in the real world? If you’re familiar with Affalterbach’s V8, then you’ll already know the answer – they’re brilliant. Despite testing it in heavier Cabriolet form and not in lighter Coupe guise, the S63 is an absolute straight-line beast. The latter can sprint from standstill to 100km/h in 4.1 seconds, which doesn’t seem quick enough when you consider what it has to work with.
Despite its luxury brief, the S63 is as much a Mercedes-AMG as a C63 S or GT. The noise is absolutely glorious, with the bi-model exhaust system controllable via an in-cabin button. With the roof down and the wind in your hair, its hard to resist the aural symphony on offer. It cracks and pops during spirited gear changes and has tonnes of personality on overrun. Just brilliant.
The S63 has four Dynamic Select driving modes – Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual – which allow the driver to alter engine, transmission, suspension, steering and stability control settings on the move. We spent a lot of time in Sport+, and it performs as intended, delivering the highest level of performance that the S63 has to offer. Throttle response is exceptional, pinning the driver the into their seat with conviction.
However, the S63’s performance is slightly dulled by its portly kerb weight, which detracts from its dynamism, especially through corners. The S-Class Coupe and Cabriolet are large vehicles, and it shows around the twisty stuff.
Our test route consisted of country roads with narrow lanes, blind corners and hill crests, and the S63 struggled to match the precision of a smaller sportscar. Granted that most, if not all, S-Class buyers aren’t tracking their cars, they would still appreciate some cornering prowess. That’s not to say the S63 can’t perform – it can – but its luxury blueprint holds it back.
Switching over to the S560 proves to not be a stark departure. After all, you’re playing with the same toy, albeit on a lower setting – not that it matters much, as we found. The biggest compliment we could pay the S560 is that Mercedes-AMG could slap its badge on the bootlid and we wouldn’t bat an eyelid. At the end of the day, Affalterbach blood courses through its veins.
The sound is still there, although muted compared to the raucous S63, but it’s enough to keep most punters happy. To make matters even better, the performance is not far off the mark, either. Zipping to triple figures in 4.6s, the S560 Coupe makes a strong case for the best bang for your buck in the range. It is not as relentless, but it’s pretty close.
The S560’s case grows even stronger when you compare its ride with that of the S63. Featuring an Active Curve driving mode, the former is able to auto-level its suspension with the road surface. Engaging this function can feel unusual at first, but it proves to be a thing of genius, improving ride quality to dizzying heights.
At the same time, the S560 can hunker down in one of its performance-orientated driving modes, but as the adaptive dampers firm up, ride quality is reduced. This is also true of the S63, even in its Comfort driving mode. Due to its AMG Sports set-up, it feels much harsher than the S560.
The country roads we tested on were coarse, unsealed and uneven, so we will reserve full judgement for when we test the S560 and S63 on higher-quality surfaces, but they fell short of the suppleness enjoyed in other S-Class models. Conversely, their ability to waft around corners at low speed is damn impressive, so it’s not all bad news.
While the interior has barely changed, aside from the addition of dual 12.3-inch displays for the instrument cluster and the latest Comand infotainment system, some new trim and a redesigned steering wheel; the S-Class Coupe and Cabriolet remain a delight to sit in. In particular, the front seats in either grade are an absolute delight. It’s a big call, but they might be the best seats we’ve sat on yet. Mercedes-Benz should be giving lessons on cushioning, because it has nailed it.
As mentioned, the S-Class is renowned as a technological tour de force, and the facelifted Coupe and Cabriolet does this reputation no harm. While they may only have one unique feature this time around, buyers will feel happy being on the precipice of innovation … until the next new piece of technology breaks free.
The headline advanced driver-assist feature this time around is route-based speed adaptation, which uses satellite navigation data to autonomously slow the vehicle down before it goes around bends, junctions or roundabouts. Our drive route didn’t lend itself to testing this technology, but it promises to be another step in the right direction towards full autonomy.
Like any other Mercedes-Benz models, the S-Class Coupe and Cabriolet come with a long list of options, most of which are very, very expensive. However, the pair are arguably better value than ever, thanks to significant price cuts that dramatically increase appeal.
The market for the S-Class Coupe and Cabriolet is small, but the point has never been to amass a large number of sales, the pair exist alongside their traditional four-door sedan counterpart to make a point – Mercedes-Benz is at the forefront of luxury and technology. With that mind, the two-doors can only be viewed as a success – even more so after a light facelift. Well-heeled customers will indeed be pleased.
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