Say you have a massive pile of cash earmarked for a big, comfortable convertible, but you’re not feeling what Bentley or Rolls-Royce are putting down. Other than the aging BMW 6-series convertible—which, let’s face it, is a little too plebeian—the Mercedes-Benz S-class cabriolet is the only choice.
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More Nautical than Nimble
But what a good choice it is. Appropriate to its nameplate, the S-class convertible is the biggest and most luxurious among Mercedes’ 12-deep lineup across five model lines of cabriolets. S63 and S65 AMG variants are on offer, each with more than 500 horsepower, but the standard S550 cabriolet tested here, with a 449-hp twin-turbo V-8 and rear-wheel drive, is the best expression of the S-class ethos. Its lack of sporting pretensions is obvious, even when equipped, as was our test car, with a $5900 Sport package with AMG wheels and a body kit. Instead, the S cabriolet’s flowing lines, larger-than-life proportions, and elegant presence conjure images of a luxury yacht.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but there are boatlike elements to the driving experience as well. Weighing 4786 pounds, the S-class cabriolet dives and pitches and rolls a fair amount with its suspension in the default Comfort mode. In this setting, the air-sprung ride is almost too cushy, and the body motions seem at odds with the firmer impacts delivered through the large, 20-inch wheels and their low-profile tires. Somewhat paradoxically, we actually felt more comfortable cruising with the suspension set in Sport mode, which tightens up body motions without making the ride at all objectionable. The S-class isn’t among the stiffest convertibles extant—blame losing such a huge roof—with some body flex and a few unseemly vibrations cropping up on rougher roads, but neither is it some sort of bourgeois Buick Cascada. But it’s still best to keep the pace calm and stick to smooth byways. Complete review on www.caranddriver.com, by Alex Conley