Every time a luxury flagship arrives at our office for testing, we immediately begin to compare it to the S-Class. BMW’s 7-series (reviewed here) is exceptionally good, but falls short of the three-pointed star by a few mere notches. Since Mercedes-Benz populated their convertible lineup with more variety, we were eager to test the drop-top variant of the best they have to offer. The 2018 Mercedes-Benz S 560 Cabriolet is just that – one of the finest cars on the road, but with the necessary modifications to make for the perfect open-air motoring experience.
For the most part, when a coupé has its roof chopped off, there are compromises. The chassis tends to flex and overall composure is reminiscent of a pool noodle. Our one exception to this is the Rolls-Royce Dawn (reviewed here), a car that feels just as taut and compliant as its Wraith sibling. The S 560 Cabriolet is the second convertible we have tested that has this trait; it’s simply marvelous in the way it drives down the road. Ride quality from the air suspension is just perfect, and firms up in the perfect manner when “Sport” modes are engaged.
This year, the S 550 has been replaced with the S 560, which doesn’t have the 5.5L V8 that my personal 1988 560 SEL does. It replaces last year’s 4.7L twin-turbo V8 in favour of a 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8 that’s more powerful. It generates 463 horsepower at 5,250RPM and 516 lb-ft. of torque right at 2,000RPM. This is all sent to the rear wheels via Mercedes-Benz’s scrumptious nine-speed 9G-TRONIC automatic. Other S-Class variants get 4MATIC, however the soft-top S-Class maintains the tradition of a rear-drive setup.
Extra power is always welcomed, but as with the sedan variant of the S 560 (reviewed here), where the car truly shines is with regards to the overall driving experience. When commandeering the beautiful Cabriolet down a country road on a crisp afternoon, or across the city on a 400-series highway, it reassures you that you made the right choice. Everything is made effortless, and the car just behaves exactly as it’s directed to. Engaging more dynamic driving modes adds some volume to the otherwise-quiet exhaust, now capable of backfire pops and crackles.
Leaving it in its comfort-oriented settings, everything is calm and lavish without feeling lazy. Steering feel is non-existent from an analog point of view, but has excellent on-center feel and requires no overcorrection at highway speeds. This tightens up on command and turn-in is quite good as well. The dynamic seat bolsters inflate during corners to keep the driver and passenger comfortable and supported, which is a nice touch.
The convertible top on the S 560 Cabriolet takes about 17 seconds to either open or close, and can operate at very low speeds rather than requiring a complete stop. A hard cover lifts from behind the passenger cabin and the top drops slickly into it. Standard equipment on this car includes Mercedes-Benz’s AirScarf, which uses small fans directly below the headrests to send warm air right onto your neck. Combined with the AirCap wind deflection system, the driver will be enticed to drive with the roof opened well into fall or early in the spring.
As we have come to expect from the S-Class, the interior is simply magnificent. Stunning design Nappa leather seats on our test vehicle come together with a Dinamica headliner to make for an opulent and very quiet experience. When opening the windows, the lack of a B-pillar makes it look and feel airy and premium. The Burmester speakers, even on this entry-level stereo, sound fantastic and do an excellent job at bringing together sounds. One not-so-hot touch is the Apple CarPlay projected onto the massive central screen – the iPhone’s large icons look goofy in comparison with the soft and elegant fonts on the native Mercedes-Benz system.
The topless S-Class isn’t cheap – this model starts at $166,600. At this price it comes fully loaded with all of the luxuries one would expect from a flagship, and then some. Massaging and ventilated seats, LED headlights, Burmester premium audio, navigation, and AirScarf are all standard issue. The only option on our test vehicle was a $6,500 Exclusive Package that adds black Designo leather seats, and brings the price to $173,100. With a few more options, the S 560 would go to battle with the two-seat AMG GT C Roadster (reviewed here), a car with an entirely different target audience. What the GT C doesn’t offer is rear seating, and accommodations in the S 560 are generous for four.
Fuel economy on this model is projected at 13.9L/100km city and 9.2L/100km on the highway, for a combined estimate of 11.8L/100km. Our highway driving observed no better than 10.3L/100km, and the combined average for the duration of the test was 12.4L/100km, right in line with the manufacturer’s estimate. The S 560 Cabriolet requires 91-octane fuel, as with every other S-Class in the lineup.
Doing some research back into this Cabriolet’s history, Mercedes-Benz last offered a flagship four-seat convertible for the 1972 model year on the W112 model. The upcoming BMW 8-series will be the closest thing this S-Class Cabrio has to a competitor, and until then it remains in a segment of its own. The 2018 Mercedes-Benz S 560 Cabriolet is a phenomenal grand tourer, with the grace and sophistication anticipated from a car of its caliber. It meets every expectation, exceeds it, and sets a new bar.