Mercedes new S-Class Cabriolet an amalgam of power and style

What kind of car has Swarovski crystals in its lights? This kind of car…

Mercedes will use the Frankfurt motor show to launch this, the new S-Class Cabrio, the first open-top S-Class variant for more than 40 years. Based on the same chassis and structure as the recently-launched S-Class Coupe, the Cabrio uses a great deal more of light, strong magnesium and aluminium parts in order, claims Mercedes, to keep its overall weight the same as the Coupe's.

With the added bulk of the roof mechanism and extra body strengthening needed for a convertible, that’s quite some achievement.

If you had to pick one word for this car, it might be “opulent”. Barely an interior surface is not leather wrapped or capped by wood or chrome. The interior is basically unchanged from that of the Coupe, and obviously leans heavily too on that of the S-Class saloon.

There are seats for four, and unlike most 2+2 cabriolets, it looks as if the rear seats might actually be comfy for normal people on normal journeys. To ram home the car's exclusivity, there are Swarovski crystals in the daytime running lights.


Braking system

Beneath the slinky shape, Mercedes has been hard at work on making the car as safe as possible. There is a new roll-over protection system for a start. As with other such systems, it uses a pair of roll-over bars that shoot up from the rear structure of the car, but this time around they’re fired by a combination of pyrotechnic bolts and compressed gas, to speed up their response times. Mercedes has also chucked a bucket of electronic safety acronyms at the car, including a new autonomous braking system that can bring the car to a complete stop from speeds of up to 100kmh without the driver intervening.

Comfort appears to have been as high a priority as safety. The massive seats can be fitted with Merc’s Airscarf system, which blows hot air at your neck and head on a cool day, while not only the seats and steering wheel are heated, but also the arm rests. Chilly elbow syndrome should be kept well at bay, so.

The climate control system claims a world first too – Mercedes says that it can automatically compensate for the roof being open or closed without the driver or passenger needing to alter their settings. All they have to do is decide what temperature they would like to be, and the system’s mixture of dew-point sensors, solar heat detectors, moving air vents, extra fans and a scent spray (featuring the car’s own fragrance, Pacific Mood – yes, seriously) do the rest.

There’s also a special aerodynamic Aircap blade that extends from the top of the windscreen and which is designed to stop turbulent air vortices from entering the passenger area. Disturbed wig syndrome should be kept well at bay so . . .

The roof is a triple-layer fabric one, electrically operated of course. Mercedes says that it can be opened or closed in just 20secs and that it will work at speeds of up to 60kmh. You also don’t have to get out and twiddle around with a luggage cover in the boot to get it to work – that’s all taken car of by the electronics.

Of more serious mechanical matters, Mercedes will launch the car with two engine options. The S500's 4.7-litre petrol twin-turbo V8 we already know from the SL, S-Class and CLS. It comes with 455hp and 700Nm of torque and a claimed 8.5-litres per 100km combined cycle economy. CO2 emissions are 199g/km, which is kind of remarkable when you think about it.

You won't be thinking about it though, as you'll be too distracted by the option of the 585hp, 900Nm S63 AMG. That uses a twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8 to rather shattering effect – helped by standard four-wheel-drive, it will do the 0-100kmh sprint in just 3.7secs. Both versions use the new 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic gearbox and both also use standard air suspension, which can be adjusted by the driver in the usual Sport, Comfort and Normal modes.

Modern luxury

Other versions will follow, including a hybrid, diesel and V12 petrol in both standard and AMG forms.

"With its sensual and pure design idiom, our new S-Class Cabriolet is one of the most beautiful and exclusive S-Class cars of all time," says Gorden Wagener, head of design at Daimler AG.

“It embodies modern luxury in a very special way and is an expression of both effortless superiority and progressivity.”

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe, a contributor to The Irish Times, specialises in motoring