Perhaps it was the white carpet and white-carpeted floor mats. Perhaps it was the Swarovski crystal-encrusted headlights. It could have been the cabin fragrance system. But something made my wife say, “I feel like I just got into Liberace’s car.”
One thing was certain about the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet: Someone picked out the wrong interior colors. A red dashpad on a blue car with a white interior? That “Exclusive Upholstery Code” on the window sticker must mean Mercedes-Benz will do anything for you.
Color and trim choices aside, the S560 Cabriolet has graceful, flowing lines. The fascia, side sills and AMG wheels of the Sport Package ($5,900) complemented the smooth styling of the S-Class Cabriolet; it would be the only choice on the options list I wouldn’t leave off. For my wife it was the Premium Package ($3,500), with its massaging seats.
Once you know the basic moves of the multimedia interface you can bounce around and eventually find what you need. You can use either the knob or the touchpad, which is pretty slick. Graphics are rich looking on the center screen and the virtual gauge cluster.
The display often reminds you to not let it distract you. But just in case it does, the tester had the Driver Assistance Package ($2,250) with all the semiautonomous driver aids. Mercedes-Benz has had these well-sorted for a while now. Most can be turned on or off with a small row of buttons up on the left side of the gauge cluster. But some of these technologies encroached when I didn’t want them. If the transmission is in park it automatically engages the parking brake if your seat belt is off or you open the door. This was mildly annoying when getting out to open or close my garage, for example. Another glitch was the parking sonar picked up the bottom of my not-steep driveway apron in flat Chicago and locked up the brakes. The chin spoiler was not low enough to scrape. Granted these features could be helpful in certain situations, but I was uneasy about the car making decisions for me.
A couple of other tech misses included the night vision system. It does work, but is of dubious usefulness as it appears down in the gauge cluster. You have to take your eyes off the road, and I’m not sure it shows you much more than the headlights. Also the head-up display shows the speed limit in a too-bright square that doesn’t dim with the dash lights. Then it annoyingly flashes if you exceed the speed limit. It’s easy enough to turn off.
Surprisingly, the mechanical arm that brings your shoulder belt forward does retract after a while if you do not partake. I discovered this not because I drove beltless, but it took a minute sitting in park to find the convertible top switch located inside the console storage bin. For a car with such complex features, they managed to make the instrument panel look surprisingly uncluttered. There’s a horseshoe of hard buttons around the multimedia controller and thin strip for the HVAC. Switchgear has a satisfyingly tactile feel. I liked the knurled knobs that gently pop out under each air vent to control flow.
The soft top is so well-sealed and well-insulated that this is a no compromise all-weather car. There is zero wind noise. The only sound heard through the top was rain when sitting still; a rainstorm is the only time the top should be up. An automatic climate control system works with the top down, extending open-air driving season with features such as heating behind your neck and heated armrests in addition to the requisite front and rear heated seats.
An AMG performance version is offered, but normal people won’t want for passing power from the S560’s 463-horspower turbocharged V-8 engine.
The tester was a showcase of Mercedes-Benz’s latest technology, but the car underneath the tech is magnificent.
At a glance
Vehicle type: RWD two-door convertible
Base price: $133,300
As tested: $153,600 (excluding $995 destination)
Miles per gallon: 17 city, 26 highway
Engine: 4.0-liter turbocharged V-8
Transmission: nine-speed automatic