Topless or not, there are few ways in which the S550 Cabriolet will let you down.
– Detroit, Michigan
After a lengthy Uber ride through L.A. traffic, a boring cross-country flight, and an unusually long wait for a shuttle to the parking lot, the last thing on my mind was driving. How perfect, then, to have the sublimely easy-to-use Mercedes-Benz S550 Cabriolet waiting for me. It’s the sort of luxury car that makes all the hassles and stresses of driving melt away into the background. The topless S-Class is thoroughly viceless from behind the wheel, performing exactly as I ask without fault. And, yes, it’s beautiful, powerful, and dripping in technology, too. Even more so than the admittedly fabulous Rolls-Royce Dawn we drove earlier this year, this S550 Cabriolet is the convertible I could drive every single day.
- A smooth and stupendously powerful engine. Sure, there are gutsier AMG models, but the biturbo V8’s torque curve comes on so early that you’re never at a loss for power. All 516 pound-feet are ready by 1,800 rpm, so the engine feels stronger than its 449-horsepower rating might suggest. It makes short work of any on-ramp yet is also incredibly smooth, transmitting essentially no vibration to the cabin.
- I might not like every design choice within the sumptuous cabin – those wavy white lines on the dash seem very 1970s to me – but I cannot fault the materials. From the row of chromed switches on the center stack to the click-click infotainment controller, everything just works. And these ultra-supple seats, in gorgeous Nappa leather, are far more comfortable than my couch at home. It’s enough to make you want to live inside.
- It’s supremely comfy and quiet. Even the best convertibles often let in lots of wind noise, but not this multiple-layer powered top. There’s very little road or suspension noise, either. The Airmatic air suspension filters out road harshness with aplomb – even more impressive given that there are 20-inch wheels at each corner – while also maintaining impressively flat cornering attitudes.
- The optional 24-speaker, 1,540-watt Burmester sound system fitted to this test car would be worth the entry cost alone for its gorgeous drilled-metal grilles. The real treat, though, is the power, clarity, and precision of its audio playback. Then again, any sound system that costs $6,300 had better sound phenomenal.
- It’s got serious curb appeal. With the top down, the S550 Cabriolet’s length and proportions are immediately evident. There’s weight and gravitas to this design. And with not a single piece of flat metal to be found, there’s plenty to grab your eye.
- Rear legroom is almost nonexistent, so like most four-seat convertibles, the back is only suitable for children, short drives, or people you don’t like too much.
- The Emerald Green paint does this car’s sultry curves and sheetmetal ripples no favors. It looks black in shadow and nondescript in the light; with so much surface detailing, the S-Class Cabriolet deserves a more alluring palette.
- The heated steering wheel switch is hard to use. It’s tucked behind the other control stalks and the only way to tell if it’s on is by peeking at the little red light. Also, the wood parts of the steering wheel are unheated; as you shuffle the wheel through your hands, it goes from heated to unheated and back again.
Photos: Jake Holmes / Motor1.com