Delightful to drive in every respect, it’s no wonder Mercedes calls this one of its “Dream Cars.”
– Los Angeles, California
Gliding along the highway or carving through back roads, this car is relaxing me. The seat is massaging me, the climate control is ionizing and perfuming the air, and the supple air suspension is absorbing every bump and imperfection. This is a car that will chill you out and make driving pleasant, not stressful. It’s pretty enough to draw onlookers when we stop for lunch, too, and quick enough to skip past other traffic when a lane ends unexpectedly. With a fresh look on the outside for the 2018 model year, a beefier engine underhood, and new technologies sprinkled throughout, the S560 Coupe more than lives up to Mercedes’ billing of it as one of the brand’s “Dream Cars.”
Buttery powertrain. The best part about the biturbo 4.0-liter V8 engine is not its huge peak power figures, but the absolutely effortless way in which it serves up that power. Torque flows readily from all speeds, and the slick-shifting nine-speed automatic ensures there’s always plenty of it for every driving scenario. Swift, smooth progress is always but a toe-poke away.
Sportier than the sedan. Driving the Coupe only a few weeks after trying out the sedan, it’s clear to me that this car is sportier. For starters, it’s tuned to have a more aggressive engine note, with welcome rumbling and purring from the V8 where the S560 sedan hums. The Coupe’s shorter length and wheelbase (by 8.4 and 8.7 inches, respectively) make a huge difference, too, helping me swing through corners more easily and giving the two-door a sense of fleetness. In other words, even non-AMG S-Class Coupes are fun from behind the helm.
Technology makes driving easier. Active Steering Assist, which works in concert with the Distronic adaptive cruise, doesn’t actually drive the car itself, but it may as well. In this car it’s more capable than ever, and sitting in busy California freeway traffic, I find myself able to take my hands off the wheel for extended periods of time as the car brakes, accelerates, and gently steers in low-speed congestion. Other safety gear is equally appreciated, warning me of obstacles ahead or in the blind spot. Especially nice is a night-vision system that, when it detects a pedestrian at the side of a dark, narrow road, pops up a warning in the instrument cluster with said pedestrian highlighted in a red box.
High seating position. No matter how much I adjust it, I still feel like I’m sitting too high in the power driver’s seat – as if I’m sitting on, rather than in, the car. The upshot is, of course, a better view out and around traffic. But in a sporty, low-slung car like the S-Class Coupe, I’d rather feel like I’m closer to the floor.
Still not in love with the touchpad. Mercedes introduced a touchpad for the infotainment system several years ago to work alongside its rotary controller, but I still can’t get used to using it. Where the rotary dial has a lovely click-click tacility and allows me to dial through menus without taking my eyes off the wheel, the touchpad offers no real physical feedback. It’s a more distracting way to interact with the system than simply using the knob.
Overcomplicated steering-wheel controls. With the cruise-control switches now relocated to the steering wheel, this car’s wheel has a whole load of buttons and functions. It looks cluttered, and it’s easy to accidentally brush the touch-sensitive nubs that manipulate the instrument cluster and infotainment display. Nor do the buttons have the taut, mechanical feel of the rest of the car’s switchgear.
Photos: Mercedes-Benz USA