Test Drive: 2017 Mercedes-AMG S-Class Cabriolet S63

The brand’s first flagship drop-top four-seater in over 45 years

There’s plenty of anticipation and excitement surrounding the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet series. S-Class is the hallmark of the German automaker’s fleet—where luxury, performance and highly considered design all meet. It’s the family of cars that offers an unparalleled luxury experience for passengers and drivers—a rare feat in motoring. This drive proved even more exceptional, as it’s been over 45 years since Mercedes-Benz released a flagship open-top four-seater sports car. After a drive through the estate-dotted lanes on the French Riviera, there’s no doubt that the 2017 S-Class Cabriolet was worth the wait.

For all of the stats, dimensions and features the most important element of the S-Class (or any car, for that matter) is the driving experience. We tested the astonishingly capable (and comfortable) Mercedes-AMG S63 model which packs 577 horsepower and growls through shifts with refinement. The car jumps from zero to 60 in just 3.8 seconds—the force of acceleration sends a rush to the head and the heart (in a great way).

Still, one must work up to the power slowly, learning from the AMG and working with it to get the most out of the driving experience. This isn’t the sort of machine one redlines off the lot. The car tops out at 186 miles per hour due to a built-in limitation tool. The asterisk that denotes the speed governor though looks more like a wink, suggesting intrepid (and hopefully professional) drivers can far exceed this admittedly high limit. At speeds well under the top end of the car’s electronically limited potential, the S63 hugs the road closely. Despite the calm of the interior, there’s still the visceral punch of the engine as gears shift—a feature that makes driving this technologically state of the art car still feel like a machine at heart.

With the AMG, the inner workings of the machine itself are artful. The S63 is equipped with a hand-built 5.5-liter V8 biturbo complete with 664 pounds of torque. One highly skilled craftsman fits the entire together from start to finish. The “one man, one engine” philosophy is a testament to AMG’s commitment to quality and precision. After each engine is built, the technician signs their masterpiece.

While many drivers will no doubt get great satisfaction in popping the hood and admiring the engineering that creates such an exceptional driving experience, this is a four-seater and that means you’ll have room for company in the S63 Cabrio. Supple napa leather seats and an available 3D audio system from Burmester engulf passengers in quality and crafstmanship. However with a drop-top, for many the top concern is noise and temperature. It’s here that Mercedes-Benz put in an exceptional amount of work. The result is a ride that’s calm and quiet. Designers achieved this by carefully sculpting the body to reduce wind flowing into the interior. The door windows and windshield also feature special sealing to ensure noise reduction and eliminating any draft. Meanwhile, the push of a button enables the brand’s AIRCAP system to offer even greater protection. A deflector rises from the roof frame to send wind turbulence upwards while a draft-stop behind the rear passenger seats ensures those in the backseat aren’t left out of the conversation.

Stuttgart isn’t exactly year-round convertible territory, and you can’t fault the Benz team for extending top-down season in the new S-Class. The Thermotronic climate control system offers a new design approach to heating and cooling. An all-new software system that draws on 12 sensors throughout the vehicle offers a fully automated experience. Solar radiation, dew point and air quality are all measured to ensure the climate in the car is as comfortable as possible. When the top is raised or lowered, the system automatically recalibrates to account for the change.

From the impeccable interior to the blend of power, control and grace in the driving experience, the S-Class Cabrio is an expression of excellence and the aesthetics of the body are where the car makes this expression most clear. Two striking character lines on the hood set the tone for the car’s balanced homage to the classic and the futuristic. A drop line in the quarter panel alludes to the powerful wide stance of the car. With the top up or down, it’s a complete showstopper—and one you can enjoy with three of your best friends.

Available in the US in late spring, the 2017 Mercedes-AMG S63 starts at $176,400.

Images by Hans Aschim