It was the SEC and then the CL and now the biggest two-door Benz is back, this time as the S-Class Coupe. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Mercedes-Benz ditches the old CL badge for its biggest coupe and basks in a little of the reflected glory of the 'best car in the world', the S-Class saloon. With sleek but muscular styling, the Coupe brings all the jaw-dropping tech features of the S-Class and wraps it in a more extrovert package.
We know how good the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is. It's one of those rare cars where every model in the range is excellent. Unlike some of its rivals that have the odd underperforming engine or duff trim levels, you really can't go wrong with the big Benz. It's right across the board, 24-carat brilliance. What's particularly appealing about this generation S-Class is that it doesn't introduce novelty just for the sake of it. Previous generations have perhaps been guilty of the occasional over-egging of the pud, a slight case of Mercedes showing off just because it could. This time round, Mercedes has realised that it doesn't need to create quite such a clamour to draw sales. It's also developed a sumptuous two-door coupe version of the S-Class saloon for those who don't use the rear seats and prefer a sleeker exterior treatment.
The starting point for the S-Class Coupe range is the 585bhp S500 variant. Unlike older Mercs bearing the S500 badge, this one doesn't get a five-litre engine under the bonnet. You'll have to settle with a 4.6-litre V8 but you're not going to feel hard done by thanks to a 455bhp output. Power goes to the rear wheels and the twin-turbocharged engine develops some 700Nm of torque. The alternative is the 5.5-litre 585bhp V8 BiTurbo S63 AMG model which spirits you to 62mph in just 3.9s and features 'MAGIC BODY CONTROL' to iron out imperfections in the road ahead. There's also a 630bhp V12-engined AMG 65 variant at the top of the line-up. The S-Class Coupe is offered with the 6DVision camera system and one option that many will choose to tick is the frankly incredible Magic Body Control system. The Road Surface Scan part of this uses stereo cameras to scan the road surface ahead and automatically alter the stiffness of the hydraulic dampers in order to improve the ride comfort. When it detects a ripple of more than 3mm in the road, the car calculates how long it'll take to get to it and then the active suspension is able to make the damping harsher or softer within fractions of a second in advance for each separate wheel. Then there's Active Body Control where four spring struts are fitted with hydraulic cylinders to enable the force in each spring strut to be adjusted individually. As a result, the vertical, rolling and pitching movements to which the body can be subjected are almost completely compensated for, in effect leaning into corners like a bike.
Design and Build
There have been good and bad vintages of big Mercedes coupes, but has anything been as good-looking as the old 500 SEC? Well it has now. Mercedes has loosened the shackles on this S-Class Coupe and allowed it to be a bit more extrovert, not to say muscular. It now looks anything but an S-Class minus a couple of rear doors. Instead, it has real presence, as indeed it'll need to be when going up against cars like the Bentley Continental GT, the BMW 6 Series and the Maserati Quattroporte. Break out the tape and you'll discover the Coupe is 89mm shorter than it is as a saloon and the roofline has been lowered by 85mm. There's also a Cabriolet version if you want one. The cabin has come in for an injection of extroversion, with a sportier three-spoke steering wheel, plus some beautiful diamond-quilted seats that are available in some quite shouty colours like Porcelain White and Bengal Red. I think I'd stick with black or tan. The lovely switchgear and huge screens are carried over from the saloon and the touch pad controller is purloined from the latest C-Class, allowing the driver to make smartphone-style gestures to control the key infotainment functions. There's also a head-up display, and a standard panoramic glass roof which can switch between opaque or transparent at the touch of a button.
Market and Model
Prices start at around £98,000 for the S500 Coupe AMG Line. That might sound a lot of money to spend, but compared to, say, an Aston Martin DB9 which starts at £133,000, it looks strong value for money, especially when you consider the base specification that's on offer. If you want the mighty 585bhp S63 AMG Coupe, you'll need just over £127,000. If you need even more performance, the 630bhp S65 AMG Coupe needs a £185,000 budget. Across the range, Active Parking Assist with a reversing camera, an expansive panoramic roof, an ultra-sharp TFT 12.3" display, the clever Magic Vision Control system, COMAND Online and a choice of nine metallic paint options come as standard. In addition, the S 63 AMG Coupe is equipped with the Seat Comfort Package, the spookily smooth Magic Body Control, and thumping Burmester surround sound system with 13 high-performance speakers. As if that wasn't enough, the S 65 AMG Coupe adds a Head-up display, a TV Tuner, a 360 camera, and Night View Assist - capable of detecting hazards on the road ahead via an infrared camera.
Cost of Ownership
Cost of ownership figures might seem vaguely irrelevant if you're thinking of splashing out six figures on a top luxury coupe, but you don't want your indulgences to become too indulgent. Big Mercedes coupes have often been seen as a fast track to depreciation hell, with three year old CL500s trading at around a third of their original £90,000 retail price. Had you spent that money on an Aston Martin Vantage, you'd see around £60,000 in your pocket when the time came to trade. Okay, so the Vantage is a smaller car and bigger rivals like the Bentley Conti GT and the BMW 6 Series are hardly the safest havens for your money, but it'll be hard for Mercedes to change the prevailing market condition with this car. The Stuttgarters have done what they can to improve the efficiency of this model and drive down day-to-day bills. The body is fabricated from aluminium to cut weight and yet the chassis is notably stiffer than the previous generation car. Expect economy to be around 32mpg on the combined cycle with emissions just a fraction over 200g/km. For the S63 AMG, the figures are 27.9mpg and 237g/km.
The Mercedes S-Class Coupe is always going to be a niche player in a big coupe market that has some serious talent around. What's more, the fringes of this market have blurred, which means that four-door cars like the Audi RS7 and the BMW M6 Gran Coupe can also be considered rivals. Then there's the tempter of the British badge equity from a Bentley or Aston Martin with the boost to residual values to consider. In other words, Mercedes has it tough here. It's early days yet, but it looks tough to fault what the company has delivered though. The S-Class Coupe is both sleek and imposing, and while the model range looks a bit limited to begin with, Mercedes has big plans for a further super-hot AMG version which many of its rivals just won't have an answer to. So keep your eyes on this one; something tells me that this Benz could be the dark horse in the big coupe sector.