Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet [A217] (2015 - 2020) used car review

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By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

Back in 2015, the application of S-Class luxury values into the most exclusive part of the large convertible segment brought us a truly grand Mercedes conveyance. The fact that no other open-topped car offered as much space for four people was always this S-Class Cabriolet's biggest draw - and there's more. Emotive V8 power, exquisite cabin finishing and impressive media and safety technology. Something for the heart. Something for the head. Something really special.

Models

2dr Cabriolet (4.0, 6.0 petrol]

History

Mercedes are no stranger to big four-seat convertibles but at its launch in 2015, this S-Class Cabriolet was in fact the first really large full-luxury open-topped four seater the brand had produced since 1971. The first car since then to return the Stuttgart brand to the kind of exotic convertible sector populated by brands like Bentley and Aston Martin. In 2018, this model was significantly improved.

Mercedes-Benz has a long and rich history of producing open-topped luxury models, with a heritage in making them that goes right back to the 1920s. Most of these cars were exclusive conveyances for the monied elite, a market the company signalled it would be returning to when in 2006, it produced an eye-catching open-topped 'Ocean Drive' design study for the motor show circuit. The aristocracy was quick to form an orderly queue for the production 'A217'-series version, which eventually arrived with 'S-Class Cabriolet' badging nine years later.

It's unlikely that you're going to be buying one of these because you can't quite afford a Bentley Continental GTC or an Aston Martin DB11 Volante but V8 versions of this Mercedes do remain significantly more affordable than both those cars. Mind you, the same could also be said of this model's more recently launched arch-rival, the BMW 8 Series Convertible. Mercedes thought their contender was a more exotic thing, likely to appeal to a slightly different kind of buyer. You might buy the BMW if you'd won the lottery. A likely S-Class Cabriolet customer in contrast, probably wouldn't need to have won the lottery to fund this premium purchase.

In which case, you might ask, why wouldn't such a person go ahead and buy the apparently more exclusive Bentley or Aston cabrio models we just mentioned, rather than something with a more familiar badge? With the S-Class Cabriolet, Mercedes hoped to clearly answer that question. The car looks special and its interior has a level of cabin technology that a Continental GT or DB11 owner from the 2015-2020 period could only dream about. The same is also true of this car's autonomous driving tech - and the level of efficiency you'll get from its pair of V8 engines. Plus you get the world's largest fabric folding top, needed because this car can properly seat a couple of adults in the back in a way its competitors would struggle to do. All then, good reasons why this convertible might be a clever choice from its period in this class - and a very desirable way to reward yourself for a lifetime of endeavour.

You might want to try and stretch to the post-2018 facelifted versions , which gained the Stuttgart brand's latest autonomous driving technology. And its lighter more response twin turbo 4.0-litre V8 engine for the two main variants on offer, the 469hp S560 version (which replaced the original 448hp S500 model); and the alternative Mercedes-AMG S 63 variant, originally offered with 586hp, then upgraded with the facelift to 612hp. Both use different versions of the brand's usual 9-speed auto gearbox. The alternative 6.0-litre V12-engined 630hp S 65 model stuck with an older-tech 7-speeder. The S-Class Cabriolet sold until 2020 and wasn't replaced.

What You Get

A car of this kind needs to look opulent and exclusive - and most will agree that this one does. The multi-layered hood used for this model was the largest fitted to any convertible in the world at the time of this car's original design and it opens or closes in 20 seconds. The changes made to the post-2018 facelifted version are most noticeable at the front, which adopted an evolved front apron with what the designers called a 'Jet wing' look. If you want to get a really unique version of this car, you'll want to find one whose original owner added in the option that decorates the two main LED front headlamps with no fewer than 47 Swarovski crystals, creating an exotic lighting signature you'll never tire of admiring.

Take a seat up-front and as your restraint buckle glides out to you over your shoulder, you'll take in the way that the design team moved to differentiate this car from its four-door stablemate in an attempt to create more of the kind of 'wrap-around' effect that cabriolet buyers will be looking for. Specified correctly - ideally with the pricey optional quilted 'Exclusive Nappa Leather package' - this cabin can feel very high end indeed. The key improvement on the revised post-2018 model was the installation of the brand's sophisticated 'Widescreen Cockpit', two 12.3-inch high-resolution TFT displays blended seamlessly together, one for the instrument cluster and one for the 'COMAND' infotainment screen in the centre of the dash. As usual with larger Mercedes models, the fascia's decorated with stylised silver vents, four small ones in the centre flanked by larger ones at either corner operated by grooved organ-stop controls. And of course you're surrounded by lustrous buttery leather, with some of the most beautifully supportive seats you'll ever have tried. They can cool and massage you and feature head-level 'AIRSCARF' vents that channel warming air onto your neck so that you can comfortably drive top-down on winter mornings.

What about the rear? Though, as an adult, you couldn't really stretch out and luxuriate in the back, by convertible standards, this part of the car really is very spacious indeed. Scalloped front seat backs help with knee room and that tall body height translates into an impressive amount of headroom - it's pretty much the same as you get in the Coupe variant.

The boot is accessed by an electrically-operated gesture-controlled lid, which rises to reveal a 250-litre space. That's when the folded roof cartridge is in its low position. If the roof is up, you have the option to use a provided button on the left side of the inside of the boot lid to raise that cartridge, boosting capacity by a further 100-litres. There's no option to fold forward the rear seat backs, but long items like skis can be carried, courtesy of the standard ski hatch.

What You Pay

If you can stretch to the facelifted version of the S-Class Cabriolet introduced towards the end of the production run, then prices start at around £62,000 for an S560 'AMG Line', with values rising to around £71,000 for one of the last '20-plate models. Want the more potent Mercedes-AMG S63 V8 Cabriolet variant? Well a typical '18-plate model will value from around £70,500th values rising to around £106,000 for a '20-plate car. A typical V12-powered S65 Cabriolet on a '18-plate values at around £111,500, with values rising up to around £148,500 for one of the last '20-plate cars.

What to Look For

Obviously buy with care - there are a lot of electrical features that could go wrong and you need to make sure that all the powered seat systems work properly and infotainment screen and instrument displays function as they should. Obviously, check the powered roof. And insist on a fully stamped-up dealer history and inspect the big alloy wheels for scuffs that could require a price reduction. There were a number of recalls for this model that you should be aware of. At one point in production, due to an issue with the wiring harness that sent an incorrect camshaft signal confusing the engine stop start system and causing it to cut out, some models had sometimes to be put in Park and restarted manually after coming to a stop.

And other recall issues? Well, there were reports of a rear seatbelt malfunction which saw the seatbelt extender in the back seat not retracting correctly when in use: check this on any car you inspect. There were also reports of an oil leak from the turbocharger, potentially leaking oil on to hot engine components; affected cars should have had a replacement oil feed pipe fitted as part of a recall. In some instances, some front passenger airbags weren't installed correctly; again, a recall sorted the problem and you should make sure that the car you're looking at has had it. There was also an issue reported regarding faulty software on the production line that saw the start stop system sometimes shut down. And there was an issue with the safety and emissions control system, which was fixed by a software update recall. In a few instances, there was a malfunctioning occupant safety system which saw the main power supply dislodged when the airbags went off, which then prevented various safety systems (including the automatic door lock release) to stop working. Make sure that the car you're looking at has had all of these things attended to.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2017 S500 Cabriolet - Ex Vat) An air filter is around £51. An oil filter is around £12. Front brake pads sit in the £173 bracket for a set (for rears it's around £215). A tail lamp is around £337-£351.

On the Road

It's possible to get yourself an S-Class Cabriolet in a form that goes very fast indeed but in truth, it's not the kind of car in which you'd really want to rush. Better to throttle back and savour the calming, classy way this Mercedes eases you to your destination with the grace and luxury of a large, expensive super-yacht. Fortunately, it doesn't handle like one of those. Actually, you can hustle this car through the corners with a surprising level of vigour, though the rather lifeless steering hides the real extent of this model's tractional reserves. The 4MATIC 4WD system offered in other markets wasn't ever available for ours. The revised version of this model did though, gain the Stuttgart brand's latest autonomous driving technology. And its lighter more response twin turbo 4.0-litre V8 engine for the two main variants on offer, the 469hp S560 version (which replaced the original 448hp S500 model); and the alternative Mercedes-AMG S 63 variant, originally offered with 586hp, then upgraded with the facelift to 612hp. Both use different versions of the brand's usual 9-speed auto gearbox. The alternative 6.0-litre V12-engined 630hp S 65 model sticks with an older-tech 7-speeder.

You'll be pleased to find that when you want to put the roof up, you don't have to slow to an embarrassing crawl to do it - the triple-layered hood's electric mechanism can function at speeds of up to 40mph and completes its acrobatics in 20 seconds. Once it's up, you'll get yourself as quiet a convertible as we've ever experienced. In fact at highway speeds when travelling roof-up, we've found it difficult to discern any difference in refinement between this car and its fixed-top Coupe counterpart. That's thanks primarily to a combination of the brand's usual 'AIRCAP' wind deflector (which rises above the windscreen frame) and a smaller deflector fitted between the rear head restraints. You'll also enjoy Mercedes' clever 'AIRSCARF' neck-level vents which can comfortably cosset your neck with warm air on cold mornings, making this convertible you could easily find yourself using al fresco all the year round. You might not enjoy the running cost returns quite so much: the WLTP figures converted to the NEDC2 cycle see the S560 manage 27.2mpg on the combined cycle and up to 233g/km of CO2.

Overall

Mercedes makes many open-topped cars. Here though, is the one that beautifully captures the luxury and heritage of this famous brand. Before living with an S-Class Cabriolet, we were, we'll admit, a little sceptical about its charms. After all, if you've earned enough to pretty much buy a Bentley, isn't it logical to simply go ahead and get one, rather than opt for what critics would see as a cabriolet version of a mere boardroom luxury saloon? The thing is though, this convertible S-Class model is far more than that. It has its own unique appeal.

You won't buy this car for handling involvement, but that's fine; this model has been engineered to lower, not to raise your heart beat, its objective being to deliver superbly comfortable open-topped transport in the truest grand touring tradition. The autonomous driving technology that was introduced into the revised version of this revised model fits perfectly into that brief. As does the extra refinement of the V8 engines. It's disappointing though, that Mercedes still wasn't able to engineer into right hand drive versions of this car the 4WD system that comes as standard on BMW and Bentley rivals for winter weather peace of mind. And in summary? Well Bentley and Aston Martin customers want to be noticed. S-Class Cabriolet customers don't need to be. Here lies a different level of exclusivity. And perhaps this car epitomises it.

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