First Drive: 2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe
Surprising or not, there's virtually no such thing today as a six-figure luxury coupe that truly fits four adults. BMW doesn't make one. Nor does Bentley or Aston Martin. And unless you're hedge-funding or oil-pumping, Rolls Royce's Wraith doesn't compute.
The departing Mercedes CL-Class has been the only legitimate two-door, four-seater in its class. But big spenders, including long-inseam men who appreciated the CL's roominess, had lost interest due to its snooziness.
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe is the wake-up call, be it the relatively quiet S550 4Matic or alarming S63 AMG 4Matic. Based on the kingly new S-Class sedan, the Coupe will knight followers this fall with luxury, space, style, and technology that are sui generis in any coupe below 200 grand. All the sedan's jaw-droppers carry into this gloriously swanky two-door: From partially automated steering and flashy TFT displays to hot-stone massaging seats, all-LED lighting and a fragrance-wafting cabin. Wafting continues with an adaptive Airmatic suspension and a biturbo 4.7-liter V-8 with 449 horses and 516 pound-feet. The biturbo shoves the S550 to 60 mph in roughly 4.5 seconds via a seven-speed, paddle-shifted automatic. The chesty-sounding AMG version drops the 0-60 scoot to an improbable 3.9 seconds, with a 186-mph top speed from its 577-horsepower 5.5-liter biturbo and Speedshift MCT 7-speed automatic.
No Leaning in Pisa
Embarking from the Tyrrhenian seaside near Pisa, we encountered a Coupe that seems nearly as long as that city's famous tower -- but with less lean, thanks to its Active Curve Tilting feature. At 198 inches long, riding a 116-inch wheelbase, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe is some 8 inches shorter than the sedan in both measures, and roughly three inches lower.
Active Curve Tilting operates akin to a motorcyclist leaning into bends, with a stereo camera peering up to 49 feet ahead to anticipate curves. A plunger connected to springs at four corners links with the camera and speed/steering-angle sensors to actively incline the body into curves by up to 2.5 degrees. That noticeably reduces the lateral forces that occupants experience: Imagine the difference between a banked curve and a flat one. As the Benz nears its handling limits, the system steps aside to allow Type A drivers to feel the forces at the pavement—even if, for most 2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe owners, the only thing they'll care to feel is superior.
One big catch: The system can't be physically packaged with 4Matic AWD, and that's all us Yanks get for now in both S550 and AMG versions. Americans must wait for 2016 to experience the system in a rear-wheel-drive S550, in conjunction with Magic Body Control whose camera helps dispatch speed bumps by mellowing the suspension.
Considering the Mercedes' stately looks, CEO-loving cabin and effortless performance, the lack of the Tilt-a-Whirl gizmo isn't much of a loss.
Jeweled headlamps -- really!
Up front, LED headlamps offer available Swarovski crystals, with 17 angular crystals forming daytime running lamps and 30 round ones as sparkling turn indicators. While the headlamp jewelry makes a nice gift, the additional chunk of Swarovski that tops a front console cubby (in S550 and AMG versions) seems shockingly out of place in this masculine machine - like a tacky leftover from Barbie's dream car.
The AMG model's amped-up visuals include a twin-blade grille; an apron-spanning front air duct and silver splitter; available lightweight forged alloy 20-inch wheels; chromed tips for the driver-adjustable AMG sport exhaust; and the cabin's racy AMG TFT instrument cluster with two round animated dials; a three-spoke steering wheel; and a big Affalterbach emblem stamped on the center console.
Enter the throne room
Stepping into either version transports you into a luxury realm that, as in the sedan, sets a new bar for the class. Mercedes claims it's the world's quietest car, period, in terms of wind noise. Conjoined, widescreen digital displays hover over a wraparound dashboard that recalls a five-star restaurant banquette, lit in your choice of seven ambient colors. It's all set off with breathtaking wood and electroplated "Silver Shadow" trim, including on the ingot-thick paddle shifters. Heat pulses through front armrests and the elevated, leather-wrapped console. Mercedes' new, smartphone-style console touchpad perches over a Comand system control knob. Striking screen animations enliven everything from seat controls to a pair of available Burmester audio systems; but as ever with cumbersome Comand, you wish Mercedes spent more time on intuitive operation and less on splashy graphics.
Endlessly adjustable front thrones cleverly sense rear occupants: Seats power-slide fully forward for entry, glide back until they brush knees, then resettle about an inch forward. Once cozied, even six-foot-plus adults were comfortable in back, making a mockery of stingy quarters in the Bentley Continental GT or any Aston Martin, including the Rapide.
Leaving Fiats in its wake
Pointing its diamond grille east into patchwork Tuscan hillsides, the S550 declared itself an emperor - well-stuffed at better than 4700 pounds, yet powerful enough to leave common Fiats in its wake. The greenhouse is small, but was suffused with sunlight via a panoramic Magic Sky opening that covers nearly two-thirds of the roof. A high-resolution LED head-up display kept us on course with nav directions. And the Sport drive mode turned the biturbo's purr to a growl -- more forceful than the S550 sedan's -- via twin adjustable flaps in the exhaust system.
Sound and fury jumped markedly in the S63 AMG version, as one might expect from a coupe with 664 pound-feet of torque. Driven to Florence from the fantastical, 4200-acre Hotel Castello di Casole, the muscled, tightened AMG performed the kind of magic act usually reserved for Bentley's similarly oversized Continental GT. On blind curves where oncoming trucks often blithely hog lanes, the AMG's hurtling force was checked, thank you St. Christopher, by optional ceramic composite brakes, unavailable on the old CL63.
Yet even the S63, tasked with the innumerable switchbacks of Italy, did so a bit begrudgingly: This massive Benz prefers open vistas and more-gentle radii to loose its Titanic power.
So what's the price of Mercedes decadence these days? Reading between PR lines, we figure about $117,000 to start for the S550 4Matic, or nearly $20,000 more than an AWD S550 sedan. Kick that to roughly $157,000 for the S63 AMG 4Matic. A forthcoming S65 AMG goes insane at $216,425, in return for a biturbo V-12 with 621 horses and 738 pound-feet.
Even the S550 Coupe's price might make an Audi A7 or BMW 6-Series owner blanch. But with such a yawning price gap between those models and the $200,000-and-up brigade, Mercedes' expanding S-Class lineup seems well equipped to fill it and outflank its rivals -- including via a yacht-like Cabriolet that comes ashore next year.
With hyperbole and chutzpah to spare, this 2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe should lure a desirable, impressionable, potentially repeat customer wouldn't have looked at the old CL: The high roller who barely glances at the window sticker.
2015 Mercedes-Benz S550/S63 AMG Coupe
- Base price $117,000/$157,000 (est. )
- On sale Fall
- Engine 4.7-liter twin-turbo V-8, 449 hp, 516 lb-ft (S550) 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8, 577 hp, 664 lb-ft (S63 AMG)
- Transmission 7-speed automatic
- Drive All-wheel
- Wheelbase 116 in
- L x W x H 198 x 75 x 56 in
- Fuel economy N/A