Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2017 Mercedes-AMG S63 Cabriolet

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
  • Safety

The hulking frame sat low, wide, and powerful. The fluid lines and dark, deep blue metallic paint captured my attention and held it hostage.

I have read stories of people blowing away that sort of money in the name of love. I get it now.

The headlights shone like diamonds.

That’s not a naff cliché, that’s not cheap floral prose. Well, it is, but it’s also literal. These $4,000 LED upgrades were set with Swarovski crystal. It’s an upgrade I personally would skip, but it’s also the first hint that what you’re looking at is just a little out of the ordinary. If you look closer you’ll notice the finely creased flanks, the slightly flared arches, the detailed waterfall grille. Those of us who care about such things will direct our gaze to the badge on the fender, the one that reads “Bi-turbo V8”, and begin to salivate.

This Merc looks a million dollars. Or more accurately it looks like the $211,176 at which this particular unit is priced. I have read stories of people blowing away that sort of money in the name of love. I get it now.

Now, before you say I’m a Mercedes-Benz fan boy, I am absolutely not. I really struggle to get behind the droopy bum backend as executed on the C-Class range, I just don’t like it. But here in the S-Class the Mercedes-Benz design language comes together beautifully. Others in our office were put off by the ivory-coloured soft roof, but I thought it worked well. That white interior was gorgeous too – until it got dirty. It needs more robust Scotchgard or something on those carpets, but I imagine most buyers will have that sorted out after purchase.

The two enormous, high-definition driving displays that make up the dashboard in this S-Class are vivid, beautiful units that further elevate the cockpit’s aesthetic appeal. It’s like a concert hall in here, where even the Piano Black trim is visually rich and multi-dimensional. The whole cockpit appears to float in space.

And there is substance here to match the style.

The engine is a stonking great 5.5L bi-turbo V8 with a worthy 577 hp and almost blasphemous 664 lb-ft of torque. It surges forward, but the nanny systems, transmission mapping and a hefty 2,185 kg worth of chassis keep everything on the fine-china side of decorum. A large engine isn’t always about grunt, sometimes it’s just a path to effortless motoring. In the same way I can carry my young daughter around with one arm, the S63 can sweep all its occupants up and carry them forward with consummate ease. Never feeling flustered, labored or pressured – just, effortless.

The transmission is like a well-trained waiter at a high-end restaurant. When you want your cup filled – it already is, and you will never even know they were there.

On the ride side, there’s a lot more Europe than North America here. The ride is firm but superbly damped. There’s a highway off-ramp I take daily with two large bumps in it. No car I’ve driven was as composed down that ramp. My uncle was in town on one drive, and I asked him to watch the car in front as we went down the ramp. That car was a current model Honda Civic – a very well-sorted rig – and it still pogoed. “Wow, I didn’t feel any of that,” said my uncle. Exactly.

It’s not that the S 63 hides bumps – it doesn’t. In fact I have heard some colleagues say they were surprised at how firm and rigid the ride could be. But the S 63 absorbs the pitfalls of my commute beautifully. It evens out the rise and falls. Consider an elite hurdler. Though the jumping is violent and frantic, the hurdlers’ heads stay nearly level through the course of a race – and so too does mine in the S 63.

One can only imagine how much nicer the ride would be if we received the Euro-spec Magic Body Control suspension system. We don’t, because S-Class is only available in AWD here in Canada and the MBC only works on RWD vehicles. That system hydraulically adjusts spring base according to input from stereoscopic cameras in the windshield, effectively plucking the wheels off the ground right before a bump – but it takes a lot of hardware, hence only working on RWD units.

Still, there are plenty of other comfort features we do get. Like the high-quality, subtle yet beautiful, blue mood lighting in the interior. Or the massaging seats.

I have tried scores of massaging seat functions and none were as effective as this. Perhaps it’s my aversion to subtlety in all forms, perhaps it’s my squidgy and well-padded body, but I have never really “felt” the massage promised. Not so here. After half an hour of commuting in the S-Class I felt relaxed. And 15 minutes after that when I got out of the car, I felt sore. In a good, post-massage way.

Adding to my relaxation, Distronic Plus semi-autonomous systems handled the stopping and going in peak-hour traffic. In lighter traffic situations, I could even set it to follow the lines on the road and maintain a speed for me. Everything about this car is effortless, if you want it to be. If you prefer to drive yourself, you’ll find the S63 a willing Grand Touring dance partner.

As well as control over the road, the S63 hands the driver control over the passenger seat too, courtesy of a button on the driver’s door near the memory seat buttons. Once pressed, it allows the driver to move the passenger seat any way they choose, perhaps to move it back to allow their passenger easy entry or access? Or maybe just to play a gentle prank on them.

I’ve gotten all this way into the review and barely mentioned the roof. It folds silently and swiftly at speeds up to 50 km/h – but you have to be stopped dead to initiate its opening or closing. With it off, the S63 is transformed into an opulent open-air land yacht. With it closed, the confines are tighter in the rear but still generous up front. I found the electric boot divider, designed to open up a little more luggage space and at the same time protect it from the folding roof, was glitchy in our test unit, but the roof itself worked flawlessly.

And I used it, often. Despite the cold, despite my Australian body and its rejection of this single-digit-temperature rubbish, I had the top down all the time thanks to Mercedes-Benz’s AirScarf. The AirScarf is my new favourite car feature. Ever. I like it more than a heated steering wheel. I like it more than Android Auto, (which this and other Mercedes models do not get). I like it more than a warm hug. Because it is a warm hug. A warm hug delivered by a car so beautiful I had to buy my wife flowers.

And a car whose aural signature is imposing, powerful and proud. The V8 sounds like every hero from every Michael Bay movie simultaneously barking out some sort of rousing, noble command.

With the roof dropped, the V8 gently warbling and the Swarovski crystal headlights flashing, the2017 Mercedes-Benz S 63 moves with effortless, regal grace.

Engine Displacement 5.5L
Engine Cylinders V8
Peak Horsepower 577 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Peak Torque 664 lb-ft @2,250 rpm
Fuel Economy 16.4/10.6/13.8 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 250 L
Model Tested 2017 Mercedes-AMG S 63 4Matic Cabriolet
Base Price $193,600
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,026
Price as Tested $211,176
Optional Equipment
$15,450 – 20-inch wheels $1,000; design Piano Black lacquer trim $1,500; Exclusive Package $4,900; Air-Balance package $500; Night View Assist $2,900; sport wood/leather steering wheel $650; Swarovski Crystal LED headlamps $4,000