Mercedes-Benz S-Class captures a classic coupe essence
Two decades ago, my late colleague David E. Davis reviewed the big, new Mercedes CL-Class coupe with this (paraphrased) exclamation: “I’m sitting in this luxurious two-door coupe with a pillar-less hardtop, a generous V8 engine up front, and rear wheel drive. It’s what always described an American luxury coupe, but it’s from Germany. Because you can’t buy such a thing today from a U.S. automaker.” That sentiment is just as true today.
Creating a Classic
This year, Mercedes-Benz changed the model designation from CL to S-Class to better connect its sumptuous range-topping coupe to its sedan sibling. But regardless of what badge is bolted to the trunk lid, this car’s classic, sculptured styling is timeless. Even the normally conservative Mercedes press materials immodestly gush that the design is “sensual purity at its most beguiling.”
We inadvertently tested the curb appeal of the S550 Coupe when our local high school staged a car show. We picked up friends in the neighborhood and after a Saturday brunch, headed to the show. At the gate, volunteers waved us in, assuming the Mercedes was a contestant, but I gladly paid admission since the proceeds benefitted the auto shop program. At the display, another parent ushered us into the classic car field, and our Mercedes-Benz seemed quite at home preening with big classic coupes from the 1950s and ’60s.
More Than a Pretty Face
Young and old car enthusiasts loved this big, swoopy Benz, from the expressive headlamps incorporating 47 Swarovski crystals, to the sensually curved LED taillights, the former part of an Edition 1 model option. But it was behind the heated steering wheel and heads-up display where this car proved its value.
The powerful V8 makes bushels of torque at reasonably-low engine speeds and the seven-speed gearbox delivers this thrust to all four corners where needed. It’s enough power to launch this 4,700-pound coupe to 60MPH in just 4.5 seconds when the urge to merge occurs. Stopping is just as prodigious with brakes nearly as powerful as the AMG cousin, and the rack and pinion steering shares the performance AMG’s quickness if not its electro-mechanical design.
Winding road manners are as stunning as the body sculpturing, especially since you’re tossing all this mass around. And the air suspension works seamlessly with body roll control to maintain poise without abandoning comfort. This is a fun car to drive fast.
Serene peace and quiet is what more than a few executives seek in a luxury cabin, and the S550 Coupe can deliver that luxury. But the $6,400 Burmester 3D surround sound system was available for serious listening and the deep-throated exhaust lent its own subtle, sonic amusement. And this all happens while you’re cosseted in soft leather with Steinway piano wood finishes surrounding pampered occupants.
Pillar-less hardtop coupes, where there are no doorframes or posts with all the windows down, are very rare. Only two other luxury car models, Bentley Continental GT and Rolls Royce Wraith, offer such a thing. They are clearly worthy rivals, but with prices in the $200,000 to $400,000 range, the Mercedes S550 becomes a downright steal. Brian Douglas
2015 Mercedes-Benz S550 4MATIC Coupe
ENGINE: 4.7-liter Twin-Turbo V8
HORSEPOWER: 449 @ 5,250 rpm
TORQUE: 516 lb-ft. @ 1,800-3,500 rpm
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 16-city/24-hwy/19 Combined
BASE PRICE: $119,900
AS TESTED: $149,575
Photography courtesy of Mercedes-Benz