(Pocket-lint) - The Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet is the convertible car for those who want the exhilaration of wind in their hair, while remaining in comfort - a difficult combination to achieve.
While the S-Class already offers spa levels of comfort and enough tech crammed under the shell to impress Nasa, the Cabriolet aims to offer the same even with the roof down. Which makes this the first four-seat luxury drop-top since the Mercedes 112 left production in 1971.
However, priced from £110,000 (£135,000 for the AMG S 63; £192,000 for the 6-litre V12 AMG 65) Mercedes will be taking on competition from the likes of the £150,000 Bentley Continental GT Convertible and £97,000 BMW M6 Convertible. Can it live up to the hype? We took the S-Class 500 and the AMG S 63 4MATIC out to test what the range has to offer.
For those who want everything, without compromise, the S-Class Cabriolet nails it - but at an inevitably high price. Not only do you get ridiculous levels of comfort and smart tech but you also have power, handling and the option to go top-down.
Sure, for at least a Â£13,000 saving you could snap up a BMW M6 Convertible with a similarly rapid 0-62mph time of 4.3-seconds â but you compromise a little on luxury. Or there's the option of spending an extra Â£40,000-odd to get the Bentley Continental GTC, but you lose a little performance with 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds.
If you have a fat wallet then the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet really packs a punch for the price and should have the competition worried. The question, really, remains whether it will pull die-hard Bentley and BMW fans over to its new wheels or not. Because it's hard to ignore the luxury and capability of this new Merc.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet 2016 first drive: Comfortably cool
Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet preview: Design and build
The S-Class Coupé is already the pinnacle of comfort. So the design quality of the convertible Cabriolet model, which manages to maintain that without a top on, is something of a marvel.
The car appears sporty with a long nose and angular lines while remaining low and aerodynamically punchy. The black diamond radiator grille, chrome trim and bumper air intakes give an aggressive character to this sleek design. It's sporty, with 19-inch alloys as standard, but also hefty enough to give the luxurious room you'd expect from inside. The car is wide, but not too wide to be driven comfortably in cities and on thinner roads.
The roof's ease of use and speed are exactly as you'd expect from a car of this quality. Hold the lever and within 20-seconds it's open, even while moving at up to speeds of 31mph. The soft-top comes in four colour options that can be offset against the car for a punchy finish.
But it's how it works when shut that's even more impressive. Close the roof and you'll be amazed at the near silence. In typical Mercedes style this quiet level is second to none, indeed this soft top is quieter than plenty of hardtop cars on the road. That's thanks to double-glazing, insulation materials and wind noise reduction through the body shell.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet preview: Performance and handling
When you're in a car with a 4.6-litre V8 twin-turbo that weighs in at over 2-tonnes, you expect it to wobble about. The S Class Cabriolet, somehow, manages to straddle the line between comfort and precision.
Don't expect the rigid feedback of a sports car, but when pushed into Sport mode this car can be a lot of fun. Pop it into Comfort mode and the air suspension system will angle the car into corners to leave you upright and comfortable, absorbing bumps along the way.
The S 500 was quick enough to over-take when needed, or to get away at a set of lights swiftly. There was a little lag at the lower end as the 9-speed automatic gearbox worked out that we wanted speed, upon flooring it. But once it kicks in there is a wonderful burble and a push back into the seat as the heft of the car flies forward from 0-62mph in 4.6-seconds.
The Mercedes-AMG S 63 uses a 5461cc V8 engine with 7-speed sports transmission and sports exhaust that picks up quickly and propels the car from 0-62mph in just 3.9-seconds. The sports suspension is harder for more responsive cornering but the comfort of the ride isn't lost. The V8 engine is enhanced with that tuned exhaust that'll have you driving with the top down even in the rain. Just to enjoy the noise.
Both of these models have plenty of power and excellent handling. Getting used to the width of the car took us a little while but with myriad sensors and a good seated perspective it didn't take too long to adjust.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet preview: Infotainment and smart driving
Inside the car the option of Nappa leather, as-standard ambient lighting and brushed metallic finishes are all impressive. But the S-Class Cabriolet sports some of Mercedes' top tech too.
For a convertible that's primarily about the intelligent climate control system to keep your temperature spot-on. There are heated seats and armrests plus what Merc calls "Airscarf" - which blows warm air onto your neck - plus put down the roof and the heaters will maintain the temperature you had set. This seems to mean pushing the blowers to full whack if it was hot and easing off for cool, but the auto adapt part sure does kick in.
Turn on the massage seats and the comfort levels reach better than home standard - well, assuming you don't have ace massage chairs at home, of course. Then when you come to throwing the car about a bit the automatically adjusting side supports will keep you in place.
Driving assist features, as standard in the AMG S 63, allow the car to steer, brake and accelerate. While hands need to stay on the wheel to avoid alarms, the car essentially drives itself – presuming the corners aren't too sharp. The optional LED High Beam Assist Plus lighting means that the car can intelligently maintain high beam while blocking out sections where it detects cars, so to avoiding dazzling other road users.
The front panels inside the car consist of two 12.3-inch TFT displays. These digitally display the speed and even navigation in the driver's screen while also displaying more on the main screen in the centre console. The heads-up display offers yet another point of data access for the driver too.
These all mean the passenger can flit about the menus, using the touch-sensitive central controller, while the driver still has navigation in at least one screen. Plus it makes for an ideal way to display the optional 360-degree camera system. Not that we used it much thanks to smart parking, meaning the car can park itself.
There's also NFC, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for pretty much every connection option that'll keep your smartphone and the car talking.