There are luxury cars, and then there’s the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. It’s big, brash, and bold. And Mercedes-Benz would like to tell you that the S-Class has always been a leader in design and engineering. “S” sedans of the past have introduced things like crumple zones, standard airbags, and electronic stability control to the world.
But no one covets the big Benz because it was the first car to come without conventional light bulbs; people want one because it signifies status. The S-Class is more statement than machine, a symbol of wealth and power favoured by everyone from dictators to doctors. It’s a car designed to make people stop and stare, and it gives one hell of an ego boost to drivers and passengers alike. But sometimes people want all that the S-Class embodies in — well, a smaller body. That’s where the S-Class Coupe comes into play.
We had the good fortune of taking delivery of a 2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe S 560 4MATIC. While technically a 2-by-2 coupe, this car is better considered as a personal luxury vehicle. Yes, its seats will simulate a hot-stone massage while the cabin is sprayed with a bespoke fragrance, but surprisingly, when it comes to the practicality department, it’s otherwise somewhat useless. Setting the front seats for a regular-sized adult relegates the rear seats to package-tray status, and despite its sizable exterior dimensions, you’d be lucky to fit a golf bag in the trunk.
Even after spending a week in the S 560, it doesn’t feel like the most practical way to spend $150,000 USD-plus. But then again, no one is buying one of these because it’s practical. So what does this kind of coin get you?
Let’s start with the outside. Don’t let the photos fool you — this coupe is quite large when viewed in person. It’s incredibly well proportioned, taking its cues from the sports car world with its long hood, swooping canopy, and short rear deck. Standard 19-inch alloy wheels fill up the pumped arches quite nicely, further adding some credibility to this Benz’ athletic stance. A mesh grille sits up front, which on our tester is flanked by LED headlamps that house an impressive 46 Swarovski crystals apiece.
The inside, as you’d guess, is equally fancy. Soft nappa leather wraps all surfaces, the armrests are heated, and there are two zones of climate control for the people you’ll never be able to fit in the rear. Front occupants get two climate control zones of their own, plus the aforementioned seats that offer a hot-stone massage and on-demand perfume atomization system.
Unlike Mercedes-Benz sedans of yore, buttons are kept to a minimum here, and this is where we start to find issue with the S 560 Coupe. In keeping with the times, the S-Class has shifted to a full glass display, using two 8.3-inch widescreen displays to show the gauges, climate control settings, and the usual assortment of entertainment options. Controlling all of this is the COMAND touch pad, nestled just forward of the centre console.
Touch screens — and touch commands — are great for our phones, but we’re not sold on their place in automobiles. Turning that perfume system off and on, for example, requires a deep dive into the menu system. Same goes for setting the seat massage feature. In practice, these can’t be adjusted on the go — you have to take your eyes off the road for a long period of time to adjust everything. And let’s be honest, no one is going to pull off to the side of the road just to make a seat adjustment. A physical button would go a long way here.
We have issues with the screens themselves, too. Yes, they look great now, but now that every other new car is packing a digital display, there’s nothing really special about them here. Looking at other vehicles in this luxury space, we can’t help but feel that Mercedes-Benz missed an opportunity to bring some old-school craftsmanship — some drama — to the cabin. This luxury car is practically screaming for some weighty, metal switchgear; some knurled metal knobs; and some chronograph-inspired gauges. This is Mercedes-Benz’ flagship, and “real” things will help this cabin stand the test of time. As it stands, expect children’s toys to feel slicker than the S 560’s digital dash in about 5 years.
And that’s kind of a shame, because otherwise this car is awesome. This is the “lowest” grade of S-Class coupe, but it’s still powered by a 4.0-litre biturbo V8 that spits out 463 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. Said engine is attached to an advanced 9-speed transmission that shifts like butter, sending power down to all 4 wheels, and when you lay the hammer down, it rockets this luxury barge to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds.
So this very large coupe is very quick indeed, and it’s happy cruising along at speed — while providing total comfort. The S 560 Coupe comes standard with Mercedes-Benz’ AIRMATIC air suspension, which adjusts on the fly to smooth out bumps, and actively keeps the car level as it glides through the bends. This system works effortlessly in the background, never giving you the sense that it’s in action. It just does its job silently so you can enjoy the ride.
And here’s where our practical side starts to come out again. The S-Class sedan offers all this — and more — at a lower price. The S 560 4MATIC Sedan carries a base price over $20,000 lower than the standard S 560 4MATIC Coupe. And with the sedan, you get more presence, and more room where it matters. Plus, you can actually fit in the back seat of the sedan and take full advantage of the optional rear champagne chiller.
But again, no one is buying an S-Class Coupe because it’s practical. They’re buying it because they want to treat themselves — and only themselves — to the best engineering the world has to offer. And maybe they’re buying an S-Class Coupe because they want to make a statement, too.