With its focus on ultra luxury and sheer power, the best analogy I could offer for the all-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe is that it’s a Riva speedboat – for the road.
Like the Riva, the S-Class Coupe represents high-speed first-class travel with impeccable quality, refinement and all the latest technology, coupled with calming noise-cancelling acoustics.
Benz knows they’ve got this one right, too, as the production version remains strikingly similar to the S-Class Coupe Concept that wowed audiences when it debuted at the 2013 Frankfurt motor show.
As with the show car, the production version of the S-Class Coupe features a wide stance, shallow greenhouse and high beltline with just the right number of curves and creases to blend elegance and sporty looks in precisely the right mix, in my opinion.
The new S-Class Coupe replaces the outgoing Mercedes-Benz CL-Class, which was essentially a two-door version of the previous S-Class sedan.
This latest Coupe, though, is an entirely new design incorporating a brand new engine and a radical aesthetic departure from its coupe predecessor.
Australia will launch with the 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8 S500 version with a displacement of 335kW of power and 700Nm of torque in early 2015, as well as the more potent 5.5-litre S63 AMG Coupe that generates 430kW and a ballistic 900Nm of torque to the rear wheels a month or two after.
The S-Class Coupe will be expensive - unsurprising for a car that sits atop the Mercedes-Benz product range. However, pricing is expected to be no more than the CL model it replaces - $337,000 and $422,000 respectively.
In this luxury sports car league, S-Class Coupe rivals are few and far between.
Aston Martin has the $472,840, 421kW/620Nm Vanquish (about to be updated) and Bentley lines up with the $405,720 423kW/700 Continental GT W12, but neither cover off the performance, luxury and technology quite so well as the big two-door Benz.
Measuring 5044mm in length and 1913mm across, the latest S-Class Coupe is indeed a big car with plenty of on-road presence. It’s also about 200 kilograms lighter than the previous CL, but while its dimensions are sizeable, from some angles it doesn’t look all that large.
The front end bears more than just a passing resemblance to its sedan sibling, but the rear of the car features a unique styling treatment highlighted by elegant lines with thin horizontal tail-lights and an understated spoiler like the one we have seen on the CLA.
On the AMG model there are more obvious styling cues such as the quad trapezoidal exhaust tips and the various carnbonfibre accents than adorn the front splitter, rear diffuser and its beefed-up side skirts.
For an even more bespoke look, ‘First Edition’ models are available with genuine Swarovski crystals incorporated into the LED headlamps assembly – 30 for the turn indicators and 17 for the daytime running lights.
The interior is pure opulence, but almost indistinguishable from the S-Class sedan – and we’re fine with that.
The cabin is upholstered in the “finest materials”, Mercedes claims, with an even blend of super-soft leather, real carbonfibre panelling and polished alloy. There’s also a Coupe-specific three-spoke flat-bottomed steering wheel (Alcantara on the S63 AMG) that looks and feels lovely in hand.
The extra-wide front-seasts offer unrivalled comfort without compromising on the aggressive side bolster – mandatory for blasting across those tight, twisty Tuscan roads on the test route.
Although this is a proper four-seat coupe with ample rear legroom to accommodate even six foot-plus individuals, it’s also around 20cm shorter than its sedan counterpart, meaning it doesn’t offer that same kind of limo-style space for those with long legs.
Like the sedan though, the Coupe is packed full of smart gadgetry and the latest in technology. This is a car that can massage you using a simulated hot-stone method, while adding a gentle perfume to the air you breath.
It can also drive itself for short bursts, and if your attention sways it will apply the brakes. Its huge glass roof can vary the amount of light inside the cabin, as well as the ability to flick between several colours at the touch of a button.
It claims to be the world’s quietest series-production car and when it comes to wind noise after several hundred kilometres behind the wheel, we found no cause for dispute. It is indeed whisper quiet.
About the only thing audible from inside the S-Class’ cockpit is the vibration-free burble of the eight-cylinder biturbo engine that lurks under the bonnet of the AMG version. Mercedes engineers have gone to great lengths to ensure that’s all you hear by fitting a two-stage exhaust, which is relatively quiet by rival standards, but when the hammer goes down (that’s more often than not) you get the surround-sound version of that hallmark AMG V8 rumble piped through the entire cabin.
Despite the fact that it’s the same engine making the same power and torque outputs, the Coupe feels quicker to accelerate, shift and shed speed. Punch it out of bends and it quickly generates supercar pace with seemingly limitless pulling power from its 900Nm torque output.
Benz claims the S63 AMG Coupe will launch from 0-100km/h in 4.3 seconds, while the 4-Matic all-drive version we drove in Italy gets its power down more efficiently for an improved 3.9 second sprint time.
The seven-speed AMG Speedshift MCT transmission is excellent. For high-speed travel, leave it in Comfort mode where the shifts are virtually imperceptible. For more throttle response and quicker shifts, you best choose Sport mode over the paddleshifters. It learns your driving style fast and can execute a double throttle blip when hard on the brakes into a turn.
This is a considerably sportier proposition than the sedan, and although it’s still a large car, it doesn’t feel large from behind the wheel.
We’re not surprised that Benz chose this part of the world to show off its new S-Class Coupe because the difference in manoeuvrability and cornering is significant. The steering feels quicker (still satisfyingly heavy) and there’s more feedback than in the S-Class limousine, allowing for quick changes of direction and pinpoint positioning of the car through the narrow roads in this part of Italy.
However, it’s the Coupe’s handling and ride prowess that impresses most. Big impacts are all but flattened out with the AMG’s Magic Body Control suspension system. Even in its firmest setting, there’s a decent level of compliance to iron out bumps and smaller potholes.
For maximum poise through the twisty bits, the S63 AMG Coupe’s curve tilting technology comes into play. It’s a world first for a series-production car and allows the vehicle to lean into each bend in the same way that a motorcyclist or downhill skier does.
Not only did the car seem more composed throughout turns using this function, but because there are considerably less lateral forces on the body, it also reduces the potential for motion sickness.
There’s a tonne of grip from the 19-inch 255/45 and 285/40 series front and rear tyres even in heavy rain, while the AMG performance brakes displayed brilliant fade-free stopping power, corner after corner.
Whichever way you cut it, though, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe is always going to be a niche seller. The previous CL-Class produced its best sales performance during its launch year in 2007, notching up just 128 sales.
However, this is a significantly more polished car in every way, one which the German brand's Australian arm believes has the right stuff to double its predecessor’s gross tally of 288 examples over its eight-year lifecycle.