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It’s arguably the most overused term in motoring – grand tourer, that supposedly perfect blend of luxury and performance. There are, actually, some hard criteria needing to be met for a car to be truly classified a Grand Tourer, a Gran Turismo, or even a ‘GT’.
Ideally, a grand tourer is a car capable of crossing great distances at speed and comfort. But, crucially, a GT must also be able to provide an engaging and spirited drive when called upon. Ideally, it should be able to carry two people – and their luggage – in comfort and style, with the option of being able to carry four people, i.e. it should be a 2+2.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe doesn’t style itself as a ‘GT’, but make no mistake, it is a grand tourer in the traditional – and in every – sense of the meaning.
Externally, the new S-Class Coupe doesn’t look that different from the model it replaces – not surprising since stylistically this is a mild midlife update. There are revised bumpers, some additional chrome trims, and new side skirts. The exhaust tips have been revised too, and now the same as those found on V12 models.
There are new tail-lights that are really quite striking in their application. Comprised of 66 floating, ultra-flat OLEDs, the lights scroll through an animation when the car is locked or unlocked. If you’ve been paying attention, you will have noticed a similar treatment in Merc’s E-Class range of coupes and cabs.
Inside, the S-Class Coupe closely resembles its four-door counterpart, with a new steering wheel design and the same levels of refinement expected of a top-end Benz. The materials are plush and the creature comforts abound. Nappa leather (in black) is standard, while a choice of three new wood trims – high-gloss brown burr walnut, satin-grey ash wood, and designo magnolia – highlight the S-Class’s opulent interior.
That new steering wheel features touch-sensitive controls to toggle through all the menus and options on the twin 12.3-inch colour screens that form the hub of the coupe’s multimedia and driver information. Those toggles, for the first time, control every function, meaning your hands need never leave the wheel.
The Active Multicontour (heated and ventilated) front seats are supremely comfortable, more so for the inflatable chambers contained within that can be adjusted to provide lateral and lumbar support. There’s also a lumbar massage function, while the active side bolsters adjust on the move, providing lateral support during cornering. It takes you by surprise the first time it happens, but you get used to it.
Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND infotainment system remains as good as ever, with 3D satellite navigation, real-time traffic updates, smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as wireless charging. There’s also Merc’s whizz-bang new ‘Energizing’ function that sets the cabin ambience according to one of six selectable moods – Freshness, Vitality, Joy, Warmth, Comfort, and Training. Depending on which ‘mood’ you select, the system will adjust climate control, seat ventilation, fragrance, ambient lighting and music selection to create the perfect ambience for you.
Of course, it’s not all about luxury, with safety paramount. Highlights include active parking, adaptive cruise control, active blind-spot assist, lane-change assist, active brake assist with cross-traffic function, active steering assist, hill-start assist, and driver-attention monitoring. There are eight airbags, too.
None of this comes cheap, of course, the S-Class Coupe asking for the type of coin befitting a luxury, flagship model. The entry point of the six-car range in Australia is the S560 Coupe at $314,900 (plus on-roads) just to get into the game. That jumps up to $370,500 for the Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupe, and then a whopping $508,900 for the Mercedes-AMG S65 Coupe.
If you prefer grand touring sans roof, you’ll need to pay even more. The Cabriolet range starts at $336,900 for the S560, jumps to $399,900 for the AMG-fettled S63, and tops out at an eye-watering $520,500 for the V12-powered S65.
Not cheap then.
We sampled two variants in the short time afforded us, starting out in the entry-level S560. The coupe is a handsome thing, at once long (5032mm), wide (1899mm) and low (1414mm). While not as long, low or heavy as its sedan sibling, the S560 is still a big, big car. Once on the road, though, you soon forget just how big it is.
Under that long snout of the S560 Coupe beats a heart of 4.0 litres of Merc’ biturbo V8 goodness. Yep, that’s right, the chrome number on the badge is larger than the model it replaces (S500), yet the V8 engine powering it is smaller (the S500 featured a twin-turbo 4.7-litre V8).
That new 4.0-litre V8 is good enough for 345kW and 700Nm of torque, with those numbers sent to the rear wheels via Merc’s proprietary nine-speed 9G-Tronic transmission. That’s 10kW more than the 4.7-litre, while torque outputs remain identical. The sprint to triple figures takes just 4.6 seconds, according to Merc’.
Start the engine and the first thing that strikes you is how quiet it is, despite the presence of that V8 under the bonnet. There’s a burble, for sure, but it’s muted, certainly inside that plush cabin, and helped no doubt by the laminated glasshouse. This is, after all, a grand tourer, and excess noise from the outside world will just not do.
There’s plenty of push from that V8, but it’s an entirely relaxed shove. There’s no maniacal, head-in-the-back-of-your-seat thrust, simply a linear explosion as you apply some heavy right foot. And it’s accompanied by a soft growl – audible, yes, but definitely muted by your plush surroundings. Refined, in a word.
Mid-range acceleration is equally as rewarding. Cruise along at highway speeds but need an extra burst to overtake that pesky SUV towing a caravan, boat or horse float, and the response is instantaneous thanks to that 700Nm of torque available nice and low in the rev range (2000–4000rpm). The big two-door simply surges forward with assurance and urgency that belie its great mass.
That performance is matched by its manners on the road. Again, there’s a quiet calm to the way the S560 holds the road – cushioning, absorbing, cossetting. It’s by no means perfect, but it is an elegant execution, sufficiently comfortable when needed, yet also dynamically capable when called upon. That’s thanks largely to what Merc’ has dubbed Magic Body Control, available only on the S560 Coupe.
It’s a clever system utilising a ‘stereo’ camera mounted in the windscreen, which scans the road surface up to 15m in front of the car with an accuracy of around 3mm. Then, depending on the surface and in conjunction with driving conditions, the system determines the best damping strategy for dealing with that surface. The active suspension then adjusts the damping for each individual wheel to softer or harsher within fractions of a second, while also increasing or decreasing the load on each wheel according to the conditions, helping to reduce the car’s body movements.
The system also features a curve tilting function that can tilt the car towards the inside of the turn by up to 2.65 degrees, thereby reducing lateral forces. Can you feel all that technical wizardry at play as you tip your two-tonner tourer into a corner? Specifically, no, but then like a lot of things in life, you don’t notice them until they’re gone.
What you do feel is a sense of assuredness and calm, the refinement befitting a car of this nature – a grand tourer in the traditional and true sense of the phrase.
Swapping into the Mercedes-AMG S63 Cabriolet brings another dimension to grand touring. The AMG-fettled variant is powered by the same 4.0-litre biturbo V8, albeit with bumped-up power outputs. How big a bump? Try 450kW and 900Nm. Sending that power to the rear wheels is AMG’s nine-speed multi-clutch transmission.
That engine lurks behind AMG’s Panamericana grille, distinguishing it from its milder S560 garage mate. Other styling changes include 20-inch AMG 10-spoke forged wheels and red brake callipers.
There’s more AMG goodness under the skin, too, with composite brakes, an AMG sports exhaust, and the AMG Driver’s Package that lifts the governed top speed to 300km/h (against the regular S560’s 250km/h).
The S63 misses out on Merc’s Magic Body Control, making do instead with AMG’s sports suspension with continuously variable damping control.
Inside, the S63 scores an AMG Performance steering wheel and AMG-branded illuminated door sills finished in brushed stainless steel, while the cold is kept at bay with the Warmth Comfort Package that adds heated front armrests and a heated steering wheel. Further warming is provided by Airscarf, which blows gentle gusts of warm air onto your neck. Mmmm.
Fire up the S63 and it’s immediately apparent this is a more powerful S-Class two-door, even with the roof in place. There’s a satisfying burble from the V8 that only intensifies as you push on. Drop the roof and that rumble permeates the cabin beautifully. It’s a typical AMG-tuned baritone, and a perfect symphony of eight cylinders working together.
Like its Coupe sibling, the S63 Cabriolet is a comfortable cruiser, effortlessly munching miles while remaining a comfortable tourer.
The nine-speed multi-clutch transmission rifles through its gears seamlessly when cruising, yet adopts an altogether more fiery persona when called upon with some hard acceleration. And that acceleration is beautifully linear – an effortless rush of speed without being volatile.
On the road, the S63 Cabrio’ displays the similarly exemplary manners of its Coupe counterpart. Sure, it’s noisier inside thanks to the rag-top overhead, but it’s by no means unbearable. There’s some scuttle shake, that phenomenon of vibrations found in convertibles, thanks to structural rigidity compromises as a result of chopping off the roof.
But the overall experience is a pleasant one, especially with the roof down and all those warming elements at play to keep you nice and toasty despite the winter chill. There’s simply a feeling of luxury, as there should be.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe embodies the old-school notion of grand touring. It’s comfortable, it’s fast, and its occupants can luxuriate in its inner opulence while remaining cossetted from the outside world.
That’s the thing with cars like the S-Class – whether sedan, coupe or cabriolet. At once powerful and comfortable, the S-Class represents the pinnacle of Mercedes-Benz prestige.
NOTE: Due to restricted shooting opportunities, the S63 Cabrio shots here are of the overseas left-hand-drive model.