THE GOODLike its S-Class compatriots, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz S550 Cabriolet stands out for its exceptional ride comfort. Sophisticated adaptive cruise control handles braking and acceleration even in stop-and-go traffic, and its Burmester stereo delivers detailed music.
THE BADMercedes-Benz badly needs to redesign the S550 Cabriolet’s dashboard electronics from the ground up, as the interface has become a complicated mess. A problem with many convertibles, trunk room becomes very limited with the top down.
THE BOTTOM LINEThe 2017 S550 Cabriolet maintains the strengths of Mercedes-Benz S-Class vehicles, showing off a luxury exemplified in driving character and cabin appointments, while offering top-down driving rarely found in its segment.
Ahter a month spent flying back and forth to Los Angeles, my boarding passes a confused jumble in my Apple Wallet app, I finally broke free enough time to drive down from San Francisco. The occasion was the Los Angeles auto show, and my ride would be a 2017 Mercedes-Benz S550 Cabriolet.
Cruising down a California highway, over valleys, mountains and coastal terrain, compared to stuffing myself into an airline seat, shoulder-to-shoulder with some rando? I will take the former any chance I can.
And the S550 Cabriolet made the perfect vehicle for the trip, as it fit right in cruising top-down through Beverly Hills, or drifting over hundreds of freeway miles. Massaging seats eased the strain on my back, the Burmester stereo filled the quiet cabin with pristinely produced music, and adaptive cruise control handled the trials of stop-and-go traffic.
Most of all, though, the S550 Cabriolet, and all the S-Class variants, delivers what I consider the best ride quality of any car on the road today, even the ultraluxury models.
Mercedes-Benz gave its S-Class sedan a major update for the 2014 model year, in almost every way delivering a vehicle worthy of the brand’s luxury reputation. Following the sedan came an S-Class beautifully styled coupe and now the Cabriolet, the convertible version. To be honest, I prefer a hard top, and like the look of the coupe better, but the Cabriolet certainly earns points for its top-down demeanor. Like the coupe, the S550 Cabriolet gets by with two doors but also room for four passengers.
The S550 Cabriolet’s unparalleled ride quality made me look forward to spending hours driving it down the coast, but the plush look of its cabin got my attention when I first opened the door. Prominently displayed Designo labels announce the Mercedes-Benz’s upscale interior brand, while ventilated leather in Porcelain, or white if you prefer, cover the substantial seats.
Although the S550 Cabriolet uses a fabric top, I could see there was more than just a simple sheet of canvas between me and the sky. Extra padding ensures rigidity against buffeting and does an extraordinary job limiting noise. Likewise, double-pane side windows keep the cabin serene.
Most of all, though, Mercedes-Benz’s Airmatic suspension does wonders absorbing the pounding produced by rough pavement and potholes. Like its name suggests, the suspension uses air-filled struts instead of steel springs, and continuously adjusts the air pressure to compensate for the road. It does a remarkable job of creating a smooth ride while at the same time avoiding excessive wallow. At the push of a button I could switch between Comfort and Sport modes, the latter stiffening up the ride a little yet never becoming hard.
On the road for hundreds of miles, I rarely felt a need to stretch my legs, to the point where the car’s own safety systems flashed a suggestion on the instrument cluster that maybe I should take a break.
Complementing the very, very comfortable ride, the S550 Cabriolet’s throttle and steering worked with a buttery ease. 4.7 liters of turbocharged V8 may sound like an ingredient for a modern muscle car, but this convertible doles out its 449 horsepower like a cake boss applying frosting. Give the throttle a little tip-in, and the car responds precisely. Its 516 pound-feet of torque leads to stately acceleration, and it recovers from its fuel-saving idle stop feature without hesitation.
When I stamped down on the accelerator to get all that power at once, the big V8 growled in accompaniment to the car’s leap forward. Making a pass on a two-lane highway, I quickly found myself approaching triple digit speeds.