First drive: 2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe

You can't control the weather, but in Mercedes' S-Class Coupe, you can ignore it

If you have the means to have it all, immediately add the 2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe to your automotive short list.

Outside the grand Ocean House hotel in coastal Rhode Island, a gray S63 stood on display under matching gray skies. Inside the posh hotel, representatives from Mercedes-Benz presented a detailed look at its swanky new two-door, the S-Class Coupe.

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz S550 4Matic Coupe and S63 AMG 4Matic Coupe, replacements to the CL line, are now the top models from Mercedes. The simple yet elegant look embodies the automaker’s design ethos called “sensual purity.” The coupes’ turbocharged V8 engines are as expressively powerful as they are refined and capable. Interiors are swathed from headliner to floor in the finest materials. But if the new S-Coupe is to rightfully occupy the top slot in the Benz lineup, its performance on the road should match its stellar specifications on paper.

The S-Class Coupe, Mercedes claims, is “the ultimate expression of ‘The Best or Nothing.'”

Bart Herring, S-Class Coupe product manager for Mercedes-Benz, offered an ambitious claim, invoking the automaker’s motto and calling the S-Class Coupe “the ultimate expression of ‘The Best or Nothing.'”

Like a siren on the rocks, the big coupe beckoned me to come in. I may not be worthy of this car’s high-income demographic, but neither am I immune to its seduction.

As soon as my backside hit the fine Nappa leather seats, rain began to hit the windshield. No matter. All-wheel drive is standard on both the S550 4Matic Coupe and S63 AMG 4Matic Coupe, making the car stable and predictable in adverse weather.

And with a cabin so gorgeous and indulgent, I hardly missed the picturesque New England scenery obscured by the rain. The excellence and sophistication of the S-Class Coupe was immediately apparent, but being “the best” is a tough benchmark. Could this car, with a starting price of $119,900, compete with and top the most spectacular automobiles in the world?

Model lineup

Changing the model’s name from CL to S-Class Coupe signifies its flagship status. Two versions, the S550 Coupe and S63 Coupe, are already available. For those that demand greater exclusivity and even more power, the rear-drive S65 AMG Coupe will soon bring V-12 power into the mix, and a Maybach edition is reportedly on its way, too.

The S550 uses a 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8 making 449 horsepower and 517 lb-ft torque. Its seven-speed automatic transmission is a conventional hydraulic unit. For the S63, Mercedes fits a hand-built 5.5-liter mill paired with its seven-speed multi-clutch gearbox. Output figures for the S63 are even more impressive: 561 hp and 615 lb-ft.

2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe

With either engine, the S-Class Coupe is very quick. Triple-digit velocities arrive hastily, and the coupe’s refinement and stable dynamics mask the sensation of speed. With so much capability at a driver’s disposal, complying with speed limits is a challenge.

Both cars have active exhaust for a gratifying growl at higher rpm, so even the S550 provides that visceral expression of potency when the driver demands it. While the S550’s look is more subtle and elegant, the S63 uses more aggressive styling elements to scratch that adolescent itch for racecar aesthetics.

With no hint of turbo lag and aided by all four wheels clawing at the pavement, acceleration is as exhilarating as it is addictive.

Wider and lower grille openings with twin-bar grille, piano black exterior trim, a racy rear diffuser, quad exhaust pipes, and AMG badges all contribute to an athletic look. Choose the S63 and pay a premium: base price for the S63 AMG 4Matic Coupe is $160,900 versus $119,900 for the S550 4Matic Coupe.

Moments when the rain subsided offered opportunities for the S-Class Coupe to flex its substantial muscle and show off its refined chassis. With no hint of turbo lag and aided by all four wheel clawing at the pavement, acceleration is as exhilarating as it is addictive. Anything more than a gentle nudge to the go-pedal brings out the beast lurking within. Take it easy, though, and the big coupe is cool, calm, and quiet.

Except for delayed engagement moving from park or reverse to drive, the multi-clutch unit in the S63 is a delight, snapping off quick upshifts and precisely and intuitively downshifting under braking. Brakes are exceptional, too. Big rotors make quick work of halting the heavy coupe, and easy modulation allows gentle, limo-like stops in normal traffic.

Two suspension modes – comfort and sport – allow drivers to tailor the ride and handling to suit the situation. Differences are subtle, though, and both settings provide a nice balance of athleticism and luxury.

Another interesting Mercedes-Benz engineering innovation is available, although none of the examples on hand for the test drive included the equipment. Curve tilting, a component of Mercedes’ Magic Body Control, leans the vehicle body in corners. The goal is not for better handling but for a more comfortable ride for driver and passengers.

Technology as luxury

If a mighty engine is all you want from a coupe, get a Dodge Challenger Hellcat. Mercedes-Benz builds the S-Class Coupe for the driver that demands a truly decadent experience behind the wheel, created not just by luxurious appointments but also the latest in high-tech equipment.

Over two days of driving, the S550 and S63 coupes indulged my every automotive desire.

A wide TFT display that hosts both the instrument cluster and center infotainment display is the visual centerpiece of the dash. The cabin’s rich appointments balance its modern technology. Fine wood, elegant switchgear, and piano black trim complement liberal use of soft leather and Alcantara. It may share a badge with a bargain-priced CLA, but no Bentley driver will feel underserved in the S-Class Coupe.

If I had driven an average car in the heavy rains I experienced from behind the wheel of the S-Class Coupe, after several hours, I would have felt beleaguered and drained. Instead, coddled in luxury and secured by this capable machine, no weather could hinder the pleasure of driving.

A flooded section of road was no obstacle either; I simply raised the standard air suspension to its highest setting and proceeded alongside full-size pickups and SUVs. And when I did feel a bit weary, the available massaging seats melted away the stress.

2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe

An impressive suite of driver assistance technologies makes life behind the wheel of the S-Class Coupe tranquil, too. Adaptive cruise control, front and rear collision avoidance, lane keeping assist, blind-spot assist, and even steering assist are all available. With these systems working together, the vehicle is nearly capable of driving itself.

No luxury car is complete without spectacular sound. The standard offering is a 13-speaker, 590-watt Burmester system that will satisfy most casual listeners. The optional Burmester High-End audio, however, will impress audiophiles, too. With 24 speakers and 1,540 watts, the sound is as crisp and distortion-free as it is thunderous. Yet with even the deepest bass booming through the cabin, you’ll hear no unwelcome rattles or shakes from the S-Class Coupe.

For all of the few

Over two days of driving, the S550 and S63 coupes indulged my every automotive desire. As the weather turned from stormy to sunny, the beauty of the surrounding scenery revealed equal opulence: gated seaside mansions atop manicured estates, with surf crashing against a rocky and windswept coastline. This is the life of the well-heeled.

With a patent on the world’s first automobile, only Mercedes-Benz can lean on a 128-year history of producing fine automobiles. Whether or not the S-Class Coupe is the best car Mercedes has ever built – much less the best new car on the road – is certainly in the eye of the beholder. But that it is exceptional in terms of luxury, driving dynamics and style will quickly become apparent to anyone who climbs behind the wheel.

Clearly, neither this is not a car for the people; only the wealthy need apply. But the driver that chooses to clear a space in his or her four-car garage for this fantastic flagship should make it the closest, most convenient spot: the S-Class Coupe is likely to quickly become your favorite daily driver.

Highs

  • Stunning aesthetics
  • Technically marvelous
  • A joy to drive

Lows

  • Near-exotic price
  • Non-exotic nameplate
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