One does not sail a proper yacht by oneself. That, I'm afraid, would be considered playing with your dinghy. Stop that. You'll go blind.
The new Mercedes-Benz S-class is no dinghy; instead, it is a regal pleasure craft of the motorway, an open-topped cruiser built for exploring continents. As the captain, you grasp the helm with firm command and issue the orders – and there's a whole crew of sailors quick and eager to cater to your every whim. Let's meet the crew of this, the most elegant vessel in the Mercedes-Benz fleet.
Until somebody figures out how to install a square-rigged mast that fits through tunnels and under bridges, the S-class is going to be a motor-yacht. Press hard on the accelerator and you send a signal down to the team below in the engine room: “Stoke the boilers lad, the cap'n is giving 'er what-for!”
Two engine offerings exist for the S-class cabriolet at present, both of them twin-turbocharged V8s. The S550 variant has a 4.7L powerplant making 455 hp from 5,250-5,500 rpm, and 516 lb-ft of torque from 1,800-3,500 rpm; the more powerful S63 gets a 5.5L unit with 585 hp at 5,500 rpm, and 664 lb-ft of torque from 2,250-3,750rpm. That's quite a head of steam.
Getting the power to the prop – er, wheels – is either Mercedes' new nine-speed automatic transmission, or a sportier-tuned seven-speed unit for the AMG. Mercedes 4Matic all-wheel-drive system makes sure the S-class stays sunny even when the weather turns foul.
There is more than a little wood in the S-class cabriolet, but it's mostly trim. Instead, think of the carpenter as being an aluminum specialist instead.
By the extensive use of this lightweight material, the S-Class cabriolet is the same weight as its closed-roof sister vessel. However, the builders have managed to create a bodyshell that's as torsionally strong as the previous generation of fixed-roof S-Class. It's a feat that makes for smooth sailing on curving roads.
A long voyage can be tiring, but not if you've got a well-trained steward close at hand. Think of the S-Class as being possessed of a sea-going butler and you'll get the general idea.
Call the Steward up through either voice commands or via the rotary controller and he can order you up anything on the menu. Need a warm scarf to fight off the cold ocean breezes? No problem – a push of the button has hot air blowing on your neck. Muscles stiff and sore as the nautical miles pile up? Why not have a relaxing hot massage from the very seats themselves.
Your Steward is equipped to maintain the perfect temperature whether the roof is up or down, free from any additional input, and can even lightly perfume the cabin with the scent of your choosing. It's a rough life, in the Navy.
Of course, cargo is an important factor in any road-going vessel, and the S-Class has you covered. For maximum capacity, the Purser recommends you keep the top closed, which allows for a full 350 L of stowage space.
Should you wish to lower the roof, the Purser will automatically engage the trunk separator, which reduces space to 250 L. If you've got too much luggage, regrettably you'll have to handle that yourself, either by throwing it overboard, or making one of your passengers walk the plank.
The roof and the wind are the department of the S-Class's Bo'sun, a shipmate that knows his craft well. You can request the top to come down at speeds up to 50 km/h and he'll get it battened down safely in just 20 seconds.
If the wind's a little high when motoring along in open mode, the Bo'sun's got another trick up his sleeve. Hit a button and twin buttresses deploy, one from the upper windshield frame and one behind the rear seats. A pleasing stillness returns to the cabin, even at highway speeds.
The accompaniment to any good long cruise is a little light entertainment. If you've opted for the AMG version, perhaps you're best off dashing along and letting the burbling V8 provide the soundtrack. It's wonderful.
However, the S-Class cabriolet is more apt to cruise than sail close to the wind, so why not instead listen to some string music through the Burmester audio system? If you've opted for the high end variant, you get a true three-dimensional soundscape, carefully tailored to provide an absolutely accurate rendering of the music.
And, should you drive your S-Class into a swamp, the audio will play on as it sinks.
Behind any good captain is an excellent first officer, one who anticipates his captain's needs even before they are uttered. With the S-Class, the executive officer's place is held by the Distronic suite of driving aids.
Engage cruise control and your first officer effectively takes the helm, directing steering inputs and keeping you a safe distance from other travellers. While you'll need to put in your own input from time to time and keep a hand on the tiller, Distronic will effectively pilot the S-Class all by itself.
Pre-Safe is there too, should your eye wander. Capable of detecting pedestrians and providing fully autonomous braking at speeds up to 100 km/h, it's always keeping one watchful eye out for danger.
Cross-traffic alert systems, parking aids, and blind spot monitors are all pretty standard crew in this price range. However, the S-Class even has the ability to keep an eye out when the sun drops with its available Night View Assist. Along with adaptive headlights, this forward-looking detection system will help you navigate the dark far more safely.