2015 Mercedes-Benz S 500 coupé at a glance
- Handling: ★★★★☆
- Comfort: ★★★★★
- Performance: ★★★★☆
- Costs: ★★★★☆
WHEN WE were young and foolish, we’d party until we dropped. Music was turned up to 11, cars were driven in the only manner we understood — fast — and anything that got in the way of having a good time, such as sleeping, was laughed at.
We may have aspired to own a tearaway sports car, such as a Porsche 911. Anything, basically, with a bark, a bite and the buzz that comes at the end of a journey when the driver feels they’ve tiptoed across a high wire without falling to their doom. Certainly not a Mercedes, which was a car for middle-aged drivers in cardigans and pressed trousers.
Then came relationships, maybe marriage and a few children perhaps. The handbrake was firmly applied to life in the fast lane, and noisy, uncomfortable, uncompromising sports cars held about as much appeal as an exploding nappy and a solitary baby wipe.
Now suddenly a Mercedes, if not freshly ironed trousers, did appeal. The S 500 coupé, perhaps — a car that is as fast as a Porsche, as comfortable as a Rolls-Royce and as laden with clever gadgets and gizmos as Google HQ.
This flagship Mercedes — its monstrous, AMG-tuned big brother, the S 65 coupé, is the most expensive Merc on the menu — is pitched, at £96,195, somewhere between the Porsche 911 Carrera S (£85,857) and the Bentley Continental GT (£140,300), and there are compelling reasons for picking the Mercedes over either.
The car is pitched somewhere in price between the Porsche 911 Carrera S and Bentley Continental GT, and there are compelling reasons for picking the Mercedes over either
Let’s start with its size. It is long (16½ft) but not as wide as a Bentley, and it looks swept-back and sleek rather than gargantuan. Inside, you’ll find a proper four-seat car. A couple of adults can be seated in comfort in the back of an S-class coupé, provided they aren’t over 6ft tall. The seats are heated, too, making the cabin more cosy, and child seats will slide in without a wrestling match. A Porsche 911 is hopeless in this respect.
It’s up front, however, that the magic happens. The bridge of the Starship Enterprise has finally been made real, in a car.
The S-class coupé’s cabin is as modern as they come. It has digital dials, a huge 12in tablet-style display for the Comand Online multimedia system, buttons that give the driver a 360-degree view of outside, other buttons that trigger a night-vision camera (it can spot pedestrians long before you can) and more buttons still for the air-cooled and heated, massaging seats. The list goes on.
Best of all, the lavishly appointed cockpit doesn’t leave the driver feeling like a tourist lost in a foreign city. It’s intuitive.
Think back to the most relaxing experience you’ve ever had. It doesn’t come close to sitting in this car’s front seats. Boy, are they good. They’re adaptive, too, so as the car turns, the seat bolsters compensate to stop the driver and passenger rolling about like a pair of marbles.
It’s not just the seats that give the S 500 dreamlike qualities. The steering is just the right side of light, and the suspension is so good at gliding over potholes and levelling out cambers and ridges that drivers may be tempted to check their rear-view mirrors to make sure they really did just drive over an obstacle.
This is partly down to a £4,250 option called Magic Body Control. The system scans the road surface ahead and adjusts the suspension before the tyres comes into contact with bumps.
It feels built to drive from one country to another without pausing for breath
So, whereas driving some sporty cars, such as the Porsche 911, can feel a little taxing, taking out the S 500 is a fabulously relaxing experience. With its hushed cabin, soothing seats, double-glazed windows and supremely confident engine and chassis, it feels built to drive from one country to another without pausing for breath.
Admittedly, the nine-speed automatic gearbox is prone to confusion, either getting caught in a moment of indecision between gears, or thumping down a gear in a most uncivilised fashion. But the silky twin-turbo 4.7-litre V8 engine more than makes up for it.
Sublimely smooth, it accelerates effortlessly from low revs and can propel the S 500 along at a mind-bending speed. The gearbox behaves itself better in Sport mode, and the active suspension features something called Active Curve System, which helps the car maintain a level stance through corners, no matter how hard you fling it round them.
All sorts of other innovations take the strain out of driving, from LED headlamps that adjust their light pattern according to what’s ahead on the road — a £2,860 option that comes with Swarovski crystals embedded in the headlamps, so you too can look like a Russian oligarch — to Mercedes’ signature seatbelt butler, which in effect passes the belt to anyone sitting in the front, saving them the faff of turning to reach for it.
Some coupés may be more sporty; others may be more luxurious; but it’s hard to think of one car that makes everything feel so effortless. This car is so soothing, you won’t want to turn it off. It is what Mercedes’ cars have always done best, and the S 500 coupé does it better than any before.
2015 Mercedes-Benz S 500 coupé specifications
- PRICE: £96,195
- ENGINE: 4663cc, V8, twin turbos, petrol
- POWER: 449bhp @ 5250rpm
- TORQUE: 516 lb ft @ 1800rpm
- TRANSMISSION: 9-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
- ACCELERATION: 0-62mph in 4.6sec
- TOP SPEED: 155mph (electronically limited)
- FUEL: 33.2mpg (combined)
- CO2: 197g/km
- ROAD TAX BAND: J (£490 for first year; then £265)
- RELEASE DATE: On sale now
Mercedes S 500 coupé rivals
Porsche 911 Carrera S coupé, £85,857 (view cars for sale)
- For More exciting to drive; impressive new turbocharged engine
- Against Not as relaxing as S 500; cramped; less luggage space; limited technology
BMW 650i M Sport, £72,390 (view cars for sale)
- For Cabin more accommodating than S 500’s; costs nearly £25,000 less
- Against Lacks the presence and deluxe feel of the Merc