Tested: 2017 Mercedes-Benz S500 Cabriolet

The polite softness

I hate pointless things. Nay, I detest anything that misses its point or purpose. Like a screwdriver being used as a chisel, creative minds studying tax law or that gigantic 4×4 on the school run. My latest test car, this pearly white convertible Mercedes S-Class, had me wondering at first – what the hell is the point of it?

So they took the world’s most loved executive sedan and first made a coupé version; of which I approve. Besides being an avid two-door fanatic, I also love that model’s illustrious predecessors. These stretch back over many decades and include all sorts of letters which Mercedes fancied at the time… SE-b, SLC, SEC, CL, etc.

Right, here comes the important bit. Not since the SE-b or triple-one series Benzes of the sixties has there been a proper cabriolet derivative of the S-Class. This lineage proved to be the saving grace of my press car’s purpose because it’s descended from those eye-wateringly expensive and breath-takingly beautiful W111 Cabrios.

While thoroughly investigating this sparkly white car with striking dark blue fabric roof and porcelain leather interior, someone noted that the vast depreciation of these cars will create bargain prices (and nightmare maintenance) in a few years. All that may carry a degree of truth but we agreed that this could also become a future classic.

The correct recipe, last proven by its W111 ancestor, is in place. Top-of-the-line luxury and the best technology that Mercedes has to offer at this point in time, married to a striking shape with tasteful details. You’ll find the name “designo” stuck to seats and spec lists because it’s Merc’s special-order division.

A quick glance over the German brand’s price lists reveals no fewer than five other convertible options – the C-Class, E-Class, AMG GT, SL and SLC, of which the last two feature folding metal roofs. All others have an electric folding fabric roof but it appears that Mercedes put extra effort, silence and quality into the ones for its topless S-Classes.

It’s the one thing they didn’t skimp on – quality. You can feel, see, touch and smell it inside the opulent cabin of this car. Two gigantic monitors display everything you could possibly want, all buttons feel durable, the stitching and surfaces are top notch and almost everything is powered, automatic or self-propelled.

Yes, this car can even drive itself for brief moments of sheer driver terror but therein lies my other luxury convertible criteria – how does it drive? The initial exhaust burble on starting its 335kW 4.7-litre turbo-petrol V8 seemed promising but the car never got any louder after that… yes, even in Sport mode.

Said mode can toughen up the gearbox or suspension but this S500 Cabrio never howled or roared as nicely as the S500 Coupé I tested a few years ago, even when manually pawing through most of its nine gears. Yes, you read correctly. Nine. And the final one can do 90km/h at around 900rpm…

Sure, you can blast past 100km/h in about five seconds but it will only do so after considerable hesitation from the lazy gearbox and turbochargers. Even then, any forward shove (up to 700Nm) is of the gentlest and most polished variety. Hell, the car’s air suspension even leans into corners like a motorbike for extra ride comfort.

The S500 Cabriolet won’t roar, bite, slide or wheel-spin because it’s too polite for that and only wants to cosset you and up to three passengers in sheer softness. Which it does perfectly. Other luxury convertible traits include roof operation up to 60km/h, keyless everything, two wind deflectors and multiple front seat heaters.

All this came together beautiful on a chilly Monday night when I cruised home with the top down and the (sumptuous Burmester) system up. This is the pinnacle of Mercedes luxury, this is very near the top of elegant convertible travel and this is most certainly not pointless. It is extravagantly perfect.

This S500 is the only convertible Mercedes-Benz S-Class model available at around N$2.4 million with a two-year unlimited mileage warranty and six years or 100,000km worth of maintenance plan included in the price.

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