30---Well, Actually 90---Minutes With: The 2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet.
Publisher's note: Normally, the cars you read about here at TireKicker are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days. Seven is typical.  Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days.  Our "30 Minutes With" series features cars we spent half an hour driving during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Days in Monterey, California.

Day one of Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca via Laureles Grade.  Once there, you swap cars with another journalist for the drive back, get a different car at The Quail, and repeat. Apart from an hour's lunch (this year sponsored by Nissan), this is the day from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., although heavy rains forced us to call it a day at 2:30 this year, reducing the number of cars we could drive.

Car number two for the day was the most exclusive and expensive car I'd sample (and possibly the most exclusive and expensive of the 60 or so available for drives that day), the 2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet.  The run: From the Quail Lodge to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (and, as it turned out, back to the Quail).

Map of Laureles Grade route from Quail Lodge to Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway
Quail Lodge to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca via Laureles Grade (map courtesy Google Maps).
Laureles Grade is about five-and-a-half miles of non-stop twists and turns between Carmel Valley Road and CA 68, and thus perfect for a pack of automotive journalists and some high-grade machinery.

Rear 3/4 view of 2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet
2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet.
A convertible on a cold, rainy day may seem like a tragically missed opportunity, but the S560 Cabriolet's ability to lower its roof is only one of a multitude of charms and wonders.  For 2018, the 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8 is replaced by a smaller, lighter, more efficient (17 city/26 highway) and more powerful (463 horsepower) 4.0-liter biturbo V8 mated to a nine-speed automatic.

Side view of 2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet
2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet.
Not to be mistaken for the two-seat SL, the S560 is larger, a member of the S-Class family, with seating for five (though the practicality of three people in the back would be a factor of their relative size and desire for intimacy).

There were just two of us on this run, yours truly and Mercedes-Benz Product PR Representative Ashley Gillam, who unveiled feature after feature of the Benz from the passenger seat.

Interior view of 2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet
2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet interior.
Having Ashley along was the right move, because I would have missed out on pretty much everything while drinking in the interior.  Mercedes-Benz has decided to chart its own course for interior design, and I think they've hit a home run.  At this level of luxury automobile, you want to feel you're in something special.  The Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet accomplishes that better than any car I've experienced in 21 years of writing about cars.

Multi-function display in 2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet
2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet multi-function display.
That large screen across the top of the dash begins as a 12.3-inch gauge cluster in front of the driver and then seamlessly integrates another 12.3-inch multi-function display for climate control, comfort (including massaging seats, aromatherapy and music not in your library perfectly matched to the smells and the squeezes), driving dynamics, fuel consumption and light settings.

Multi-function display in 2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet
2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet multi-function display.
Yes, light settings.  Sure, other cars will let you choose between four or five colors for the ambient lighting in the cabin.  The 2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet offers you 64.

Rear 3/4 view of 2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet
2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet.
So, what's it like to drive, you ask?  Tremendous.  With 516 lb-ft of torque, the S560 Cabrio pulls like a diesel locomotive...just waaayy faster.  The driving dynamics settings can take you from a comfortable cruise setting to a suspension and gearing combination that makes short work of a challenging road like Laureles Grade. And, on straighter bits, Mercedes' semi-autonomous capability is top-notch.

Is there a cost for all this?  Yes.  $133,300 is the base price for the 2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet.  To list the standard equipment you get for that money would have us here half the day, so I'll let Mercedes-Benz tell you.

The test vehicle did have optional equipment, driving that price a bit higher...as in you could buy a loaded Honda Civic with the cost of the options alone:

  • Designo Bengal Red/Black exclusive Nappa leather: $3,250.
  • Designo black pianolacquer flowing lines wood: $1,300.
  • Wood/leather steering wheel: $590.
  • Swarovski crystal headlamp accents: $1,750.
  • Night View Assist PLUS: $2,260.
  • Premium Package (Active multicontour front seats with massage, head-up display, surround view system): $3,500
  • Sport Package (AMG wheels and Sport bodystyling and diamond radiator grille with chrome tips, stainless steel sport pedals with rubber studs): $5,900.
  • Driver Assistance Package (Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC, Active Steering Assist, Active Lane Change Assist, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Active Speed Limit Assist, Active Brake Assist with cross-traffic function, evasive steering assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, PRE-SAFE PLUS rear-end collison protection and route-based speed adaption): $2,250.
Add $995 destination and delivery charges and the total comes in at a sobering $155,095.

And worth every penny.

How did 30 minutes turn into 90?   Well, some of my fellow automotive journalists made side deals to swap cars before making it to the official trade point at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Boy Scout that I am, I followed instructions...and Ashley and I sat there for half an hour waiting for the next car to roll up.  It never happened.   Ashley used the time to make me familiar with the S560 Cabriolet's features and then...after checking in with the folks in charge at the Quail Lodge, we drove back there.

Whatever the other guys who didn't follow the rules ended up driving, it wasn't as good as this.  Their loss.