One Week Drive: Mercedes S550 Cabriolet

The S-Class convertible returns after a long absence.

It’s been a long time since Mercedes offered a convertible version of its S-class - 46 years, to put a number on it. The big Benz cabriolet offers all the style and gadgetry we’ve come to expect in the range-topping S-class but now with a top that folds away in under 20 seconds. And an elegant profile to boot.


Active seats with heat & massage. But fear not, the ATTENTION ASSIST feature keeps you alert.

Heated & massaging front seats, heated steering wheel, heated front armrest, heated door armrests, and heated rear seats. M-B has the heat thing covered. The Burmester 3D sound system by itself is a $6,400 option and provides amazing clarity; this is even more impressive in a convertible.

Virtual gauges on the dashboard with heated steering wheel, door and center armrests.

Mercedes has embraced LCD displays in a big way with the tach and speedometer being virtual gauges. This allows the Night View Assist to project its picture onto the screen between the two gauges.

It may be an S-class, but that back seat is Camaro/Mustang tight.

One of the biggest surprises was the lack of room in the back seat. The S-class sedan gives up a bit of rear seat room in the transition to convertible. If the driver is above average height the Benz becomes a 3-passenger vehicle - unless the rear seat passenger is a double amputee.

Twin turbocharger 4.7 V8 rated at 449hp & 516lb-ft torque.

In the motivation department M-B’s twin-turbo 4.7 V8 (shared with the SL550) offers up a stout 449hp and 516lb-ft of torque routed through a 9-speed autobox. This combination gets the 4700lb+ Benz up to 60mph in 4.4 seconds. (C&D data) If this doesn’t provide the requisite amount of boogie, there’s always the AMG 5.5 TT V8 and 6.0 TT V12 if you must have more go with your show.

Swarovski crystal headlamp accents. $1750. Yes, you need this.

Nobody tops Mercedes when it comes to luxury details. Who else could conceive of Swarovski crystals accenting the headlights? The first row is the running light and the second and third rows are amber turn signals. Swanky.

20" AMG Multispokes

Don’t let the wheels fool you, this car lacks any sporting pretense. The tradeoff with the low-profile Pirellis is they do transmit some road noise into the cabin, which might have been lessened by taller profile tires. Nothing too obtrusive, but it was noticeable.

M-B’s AIRSCARF - Coolest feature ever. (pay no attention to that knucklehead in the mirror)

What looks like cooling fans from a desktop computer is actually the AIRSCARF system, which blows warm air on the front occupants’ necks to ward off a chill during top-down motoring.

On the road the S550 absorbs bumps with aplomb as one would expect with the suspension set in the default Comfort mode. This setting does allow a fair amount of pitch and roll however; changing to Sport mode dampens body movement without being overly firm and eliminates the wallowy sensation. The 4.7 V8 provides plenty of thrust when necessary, but this car is not about sturm und drang but rather motoring at a more relaxed pace. The attention to detail in the interior is evident in the speaker grilles, and the lined piano black lacquered wood dashboard inserts. With a base price of $131,400 the popular option packages run up the toll quickly. The test car’s Burmester audio, Premium Package, Sport Package, Night View Assist, Driver Assistance Package and Warmth and Comfort Package lead to a total MSRP of $161,675. A steep outlay to be sure, but the car’s presence combined with Mercedes’ understated elegance make a compelling argument for a second mortgage.

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