Redefining Top-Down Luxury

Mercedes AMG S63 Cabriolet raises the bar
Barry Spyker

With all due respect to the old turquoise Ford Falcon ragtop, date nights were especially problematic. The top not only leaked but stored the rainwater so it had to be purged. That required throwing the Falc in reverse for a quick jolt. Otherwise, date gets a dousing.

Fortunately, convertibles have come a long way, sparing many a lady. But no one could have imagined the whole new world of top-down driving we’re seeing with the 2017 Mercedes AMG S63 Cabriolet. 

The Cabrio is new this year in the S63 and, at first thought, could seem an odd addition to a gutsy,  high-performance car with power (577 hp) and torque (664 pound feet) and a zero-to-60 time of 3.7 seconds. But once you drop the three-layer top behind the rear seats (in 19 seconds) you’ll see things in a whole new light.

First, wind blast is nearly gone with Mercedes’ Air Cap system, comprised of a wind deflector that rises above the windshield, plus a windscreen that goes up behind the rear seats to prevent back flow. Hats stay on heads and even quiet conversation is possible.

When it gets chilly, Mercedes’ Air Scarf system vents warm air onto the necks of the driver and front passenger with the press of a button inside the center console. And heated seats (front and rear), heated steering wheel and heated arm rests on the doors and center console turn the dream of a topless snowy-mountain drive into reality. Imagine viewing white-capped mountains with the top down.

If it gets too blustery, by the way, there’s no need to pull over; the top can be raised (or lowered) while driving up to 31 mph. 

Buyers of this admittedly pricey, two-door, four-passenger cabriolet probably aren’t in it for the power, but it delivers the same punch and road grip anyway. And with none of the compromises that typically come with ripping the roof off – unless you count the loss of a sleek profile. 

You get the same powerful twin-turbo 5.5-liter V-8 which is mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The transmission uses a “wet clutch” system which is smooth-shifting at moderate and higher speeds but tends to be more temperamental at slower speeds. 

Traction is enhanced by Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system (standard), and its Airmatic sport suspension keeps the big boat well controlled on corners while smoothing out the rough spots around town. The adaptive system actually peers ahead for bumps and dips and adjusts the suspension accordingly, making for spectacular ride comfort.

Steering is light and breezy and stopping can be sharpened with available carbon ceramic brakes (but that’ll be $8,950, please). 

A start-stop feature attempts to boost fuel economy but, alas, the 5,000-pound beast managed even less than the EPA-estimated 14 mpg in town, 22 highway, for a combined estimate of 17 mpg. That adds up to another $1,000 in gas-guzzler tax. 

Inside, seats are plush and supportive. Opt for multicontoured seats for more adjustments and six massage settings, including one that simulates hot stone therapy. Rear-seat passengers get the same comfort and massage features as those up front, but rear legroom is limited compared to others in this luxury segment.

Also limited is trunk space: 12.4 cubic feet with the top up, only 8.8 cubes when the top is down.

Infotainment is managed by Mercedes’ COMAND system and is easy enough to navigate. The instrument panel is bright and graphics are crisp and within easy view. For top-shelf audio, another $6,400 buys a premium Burmester 3D system with 24 speakers.  

Options on color combinations, leather, trims and accents seem endless with the S63. Even air freshening comes in a selection of four fragrances. 

A carbon fiber package ($6,500) includes front splitter, rocker panel inserts, mirror covers, rear diffuser insert and engine cover. And a Driver Assistance package adds high-tech safety features like lane-keep assist, automatic braking that includes pedestrians, and rear-end collision protection. Collision mitigation and drowsy-driver warning come standard.

At these prices – we’re talking $200,000 plus – the AMG S63 is not for the financially timid. But for those with the bucks, it is among the most pampering top-down rides in the world. And any rain-soaked ladies will have only the driver to blame for not getting the top up in time.

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