By Keith Buglewicz
Luxury cars claim to be the envy of the world's elite, but those cars envy the 2017 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Acclaimed by CEOs, heads of state, or just those who want to feel like one, the combination of power, technology, luxury, sophistication and exacting attention to detail leaves the S-Class without equal. Are there alternatives? Yes, and the BMW 7 Series, Audi A8 and Lexus LS are all impressive, yet perpetually a step behind the S-Class. This flagship sedan, coupe and new drop-top Cabriolet offer driver-assist aids and luxury trappings that are second to none, justification enough for its nearly $100,000 base price. In its most elite form, the V12-powered AMG S65 impresses beyond reason, while the eco-friendly super-rich can opt for the S550e plug-in hybrid.
You've reached the stage in life where you demand to drive the best, but you prefer understated sophistication over flashy flamboyance. That describes the 2017 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, at least the big sedan and 2-door coupe. As for the new Cabriolet, well, there's just no dialing back that kind of visual decadence.
There's the addition of the new coupe-based S-Class Cabriolet convertible, of course. On top of that, sedans get a new 9-speed automatic transmission, new 18-inch standard wheels, some reconfigured color combos, and a newly available Magic Sky Control panoramic glass roof.
There's no question the 2017 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is big, whether it's in sedan, coupe or convertible form. But "hulking" it's not, thanks to the extensive use of aluminum throughout its...
... body. It feels solid and hunkered-down on the road, which helps isolate almost all wind and road noise from the spacious cabin. The Airmatic cushion suspension uses adaptive damping to continually adjust the car's ride over various road surfaces, ensuring things inside stay serene, with a ride that's firm, but never jarring. There are high-powered AMG versions of the sedan, coupe and Cabriolet, but even the standard twin-turbocharged V8-equipped S550 is a powerful beast, sprinting to 60 mph in less than five seconds. The new 9-speed automatic transmission is smooth and seamless as it delivers power to the wheels. Of course, there are the AMG S63 4Matic and the AMG S65, offering increasing levels of performance, power and luxury.
MAGIC BODY CONTROL + ROAD-SURFACE SCAN
Rear-drive S-Class models use a stereo camera to "look" at the road ahead, interpret what kinds of bumps are about to pass under the wheels, and then adjust the suspension to ensure the smoothest possible ride. No wonder they call it "magic."
CIRCUS-QUALITY DAY-SPA OPTIONS
If you've ever experienced a luxury spa, you've wondered how you could take the experience with you. Well, here you go. The 2017 Mercedes-Benz S-Class offers a hot-stone setting on its multi-contour massaging seats. There's even aromatherapy, courtesy of the glove-box-mounted fragrance atomizer.
Yes there's wood, and yes there's leather, but that's just the starting point for luxury in the 2017 S-Class. The attention to detail, fit, finish and materials practically dares you to find a flaw. From the heated armrests, to the fragrance atomizer in the glove box, there's little that Mercedes-Benz failed to imagine its drivers and passengers might want. Two 12.3-inch high-resolution color screens relay information as your main gauges and infotainment display. An executive seating package trades the 3-across bench for two lounge-like, power-operated reclining seats. Coupes and convertibles offer generous seating fore and aft for up to four passengers.
In just under 20 seconds, the top on the 2017 S-Class Cabriolet disappears behind the rear seats, emphasizing its 16.5-foot length in such a way that you can't help saying, "Wow." Yet despite the visual impact of this car, the style is in the same spirit as the rest of the S-Class lineup: powerful and elegant, not in-your-face. Sedan, coupe and convertible alike show a clean, smooth face to the wind, with graceful lines flowing from nose to tail. The coupe is a true pillarless hardtop, while S600 and AMG models are distinguished by dual tailpipes and more aggressive front-end styling.
The 2017 S-Class costs a lot, but you get a lot. Of course you get standard leather and wood trim, automatic climate control, and all the expected luxury trappings of a modern luxury car. Standout features include 16-way-power front seats, 13-speaker Burmester audio system that will make you an audiophile if you aren't already, a navigation system and a power rear sunshade. There's also the in-cabin fragrance system. Also standard are all manner of highly advanced safety systems, including autonomous braking at speeds up to 65 mph. Another standard S-Class feature is 24-hour roadside assistance that never expires.
Massaging seats, high-tech safety gear including infrared nighttime-vision, and even a 621-horsepower engine are all available for the S-Class lineup of sedan, coupe or convertible. The safety gear includes Distronic Plus radar-based cruise control and autonomous steering, a combination that comes close to making the car autonomous. You can choose softer leather, your own individual fragrance, 4-zone climate control and mbrace Plus, with apps and access to a Mercedes-Benz concierge. If you plan on being driven in your S-Class sedan instead of driving it, there's the executive seating package, rear-cabin refrigerator, dual-screen entertainment system and power side shades for added privacy.
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan has six different powertrain choices, whereas the coupe and convertible have only three. Standard across the board is a 449-horsepower twin-turbo V8 powering the rear wheels (RWD); sedans can also get 4Matic all-wheel drive (AWD), and coupes come ONLY with AWD. Also available in all three versions is the AMG S63 4Matic with a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8, or the rear-drive AMG S65, with a twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 engine and 621 horsepower. Exclusive to the S-Class sedan is a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 hybrid model called the S550e, and a less powerful version of the V12 known as the S600. All V8-powered non-AMG S-Class models route power through an excellent 9-speed automatic transmission, whereas the AMG-tuned cars and S600 get a still-excellent 7-speed.
4.7-liter twin-turbocharged V8 (S550, S550 4Matic)
449 horsepower @ 5,250-5,550 rpm
516 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800-3,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/26 mpg (Sedan, RWD), 16/25 mpg (Sedan, AWD), 17/25 mpg (Coupe, Convertible)
3.0-liter biturbo V6/electric-assist motor (S550e)
329/116 horsepower (436 combined)
354/251 lb-ft of torque (470 lb-ft combined)
EPA city/highway (combined) fuel economy: 26 mpg
6.0-liter twin-turbocharged V12 (S600)
523 horsepower @ 4,900-5,300 rpm
612 lb-ft of torque @ 1,900-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/22 mpg
5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V8 (AMG S63 4Matic)
577 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
664 lb-ft of torque @ 2,250-3,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/23 mpg (Sedan, Coupe), 14/22 mpg (Convertible)
6.0-liter twin-turbocharged V12 (AMG S65)
621 horsepower @ 4,800-5,400 rpm
738 lb-ft of torque @ 2,300-4,300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/22 mpg (Sedan), 14/21 mpg (Convertible), 13/20 (Coupe)
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedans carry a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) ranging from $97,500 for a 2017 S550 sedan to nearly $228,000 for the AMG S65 sedan. Coupes start at $122,500 for the 2017 S550 4Matic, and range up to nearly $235,000 for the AMG S65 version. The new convertible tops the range in price, starting at $132,400 for the S550 Cabriolet, and not stopping until nearly $250,000 for the S65 AMG Cabriolet. Note this is all BEFORE adding options. The 2017 S-Class is many thousands more than V8-powered rivals from BMW, Audi and Lexus, while the AMG versions clearly have Bentley and other ultra-luxury brands in their sights. To see what S-Class buyers in your area are paying, check out the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price. Over time, the S-Class is expected to hold its value better than its German rivals, but not quite as well as the Lexus LS 460.