2017 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet first drive review Page 2

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Just as in the S-Class Coupe, the Cabriolet has the new, more gaping, expressive face of larger Mercedes-Benz cars in front, with a high waistline made interesting by soft sculpting up above and more pronounced creasing down below; the upper sheetmetal follows a hip-like contour, dipping downward around the rear wheels, to bring the S-Class Cabriolet—as the Coupe—the sensual tail of a fastback coupe, with thin taillamps that wrap around into the sides.

Likewise, the Cabriolet only looks like the direct successor to the big CL-Class models when seen in side profile; at pretty much every other angle, it’s simply a far sexier beast.

Are you ready for exuberance?

Calling it that doesn’t feel so inappriate the moment you venture past this car’s high social graces (and especially its phenomally well finished interior) and fire up the engine of the quickest model—and probably our favorite of the lineup—the exuberant Mercedes-AMG S63 Cabriolet. The S63 sounds like a brute, even though it’s responsive and confidence-inspiring.

At other times, though, there feels like a little too much boy-racer intensity baked into a vehicle that many will want to feel mature and graceful. The S63 starts with a baritone bellow, idles with the burble of a muscle car, and crackles with overrun when you lift off the accelerator. It’s bursting with enthusiasm, but it’s definitely going to be a bit over-the-top for some.

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For them, there’s the S550, which we see satisfying the vast majority of S Cabrio shoppers. It’s $45k less as well, while to the majority of passers-by it’s not going to appear any less special or exclusive—or any less enjoyable on a sunny day on the Riviera.

Superb steering for all, but AMG models still shift better

There’s one exception to that. For now, seven speeds are clearly better than nine. We much preferred the AMG Sportshift transmission, because of its very quick downshifts that didn’t upset the car’s balance as we went fast into corners, and for its snappy upshifts and great control with the steering-wheel paddles. In Sport mode, you don’t even need to use them though, as the transmission is so proactive, with downshifts the moment you dab the brake pedal.

The 9-speed follows most of the same behavior, only it doesn’t feel as confident in lower city speeds and in the tightest hairpin corners; there the AMG transmission’s clutch pack seems to show its superiority over the other transmission’s torque converter.

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