One of the most coveted Mercedes of the past half-century is the 1969 280SE 3.5 Cabriolet with its baroque chrome grille, folding roof, and slab sides. Steering is imprecise enough that drivers more encouraged it in the right direction than steer, but there’s nothing like feeling it float down the road with the top down. Wealthy sun-seekers waited over four decades for another large Mercedes Cabrio to come out, but the S560 Cabriolet — a luxury float for the left lane — was worth it.
It’s an exquisitely beautiful car, faced by Mercedes’ sport grille with large star hung on a single lamella. The hood wears twin bulges from the classic 300SL Gullwing. Look close and you’ll notice 19” AMG wheels, real Swarovski crystal headlamp accents, and LED taillights that twinkle off when parking.
The light beige and brown interior will get dirty, but it’s soothing, as are the heated/cooled front seats, heated armrests, and heated neck scarf that kills the chill on clear fall days. Black Piano Lacquer wood sweeps from the dashboard into the doors while soft ambient lighting add allure. The Burmester 3D audio system sets your home system on the curb. Travel light because rear seat and luggage space are limited.
Front occupants are greeted with twin flatscreens in the dash — one each for gauges and infotainment. Use the knurled aluminum joywheel to select functions. Connect smart phones via Bluetooth and tap into 4G Wi-Fi to conjure the cloud Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make summoning devices easy.
Historically, an “S560” would imply a 5.6-liter V8 under-hood, but boot-lid digits are more about inspiration than accuracy as the car employs a 463-horsepower 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, connected to a nine-speed transmission. Stomp down and it sounds positively boisterous through the cotton roof as the turbos deliver massive torque and shove the big car forward at an ever-increasing rate. Fuel economy rates 17/26-MPG city/highway.
Keeping this luxury float on the street is a suite of safety technology that’s second to none. Blind-spot warning, lane-keep assist, forward-collision mitigation, and rear cross-path detection systems are expected. Going further is a lane-centering system that steers around curves. Should the car detect you’re changing lanes quickly, it over-boosts the steering for crisper response. Like magic.
Balancing performance and luxury, the AIRMATIC suspension can be tuned for wafting old-world Comfort, fuel-optimized Eco, or corner-carving Sport. Still, there’s something about the relaxed demeanor of the Cabrio that encourages you to leave it in Comfort mode where it can waft down city boulevards or miles of interstate. Even at speed, the interior suffers virtually no wind noise and is quiet enough to hear every note from the audio system.
If you’re seduced by the S560 Cabriolet, be prepared to write a heavy check of at least $133,300, rising to $154,595 as optioned — a relative deal considering pristine 280SE 3.5s can command over a quarter-million dollars. Competitors include the Bentley Continental GT, Rolls-Royce Dawn, and BMW 8-Series.