Driving the 2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class/S63 AMG Coupe, where less is most
A Poggenpohl Artesio kitchen cabinetry system, which lacks a single knob or handle on its sleek drawers and cupboards, can cost upwards of $30,000, or the equivalent of 10 top-notch kitchens from Home Depot. A pair of plain-pocketed New Standard jeans from French cult denimist A.P.C. costs $200, which is approximately 400 percent more than a pair of similarly sized Levi’s. A simple men’s titanium cuff at Tiffany will run you $525, while a hinge-linked alloy bracelet from Jared resembling a partially lubricated motorcycle chain will run you less than a third of that.
Likewise in the automotive world. Rolls-Royce’s flagship is not its opulent, omnipotent, and chauffeurably ginormous four-doored Phantom sedan, but its trimmer, smaller, unadorned two-doored Coupe. To paraphrase Modernist architect Mies van der Rohe, less is most.
Which brings us to the all-new Mercedes-Benz S550 Coupe. Now rescued from cheapening CL nomenclature and officially returned to its proper position atop the S-Class lineup, this exquisite behemoth is in nearly all respects the same as the brand’s statelier, more commodious sedan, save lacking two doors, and being more expensive. Rolls’ Phantom Coupé starts at about $30,000 over the four-door version. In this rarefied air, this big Benz is a relative bargain; the privilege of excising the $100,000 executive sedan’s rear portals will run you only about twenty grand.
Of course, for this steep ancillary surcharge, you also receive what may be the best-looking Mercedes of the 21st century. Not only is it graceful and unified (if a bit too similar from some angles to BMW’s handsome contemporary 6-Series) it is also quite aggressive. Where the sedan projects a scoffing indomitability, the coupe’s strength lies in the delicate passion with which it threatens to run you down. It is at once monolithic, yet irresistible.
As lovely as the exterior design is, things improve once you open the hefty door. The materials, fit and finish— especially with the optional perforated diamond waterfall-stitched Designo leather, everywhere— approach that of the best bespoking Brits. The seats have more power adjustments than a season of House of Cards, the twin LCD screens are rivaled for flexibility and crispness only by a room full of shojis. The new touchpad-enabled COMMAND controller redresses the clumsiness of this infotainment interface as much as a third leg on a peewee hockey player. A conjoined pair of pillar-less windows, a relatively high seating position and panoramic glass roof keeps you from feeling quashed.
Enhancing your sense of puissance are the Coupe’s available powerplants: a pair of twin-turbo V-8s in 4.7 and 5.5 liter displacements, the former embedded in the long schnoz of the S550, the later in the up-powered, up-market S63 AMG where they make 449 and 577 hp respectively. (A twin-turbo V12-endowed S65 is both rumored and inevitable.) Regardless of engine choice, these vehicles come equipped — at least for now, at least in America — solely with Benz’s rear-biased 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system. This denies us access to the latest Benz body balancing, rear-wheel-drive-only “CURVE TILTING” system (for now) but will help you greatly in putting grip behind all that grind.
In two days of bombing about the Tuscan countryside, we never found ourselves lacking for either, something that came in handy outrunning everything from diesels to Ducatis. Moreover. For a vehicle that weighs as much as the Roman aqueduct system, the ride somehow remains as supple, dense, and tenacious as warm burrata. We often praise cars by saying that they drive smaller than they are. The S Coupe drives as if it is just as big as it is, which doesn’t bother us one bit.