The 2019 S-Class from Mercedes has undergone a midlife "refresh," we're told, but a closer examination reveals it's more refreshing than one might think.
Take the AMG S63 Cabriolet: At first glance, one sees the same elegant front fascia, muscular hood and smooth profile. But it also has some striking new design tweaks, like new tail lights comprised of 66 "floating" organic LEDs that present a virtual 3-D light show when the car is locked or unlocked. And new 20-inch, 10-spoke wheels with red brake calipers. And revised bumpers and exhaust tips. Add some new technology and safety gadgets and classy new interior trims, and it's one pretty impressive "refresh."
The Cabrio, launched in 2015, keeps its coupe-like appearance with a rigid three-layer fabric roof, which minimizes noise. The top goes up or down in 20 seconds, at speeds up to 37 mph, and an electric divider automatically partitions the trunk to stash the roof _ yet still leave seven cubes of space for luggage. Mercedes' Air-Scarf neck heater, which allows you to expand the top-down season, and wind deflectors both are standard features for 2019.
A Warmth Comfort Package ($1,990) adds heated front armrests and steering wheel. A new flat-bottom AMG performance steering wheel (in wood-leather) is racy but also functional: It has touch-sensitive controls that enable you to toggle through all the menus on the 12.3-inch dual screens. That means, for the first time, you never have to take your hands off the wheel.
There are three different layouts on the digital instrument panel _ Classic, Sporty or Progressive _ and they are adaptable so you can reconfigure the data to your liking. The navigation map, too, was updated this year to include helpful alerts on the weather, fuel prices and free parking along your route.
The 2019 has three new wood trims: a glossy brown burl walnut, satin-finish ash gray, and something called Designo Magnolia Flowing Lines which is really striking. Most important to AMGers is the powerplant, led by a hand-built 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine that builds to 603 hp and 664 pound-feet of torque. It delivers the 4,800-pound bull-turned-cheetah to 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds. It's not a punishing sprint but a smooth, forceful run through the nine gears. The multi-clutch transmission will, however, lurch aggressively when the accelerator is mashed. And, it's not overly loud unless you want it to be _ there is a button to ramp up the exhaust volume. Credit Merc's 4Matic all-wheel-drive system for the superb handling, balance and traction on curves.
The front seat — exquisitely quilted and contoured — has active side bolsters to provide lateral support on corners. Mercedes' Airmatic suspension continually adapts to road conditions and can even self-level to account for varying loads. Fuel economy is aided by a cylinder deactivation system but the S63 AMG isn't here for mpg bragging rights. EPA estimates 15 mpg city, 24 highway for 18 combined.
New tech-safety options include a Driver Assist Package ($2,250) which essentially converts the S63 into a semi-autonomous vehicle. An Active Distance feature keeps it a safe distance from the car in front and takes evasive action if necessary. Active Speed automatically adjusts the speed ahead of curves and intersections. Mercedes' flagship cabriolet was already one of the best full-size drop-tops out there. The new safety aids, AMG power and design choices just strengthen the argument.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Barry Spyker was the automotive columnist for The Miami Herald and editor of its Wheels & Waves section. Readers may send him email at email@example.com.
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