This Is the Most Luxurious Open-Air Driving Experience Mercedes Has to Offer
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz AMG SL65 is a hard-top convertible with a V12 horsepower engine that pushes it to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds. It costs $220,000, even before upgrades.
You’d think it would be the most expensive, most powerful convertible in the company's fleet. But it’s not.
That distinction belongs to a plush four-seater with a soft top, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz AMG S65 Cabriolet. This beauty has the same 6.0 liter, V12 engine with 621 hp and 738 pound-feet of torque. But it beats the SL65 in sheer gall, with prices that start at $247,900 and exceed $255,000 once you start adding options. And with a back seat that is actually viable as comfortable seating for people even more than five feet tall (a rarity with sporty convertibles), it feels much, much bigger.
If you want a wide, plush convertible that will more than hold its own against an even bigger catch, such as the Bentley Continental GT, consider the AMG S65. It’s quite expensive—maybe even too expensive, all things considered—but it delivers the most of what Mercedes has to offer for open-air driving. And that is more than enough for a memorable grand-touring experience.
I should note that fuel economy is just 14 mpg in the city, so expect to pay the $1,300 gas-guzzler tax when you buy it. That’s two mpg better than the Bentley and one mpg better than the Rolls-Royce Dawn but equal to the M6 Convertible if you buy that one with automatic transmission.
Thing is, if you’re the type of person who wants what this car has to offer, you won’t care. It can hit 60 mph in 4 seconds, with a top speed of almost 190 mph. These numbers beat most sports cars, period, let alone convertibles.
Flashy on the Outside, Even in White
I drove a diamond white AMG S65 for a week recently all around New York City and upstate in the Hudson Valley. It takes a lot for a white car to draw attention—usually that tone makes even the most dynamic body look bland—but this one beat the odds. Its twin-blade grill, high-gloss splitter, and chrome accents, even on the air intake, dressed up the bulging sides and rear enough to catch some looks. Yes, really. Photos don’t do it justice. Mercedes has also included exclusive 20-inch forged alloy rims with tiny thin spokes polished to a sheen, if you want them, and you do. It’s just as well—anything smaller would look diminished on this fatty. Did I mention the LED headlamps have Swarvoski crystal accents embedded inside them? Yeah, that too.
Oh, and I did mean fat when I said it—this car is two inches wider than the BMW M6 Convertible (nine inches if you include the mirrors), and at 4,971 pounds, 491 pounds heavier. It’s still roughly 500 pounds lighter than the Bentley Continental GT, though just as wide across.
Keep the microfiber-lined, three-layer fabric top down to get the best-looking angles, even though with the top up, it’s exceedingly quiet inside. (The neck-level warming “Airscarf” vents come standard, as do heated front door panels and console and the signature wind deflector, so you can drive the car in considerably cooler conditions than you could otherwise stand. Heated front arm rests, dual-zone climate control, and the heated rear seats and steering wheel are all optional.) The car I drove had a black top, although beige, blue, and red are also available. It deployed in 17 seconds.
In short, the AMG S65 makes a very big statement: Roll it down the road, and BOOM, everyone notices. The phenomenon would be even stronger if you bought the car in a dark color, such as navy or slate, so keep that in mind when you’re shopping.
The Car for Big and Bold Driving
Some of the attention should be chalked up to the engine note, I imagine. It’s almost tactile in its coarseness, like the sound of driving over gravel put over loudspeakers. (Related: I’m not a fan of over-carbonizing everything on cars, but the AMG carbon fiber engine cover on this thing is a great touch, because it shows off the monster underneath.) Anyway, the AMG S65 is more powerful than Mercedes’s similar AMG S63 cabriolet (V8, 577hp), so it stands to reason it would have a bigger voice to match. If you pay the $71,500 difference between them, that rougher demeanor is part of what you get, in addition to the additional torque, speed, and space—this is the more assertive of the two in every way.
You will certainly feel assertive when you drive it. The alcantara-covered AMG steering wheel ($500) is very thick, as are the knobs, the windshield views, and, really, the entire personality of this car. Driving up to Bear Mountain last Friday, I felt as though the car was hogging both lanes on the parkway—eagerly, almost greedily. The car comes with a smooth, solid, AMG-tuned 7-speed automatic transmission, with antilock intelligent braking to match the plush responsive steering. The driving feeling here would be ponderous if not for Mercedes’s progressive stability control, active dampening suspension system, and “curve dynamic assist,” which uses torque vectoring brake technology to even out control and precision in turns that lean on rear-wheel braking.
An Interior Like a Bank Safe
A price of $255,000 is a lot to pay for any car, and Mercedes has done its best to make it worth your while. The front seats come with massagers in addition to the power heaters and ventilators (the seats in the rear are optionally heated); there is voice control and Bluetooth and illuminated sills on the doors specially designed to close with the soft sound of luxury when you slam them. Take that description as you will—what is the soft sound of luxury, anyway, if not the singular sound of a very expensive car door shutting reassuringly behind you.
Carbon fiber and black piano lacquer trim ($3,700 extra) encircle the cabin of the car like a vault; you could be forgiven for treating the Nappa leather seats like lazy boy recliners instead of places for driving. They’re stuffed almost too full of padding to be comfortable. Only Bentley and Rolls-Royce give a more thickly appointed interior in a convertible on the market today.
Those are the only two automakers who give the same amount of room in the back seat, as I mentioned. Compare the Aston Martin Vanquish Volante or DB9 GT Volante or BMW M6 Convertible with this when it comes to performance, but they can’t compete with the AMG S65 if you want a proper back seat or if you want the biggest, boldest statement you can make without dipping into Bentley range.
You’ll also, of course, find Mercedes’s famous safety systems in abundance here—such things as active parking, surround views, active blind-spot assist, night view, and pedestrian recognition all come standard. So do the heads-up display and speed limit assist, which tells you the speeds on any given road, regardless of what signs are posted, and the adaptive high beams, which basically look around corners for you while you fly by at night.
Collision assist is a very real and delicate thing here too—this system physically changes the course of the car if it catches you off guard heading north, say, on the FDR. Attention Assist monitors driving patterns during the first 20 minutes of driving and then measures that profile against future driving action to see if you need a break. (It checks such things as steering inputs and all systems of the car that monitor time of day and what buttons are being pushed.) The driver assistance package mitigates collisions via an automated braking and cross-traffic alert.
It’s all a lot to take in, and a lot to manage, and this car isn’t for everyone. Those looking for ethereal driving beauty or raw connectedness to the road should look elsewhere. The Mercedes AMG S65 is a major car for people who want major driving experience. Is that you? Choose accordingly.