This car comes with everything, even its own jewelry.
If you see someone driving around on a cold winter day with the top down on a Mercedes Benz S550 Carbriolet, don’t assume she’s nuts. Assume she’s spoiled—this car has every luxury you can possibly imagine. Assume she’s smart—many of the car’s features take time and investigation to learn to use. And, assume that she’s warm—keep reading: We were truly surprised at how comfortable this car was with the top down, even in freezing temperatures.
Who This Car is For
- Buyers of ultimate luxury cars
- Singles or couples
- Buyers who might occasionally have a rear seat passenger
- Buyers who love a convertible
- Drivers who love leading technology
- Drivers with the patience to learn how to use all that technology
- Drivers who want a performance-quality drive experience
What it Costs
- Base price: $131,000
- Sport package (body styling and 19-inch AMG wheels) $5,900
- Swarovski Crystal headlamp accents $1,750
- Specialty wheels $2,600
- Designo premium leather interior and black lacquer accents $4,550
- Premium package (head up display, rapid heating front seats, surround view camera system) $3,500
- Warmth and comfort package (heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, heated front arm rests) $1,990
- Multi-function steering wheel $590
- Burmester high end sound system $6,400
- Driver assistance package (adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot monitors $2,250)
- Night vision assist $2,260
- Price of the model we test drove: $161,675
What was that about jewelry?
Yes, the S550 Cabriolet is a beauty and every beauty should be bejeweled, right? So Mercedes-Benz collaborated with Austrian crystal maker and jewelry powerhouse Swarovski to produce crystal-accented headlights. The design is distinct but elegant, not overly bedazzled, giving the car’s front end just the right amount of bling.
The Swarovski headlights are complimented by the ‘diamond’ front grille that masks the air intake vents, cameras and sensors, and the flared front fender frames the car with an elegant flounce. The overall effect is sublime, but not in a girly or garish way.
Pricey, yes, but there’s a lot to love
This might be the biggest stumbling block for buyers: the price tag. But for those in this market, it’s probably not: these buyers are shopping features and amenities, and the S550 doesn’t disappoint. The designers of the S550 truly thought of everything — with one caveat, but more on that later— and packaged it all in an intuitive, easy-to-use (though a lot to learn) package.
The ultimate convertible experience — this goes way beyond heated seats
If you’ve ever visited California in the winter and made that impulsive decision at the rental car counter to get a convertible, then you know how Californians do it: top down, heat on full blast, because it’s California, you have to! Mercedes designers got this and so much more right.
First, the convertible top is a one-button control, up or down. The control button is in the center arm rest (which opens two ways, either toward the driver or the passenger—so clever!). The top can be opened or closed while you’re driving (at up to 28 miles per hour) so there’s no need to pull off the road when the mood hits you to put the top down.
The top stores in a compartment between the trunk and the rear seat. When the top is up, there’s a little more space in the trunk, which I found to be pretty ample for groceries and shopping bags, even with the top down. When the top is down, there’s a partition that separates the trunk area from the top to protect the top from rolling milk jugs (or hard sided suitcases).
Then, the heat: Of course, there are heated front and rear seats (rapid heating front seats!), but there are also heated arm rests (yes!), a heated steering wheel and warm air vents on the headrests that warm your neck. Of course all these functions are controllable so you can turn them on or off as you like.
Great for winter driving? YES!
Our test drive took place in December in Connecticut on a bitterly cold week. No matter. We put the top down and went Christmas shopping. Glowing in the warmth of the S550 while taking in the crisp winter air, it was delightful to fully appreciate the bright holiday lights and dark skies of the season. At one point I got out of the car to take photos and had to hop back in quickly because—even with the top down—it was so much warmer in the car than it was outside.
What’s NOT great for winter driving: Winter tires are needed
If I bought this car, I’d be sure to invest in winter tires, too. All wheel drive (4Matic, in Mercedes-Benz speak) is not an option on the S550 Cabriolet, but with all the warming technology in the cabin, you’d be tempted to drive it on snowy roads.
Don’t try it unless it’s outfitted with snow tires. Seriously. I got stuck in a surprise snow storm and had to drive at a crawl with hazard lights flashing, and still felt the traction slip here and there. A lucky white-knuckle hour later I was parked and safe, but not able to drive it again until the roads were clear.
Entertainment and technology at your finger tips
The Mercedes Benz interface is a point of pride for the company, and for good reason: Everything is easily within reach, intuitive to use and you can select things as you wish: both buttons and a mouse are at your fingertips, and everything is displayed on the screen. When using the buttons, once I accessed the function I wanted (radio, for instance) I still had to use the mouse or dial to scroll through the options (the screen is not a touch screen).
I found everything easy to use, from adjusting the massaging seats and cabin heat to scrolling through the radio presets. The phone paired easily and navigation was easy to see and use. Probably the thing I liked most was the easy to scroll through radio presets and browsing; once I set it up it was really easy scroll through my stations and find new ones.
The M-B DNA: Cutting edge safety and technology
If you’ve never owned a Mercedes-Benz, this is the secret to the sauce: technology. The Mercedes-Benz team clearly loves every angle and aspect of doing thing smarter, better, more efficiently, and of course, first. The S class is the pinnacle of that engineering, where features debut before they trickle down to other models (and other car brands). Here are the tech features that we found amazing:
- Night vision assist: A thermal imaging camera lets you see what you might not be able to with the naked eye
- Seat belt presenter: An arm extends to ‘present’ your seat belt when you get into the car (designed for a convertible, which can have longer doors and make the seat belt hard to reach)
- Parktronic with active parking assist (or, self parking, which parks the car while you control gas/brake)
- Head up display, always a great thing to have and becoming more popular
- Surround view camera: A variety of views are great to have, especially when the top is up
- Safety and assistance features including Distronic Plus (adaptive cruise control), steering assist, lane keep assist, blind spot monitors, predictive braking, cross traffic alert
The S550 also has automatic high beams, which I love in general but found hard to use when I drove into that snowstorm; the lights automatically adjust based on reflections such as lights from other cars, pedestrians or bright signs. I was not able to figure out how to disable the function making the drive in the snow that much more harrowing.
Also in the MB DNA: Luxury finishes and materials
The promise of the Swarovski head lights and diamond grille are carried over in the interior. From the super soft headliner (ceiling cover), which is thick and plush, to the leather Designo (pronounced de-sin-yo) massaging seats (this isn’t Shiatsu, but it won’t lull you to sleep either) to the hand stitched, soft touch leather literally everywhere, there is no detail or corner of the car that is untouched. I especially liked the Piano black lacquer trim with flowing lines; it draws your eye to the controls and details. You could spend years taking it all in and it’ll still feel fresh and fulfilling each time.
Electric auto-forward front seats make the rear seat even more accessible
Even though most drivers of the S550 Cabriolet might ignore the back seat—a hardly used necessity—I can’t. I have kids. They were excited to take a ride with the top down, despite the 29 degree temp outside. So my 5’8” daughter climbed into the back seat and was wowed. She had plenty of leg room and with the top up, plenty of head room. She loved the heated seat and that the front seats automatically moved forward to help her getting into the back seat when she pulled on the seat’s shoulder tab.
I also found the seat easy to fold forward to put my handbag on the rear seat—necessary when I had a front seat passenger.
The drive experience — maybe the top reason drivers will love this car
In a car of this caliber you’d expect track-quality performance, even if you never take it to the track. Mercedes-Benz added a 449 horsepower engine with an air suspension system that makes for a super smooth ride, or put it in sport mode and use the paddle shifters for a little extra excitement. True to the Mercedes-Benz DNA, the S550 Cabriolet was super responsive and fast, taking corners quick and tight. A setting on the seats engages the side bolsters when you take a corner so the seats literally ‘hug’ you so you are one with the car through the turn.
One thing you don’t see on the S550 Cabriolet are roll bars—required safety equipment for convertibles on many tracks and preferred equipment if you drive on a highway with the top down. They’re there, just not visible. If a potential crash is detected, roll bars pop up behind the rear seat and on either side of the drivers and passengers side seats.
What We Loved
- Swarovski headlight details
- Massaging seats
- One touch convertible top
- Arm rest (with 2 USB ports) that opens to the driver or passenger
- Super intuitive infotainment control system
- Heated EVERYTHING
- Super luxe interior
- Night Vision camera
- Head up display
- Beautiful Ruby Black Metallic color
- Electric auto-forward seats make getting in and out of the back easy
- Buttons for everything (as well as mouse/dial control)
- Burmester premium sound system
What You Need to Know
- Winter tires necessary for driving in snow
- This is a big, powerful engine: V8 biturbo
- Many premium features are an additional cost
- 17 MPG city/25 MPG highway
- Premium fuel required
Music that will put you in the Mercedes-Benz S550 zone
Our playlist takes you from high art to full fledged soar!
Disclosure: Mercedes-Benz provided the S550 Cabriolet for my test drive. Opinions and ill-advised snow storm driving are all my own.