The 2016 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is no longer the flagship of the German automaker's lineup; it's a complex set of flagships, with Coupe, Cabriolet (convertible), and sedan versions, and powertrains including all-wheel drive versions, high-performance AMG versions, and even a new S550e plug-in hybrid.
And although not everyone will pick the same model, or the same build, the S-Class remains the one to get when you value technology, engineering, and some of the most advanced active safety and occupant protection in the world—perhaps a bit more than lavish, hand-crafted displays of wealth and 'bespoke' exclusivity.
Last year a new Coupe joined the lineup; and for 2016 there's an S-Class Cabriolet, including an excellent three-layer soft top, a wondrously complex climate-control system, and the much-loved Airscarf system, which wafts just the right amount of warm air to your neck, allowing you to enjoy chilly yet beautiful spring or fall (or winter) days. And yes, even the Cabriolet can now be equipped with all-wheel drive.
The Coupe itself remains a stunner, flaunting a striking profile and a unique roofline compared to the sedan. Details are familiar but bolder, with arching character lines that look crisper, and a tauter, more horizontal look to the rear styling. In front, the S-Class Coupe gets details that are much like those of the Sedans, with a more upright, broad-set grille, angular full-LED headlamps (which can host 47 Swarovski crystals), and large air intakes.
Inside, the Coupe and Sedan are more in sync, although they're not identical. We'd say it's the same design in the Coupe, only mapped to a slimmer form. In both cases, it's radically different than the layout of the previous, fifth-generation S-Class, with a clean, twin-tier horizontal look adorned with high-contrast materials, round vents, and more brightwork and accents.
The S550 models have a twin-turbocharged 4.6-liter V-8 engine, teamed to a 7-speed automatic with paddle shift controls and a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive (4Matic) for sedans, or all-wheel-drive only for coupes. These models make 449 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, and It's the epitome of a luxury-flagship powertrain, an effortless performer, in tandem with the standard air suspension.
One of the best—among the S-Class' many features—is the available stereo camera that predicts the road surface ahead of the S-Class, giving it adaptive control over the ride quality in a way that works so well (provided it's in Comfort mode) that it feels rather magical.
While the S-Class was first launched in just one guise: the S550, with a twin-turbo V-8, it's been joined by a high-performance S63 AMG 4Matic model, and flagship S600 and S65 AMG models. The S63 AMG gets a larger, 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8, making 577 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque (and all-wheel drive)—and the quickest 0-60 mph acceleration in the lineup, at 3.9 seconds—while the rear-wheel drive S65 AMG has a twin-turbo V-12 making 621 hp and 738 lb-ft.
The new S-Class Coupe in particular emphasizes driving enjoyment, though its luxury-first nature dissuades you from sports car-style shenanigans.
And there is, by the way, another model that takes off in a dramatically different direction. The Mercedes-Maybach S600, priced around $190k to start, brings an opulent look aiming at Rolls-Royce, pushes all of the technology and feature buttons at once, and adds eight inches in total length for a truly limousine-like cabin.
Meanwhile, the S550e Plug-In Hybrid offers a fresh take on the S-Class family, to please those who might want to impress their dinner guests with all-electric motoring, perhaps, if for short distances. The S550 will go for 12 miles in all-electric mode, and with an 85-kW electric motor system packaged with the transmission, its powertrain makes a combined 436 horsepower and it can dash to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds. Or in 'normal' driving, it'll return 26 mpg Combined.