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Mercedes-Benz S500 Coupé: the better opulence

No sooner had the ink dried on my S65 and S63 AMG Coupé reviews and someone pitched up at my house with this S500 Coupé. Now, I’m not the sportiest person on the planet, but I believe that getting three in a row – especially the only three models available – is called a hat trick, or something to that effect.

Never mind that I tested all S-Class Coupés in reverse order; from most to least powerful. Never mind indeed! Because it confirmed what I had been suspecting for some time. The cheapest Z pardon, most affordable Z model is actually the best to drive.

I’m sure that at this level of investment nobody walks into the showroom and strokes their chin while eyeing all three. Good luck finding such a showroom, by the way. You won’t find anyone turning their pockets inside out and looking under sofa cushions for a more powerful model.

No, buyers in this segment can afford all of them (and then some), so they’ll have unique reasons for choosing a certain version. Allow me to identify these. You order the S65 AMG Coupé because it’s the most powerful and expensive. Perhaps you even like the tug-boat V12 noises and unholy power outputs (463 kW/1 000 Nm).

There’s no shame in buying the less powerful S63 because I found its power minus (33 kW/100 Nm) easier to launch and the thundering V8 feels just as fast in traffic. This S500 has even less grunt but in the greater scheme of automotive things, its 335 kW and 700 Nm are still highly impressive.

And after driving the mental S65 or bonkers S63, I can tell you that an S500 feels the most controllable and civilised. It isn’t even that far removed in terms of specifications, sharing many wondrous gadgets with the other two. AMG look? No problem, just order the body kit.

This pearly-white press demonstrator had exactly that, contrasted beautifully by a bright red and black leather interior. Don’t worry, there are plenty of colour and trim options available. You also get auto self-guiding vented everything and very few space-age optional extras left to tick.

Should you be a racing and track fan, skip these giants and go straight for a Mercedes-AMG GT or GT S. For mile munching, tree stump removal and autobahn shenanigans, the two AMGs will be your best bet. Normal people, who just want to drive in opulence, buy this S500.

Hand on heart, at no point did I drop my shoulders and think “come on…” There are noticeable thinking pauses in the slowest drive/gearbox modes when going from coasting to half or full throttle, but all this can be remedied by selecting a sharper mode or taking manual control of the gears.

It took a lot of manual control. The 500 Coupé likes to burble around town at 900 rpm (no jokes!) and because I’m obsessed with engine noises, I quickly discovered this V8 has the most chilling induction howl in its mid-range. Think Rover V8 or independent throttle bodies.

You don’t even need to floor the beast to achieve these wailing sounds, nor are they intrusive. In fact, leave the car in auto mode and it doesn’t emit more than a faint rumble while changing up at 1 600 rpm. And the slightest prod of throttle calls upon a huge reserve of torque; at any speed.

Pair that to intelligent suspension and multiple driver aids to create an amazing cruise ship. Depending on model and options, the car can lean into corners like a motorbike, flatten out speed bumps, follow traffic all on its own, steer itself in your chosen lane or brew the most delicious espresso. OK, that last one’s a lie.

Better still, it looks identical to other S-Coupés and got the same attention as its AMG sisters. You can drop all four windows for that pillar-less look, the active massage seats are also identical, as is the twin-monitor instrument and infotainment system, plus its slightly bigger tyres gave more ride comfort.

If it sounds like I’m slating the AMGs, I apologise. They are phenomenally exciting and scary in their own ways. But if I had ninety eleven million Rand, I would happily order this S500 (R2 058 776) and use the R612 200 or R1 240 100 savings to turn unleaded into spine-tingling V8 howls X all day long. - Galimoto Media

Full Speclist
Engine: 4.7 V8
Transmission: 9-speed auto
Kilowatt @ RPM: 335kW
Torque @ RPM: 700Nm
Fuel consumption average: n/a
0-100 time: 4.7 sec
Top Speed: 250 km/h
List Price: R2 058 776

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