By: Minesh Bhagaloo
Pisa, Italy - You have to love the irony. Mercedes-Benz this week launched its all-new S-Class Coupé in a city famous for a certain leaning tower - at the same time unveiling for the first time in a Benz innovative body-leaning technology.
By now we’re familiar with the carmaker’s Magic Body Control wizardry, which debuted in the S-Class sedan, which scans the road ahead before priming the suspension for potholes and other road imperfections. Merc’s stylish new two-door Coupé takes this magic carpet ride tech a step further with the incorporation of a Curve Tilting function, allowing for the car’s body to lean into a bend - much like a biker or skier would - thereby reducing lateral forces on the driver and passengers.
COMFORT IN CORNERS
Merc reckons the aim is not greater cornering speed but greater passenger comfort. The system detects curves through both a camera behind the windscreen and lateral body sensors, and will work at speeds between 15km/h and 180km/h.
I tried this Curve Tilting functionality driving along the twisty Tuscan countryside roads and it’s a subtle technology: rather than improving your corner-carving ability the lateral acceleration acting upon the occupants is reduced. Similar to driving in a high-bank curve, the passengers sit tighter in their seats. Curve Tilting is one part of three body control driver modes - Comfort, Sport and Curve - and won’t assist unless you ask it to.
It does work though, and you sense the car leaning into corners for a more relaxed experience.
The tilting function is only available in rear-wheel drive S Coupés - which suits our market perfectly as we won’t get the all-wheel drive 4Matic derivatives. Expect it as an option in the S500 Coupé, and standard in the S63 AMG Coupé when the cars are launched in South Africa in November.
As for renaming the CL to S-Class Coupé? Mercedes explains that the S-Class badge has always been the range topper, and the large coupé is the absolute star atop Merc’s Christmas tree. Merc wants the new Coupé to be recognised again as an S-Class car, and not a different range with a different badge identity.
TWO MODELS FOR SA
The two models coming to South Africa in November are the 335kW/700Nm S500 Coupé (powered by a 4.7-litre biturbo V8) and the manic 430kW/900Nm S63 AMG Coupé (a 5.5-litre biturbo V8). But wait till January to place your order for the S500 and you’ll get Merc’s new nine-speed auto transmission instead of the existing 7G-tronic. The S63 gets the more-familiar seven-speed Multi Clutch (MCT), but sans launch control.
Tilting tech aside, Mercedes claims its big coupé is the world’s quietest series-production car. The aero-acoustic experts in Stuttgart targeted wind noise with the Coupé’s body design and door sealing, and the result is a cabin that’s truly whisper quiet.
In terms of its styling, the final product is not far off the concept version revealed at last year’s Frankfurt motor show. The mostly-aluminium Coupé’s sensuous styling is characterised by a long bonnet with power domes, pronounced body lines, bold wheel arches (with wheel sizes starting at 18”) and broad shoulders. There’s also a panoramic roof (with optional Magic Sky Control) and elegant 1.4 metre-long pillarless doors. This is one sleek seductress, with overall length pegged at just over the five metre mark. The optional LED headlights are encrusted with Swarovski crystals (you may want to bounce this part off your insurer).
CABIN IS TRULY GRAND
The cabin was clearly aimed at rivalling the Bentley Continentals and Rolls-Royce Wraiths of this world, with no expense spared with the finishing touches. The two-part information screen hovers prominently in the Coupé; air vents and switches get a “Silver Shadow” finish (a definite dig at Rolls-Royce); and there’s an optional touchpad in front of the armrest which allows for handwritten infotainment commands.
Both front and rear seats are standalone pieces (but rear legroom is still left wanting); the head-up display is sharper than in the S-Class sedan, offering higher-res imagery and auto-brightness adjustments; the Supersport steering wheel is new; and the centre-console runs all the way to the rear.
And yes, all those special S-Class options are a tick away. You can have your two-door limo specced with everything from fragranced air and heated armrests, to seats with hot stone massage functions and a Burmester 3D surround system that will rival the Royal Albert Hall.
Driving the latest S-Class through the scenic Italian countryside, I couldn’t help but reflect on just what a grand dame it is.
Where Merc’s SL roadster is more flash and brash, the S Coupé is pure opulence - especially when it just about idles along in ninth at 120km/h. It wafts through corners and along straights with a definite air and grace about it.
This is one poised Grand Tourer - it certainly doesn’t pretend to be anything else.