Framed by a single arch of Roman aqueduct, a vast and gorgeous beast rests momentarily beside a mountain road. Here’s the contrast between categories of man-made beauty: that which last centuries, and that which is soon made redundant by the constantly onrushing future. The brickwork is timeless, the satin-finish paintwork only a momentary joy when you stretch the time out to the framework of centuries.
Brief as the spring morning, brief as the blossoming wisteria, brief as the temporarily traffic-free stillness. Better act fast then – and holy sweet Mary mother of acceleration is this the right car for making the most of limited time.
Once, the S-class Mercedes was the finest car you could buy. Mercedes would probably like you to believe that such is still the case, but there’s plenty of competition out there. The Volkswagen auto group has Bentley. BMW has Rolls-Royce. Almost everyone offers a large, luxurious saloon car in a range of body styles.
However, the current S-class has one clear advantage: it doesn’t look like a thoughtless heap of sheetmetal thrown together by bling-addled dingbats. Have you seen, for instance, the Bentley Mulsanne? It’s the world’s most expensive Kia Amanti. And then there’s something like the BMW 6 Series cabriolet, which is pretty good until you put the top up, a top which looks like what happens every time I try to fold a fitted sheet.
But the S-class, particularly the AMG model, is just wonderful. Speaking personally, I prefer my convertibles to be skittery little sports machines, but this top-down land dreadnought is as appealing as it is large. The upwardly-curving chrome side strip on the standard model is a bit goofy, but the matte-finish S 63 I drove was utterly stunning. (Don’t ever buy matte paint though, matte paint is for people who like washing their car every 15-20 minutes and enjoy being terrified by pigeons.)
This cabriolet version is the latest body style to join the S-class range. Fans of elegant bratwurst now have six different types of sausages to enjoy, from the who-ordered-a-footlong Mercedes-Maybach Pullman, to this new open-faced frankfurter on a bun. There’s also a sleek new four-door variant reportedly on the way, another salvo in Germany’s continuing assault on the word “coupe.”
Inside, things are about as good as they are on the outside. Despite this being an AMG product, and thus of supposed sporting intent, the seats are nearly as comfortable as those you’d find in a Citroën DS21. For the record, that’s a German car, in the South of France, nearly managing to out-French the French.
Like the coupe version of the S-class, the dash of the cabriolet is dominated by two giant, high-resolution screens. Both are bright and easy to use, and didn’t seem to suffer from any reflection issues in the Mediterranean sunshine. The rest of the controls were likewise easy to use, including Mercedes long line of buttons for controlling heating and cooling functions; the Comand rotary dial control continues to have a bit of a learning curve. The Burmester stereo is capable and attractive looking, marred only by the lightly gauche “High End” script you get if you opt for the better version.