2018 Mercedes S560 4Matic Coupe Review: A Great Reason to Redistribute Global Wealth
Once hunger is a thing of the past, drivers of Mercedes-Benz’s indulgent coupe will be able to motor guilt-free.
The same week I drove the $151,395 Mercedes-Benz S560 coupe, I read the 2018 World Inequality Report. You know what the Benz’s charmingly anachronistic cigarette lighter is good for? Burning up print-outs of troubling PDFs.
Kidding, sort of. But those niggling numbers—one percent of the population hoarding a healthy one-fifth of the country’s wealth—made it a little harder than usual to slip into the persona necessary to judge a coupe like the Mercedes-Benz S560 on its merits and mission. Should anyone have something so fine?
Usually, reviews of cars of this caliber—a.k.a. the "Midwestern House Price" class—adopt the purring, aristocratic tone of its stereotypical owners. Writers, myself included, rob the Fancy Car Word Bank, hustling out with a satchel full of “proletariat,” “sybaritic,” “waft,” and “Grey Poupon.” Fake butlers are ordered around; Ferris Bueller is quoted. Getting access to a fleet of ultra-luxury cars is one of the major perks of writing about cars, as is the ensuing role play. It feels wonderfully ludicrous that I, a person with several browser tabs open about basic-access Obamacare, can drive a Mercedes-Benz S560 past some Upper East Side patrician in a late-model E350 wagon and murmur, “Oh, honey—an E-Class?”
But sometime the roleplay falters, as when construction workers look through the windshield and visibly puzzle how a guy who looks like he overslept his World Music 101 final is piloting a vehicle that has to be in the running for "world’s best car." Or when, stopped over in a small New England town for gas, the same disheveled millennial emerges from a jasmine-scented cowhide cocoon to see two guys from high school raising money for an opioid-treatment program—and in a whirlwind of guilt and awkwardness, leaves with an empty wallet and an emptier tank.
Therein lies the only problem with this Benz: It’s so good that it leaves its driver feeling guilty. The most compelling reason to redistribute global wealth is so that the rich can enjoy consummate luxuries like the S-Coupe without a chaser of shame. Surely, were every man, woman, and child issued at least a C-Class, swanning around in a $150,000 pleasurecraft wouldn’t feel so wolfish. Let’s not eat the rich; rather, let’s create an economy in which everyone eats dover sole.
Here, for the record, are the aspects of the S560 Coupe which drove me to such a political realization:
- A 4.0-liter, turbocharged V8 with enough torque at launch to seamlessly remove a toupée and the warbling tenor of a young Elvis. Thought unconfirmed by Mercedes, I swear the exhaust on the coupe is tuned more aggressively than the sedan. It blips at start-up, then settles into a pleasantly audible murmur. It sounds so good, like a demure AMG, that even the man with the recently-denuded pate would grin.
- Quilted leather so soft, lovely and fragrant that, were it used for baseball mitts, a young me would have dreaded Little League practice much less.
- A lightshow worthy of the Bee Gees. As with the Swarovski-studded headlamps, the S-Class differentiates itself from lesser Mercedes models with superior illumination: the 72-color interior-illumination options can be bisected, meaning a dash that pulses “Stayin’ Alive” red, while cooler lavender hues in the doorframe ask, “How Deep Is Your Love?”
- A dad-bod take on the exquisite schlonginess of Mercedes-AMG’s crown jewel, the AMG GT. Much has been made of Mercedes’s return to “same-sausage-different-lengths” styling, but that underplays the degree to which length makes an impression. From 50 feet away, an ignoramus might mistake the S for a C-Class coupe, but at three paes, that same fool would sit whimpering in awe of the car’s large-and-in-charge, chunky-yet-funky aura.
- The surefootedness of a Russian oligarch on the serpentine steps of his dacha. Shod with Pirelli snow tires, the 4Matic-equipped S560 coupe outran a contemporary Range Rover on a 20-miles jaunt to a ski hill in Vermont. It seems wrong to take to the snow in a car more accustomed to white powder in the glovebox, but the result was stunning winter performance. Very Chamonix.
- "General Stanley McChrystal," the name I gave to the large Swarovski piece affixed to the center console as part of the Swarovski Crystal Package. Crank up Maria Callas and lightly stroke the General as the loud Greek blares tragedy through $6,400 of Burmeister stereo, and try not to feel like you’re planning to violate the sovereignty of a small nation.
- A plodding massage in one of the coupe’s two front seats. Like a dutiful manservant, the seats will massage your back with slow, purposeful presses that never quite cohere into pleasure. Do spasms of palpation-induced delight count as distracted driving?
- Night View Assist Plus, aka NIGHT VISION, for obliterating fewer ruminants at speed. Even for those of us who somehow missed out on video games, flipping a switch and watching the tachometer and speedo melt into what looks like an infrared live stream from Mars—washed-out, grayscale, and spooky—conjures childhood thrills.
- The polished wood on the wheel. Steering a vehicle with a walnut tiller feels Victorian. It’s odd to wield such power with a lump of wood—like using a polished bookend to bludgeon a head of state, or bringing Supreme Court arguments to a close with a gavel.
So there it is. Let’s get socialist, y’all—but not the austere, Soviet way. The U.S. is monstrously rich. Surely the national coffers, once filled via sensible taxation, would allow every citizen at least a timeshare in an S560 coupe? Call it Bollinger Bolshevism, Champagne Socialism, Learjet Liberalism—whatever. It’s our national duty to get more asses in S-Classes.
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 4Matic Coupe, By the Numbers:
Base Price (Price as Tested): $124,500 ($151,395)
Powertrain: 4.0-liter turbocharged V8, 463 horsepower, 516 pound-feet of torque; nine-speed automatic; all-wheel-drive
Fuel Economy: 17 city, 27 highway (EPA)
0-60 MPH: 4.5 seconds
Top speed: 130 mph
Oddly kinky details listed as part of the Sport Package: Bodystyling, chrome tips, rubber studs