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Mercedes' S-Class is the benchmark by which all luxury cars are judged, whether you're talking about the hoity-toity Maybach S650 limo or the ripsnorting AMG S63. Today I'm talking about the more modest, but still outstanding 2019 Mercedes-Benz S560 4Matic Coupe.
Appealing to those who prefer to drive rather than be driven, the two-door variant of the S-Class steps down to a shorter overall length and wheelbase for more dynamic, agile performance. It also appeals to those who like to be seen, with a sleeker profile and more seductive curves than the larger, three-box sedan.
Beneath the S560's hood is Mercedes' silky, 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8, making 463 horsepower, which the Coupe sends through a 9-speed automatic transmission and standard 4Matic all-wheel drive. Smooth doesn't begin to describe the velvety, effortless power delivery of this powertrain -- it pulls away from traffic lights with a quiet, confident purr and satisfying linear acceleration. Even in its softest Comfort drive mode, the S560 feels relaxed, but never lazy. Its throttle is always fairly responsive. Its gearbox is always ready to smoothly downshift, waking the V8's 516 pound-feet of torque when you need it.
When it's time to hustle, the S560 is willing to oblige. Its M176 V8 is, essentially, a detuned version of the S63's monster motor, but even when its purr becomes a growl in its most aggressive "Dynamic drive" mode, the Coupe is still a comfortable ride and never feels or sounds unrefined.
The standard air suspension is a solid compliment for the polished powertrain, soaking up urban bumps and potholes with remarkably little drama, while still boasting fairly agile handling when you need to juke around an obstacle or tuck into a bend.
Standard stop-start technology helps the S-Class Coupe achieve a modest 17 miles per gallon city, while the air suspension's ability to aerodynamically lower at speed boosts the cruising economy to 27 mpg highway. Overall, the 2019 S560 averages out to 21 mpg combined, edging out the 2019 BMW 8 Series Coupe by a single mile per gallon.
Of course, being the epitome of Mercedes-Benz luxury means the 2019 S-Class can be had with the brand's latest generation driver assistance tech, including an adaptive cruise control system that not only maintains a prudent following distance behind a lead car, but can also adjust its cruising speed when a new posted speed limit is detected by its forward looking camera. The cruise system can also slow for bends in the road or upcoming turns in a navigation route.
This generation S-Class also features a strong lane-centering, steering-assist system that can follow bends in the road and Mercedes-Benz Active Lane Change Assist technology that can check that the adjacent lane is clear and semi-automatically steer the vehicle over the line with a tap of the turn signal stalk. I was very satisfied with adaptive cruise and lane keeping systems, but couldn't figure out the semi-automatic lane-changing system, which didn't seem quite as intuitive as the similar technology I've tested in the BMW X5 and M850i.
A surround-view camera and distance sensors aid when parking, while available Active Park Assist can automatically steer the vehicle into a parallel parking space. Rounding out the available driver aid technology are automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, a night vision camera system and rear cross-traffic alerts.
Mercedes-Benz's Energizing Comfort system is either an innovation in managing driver comfort or an unnecessary exercise in excess. Either way, it's one of my favorite S-Class features. The best way to wrap your head around the system is to think of it as drive modes for your senses.
Five of Energizing Comfort's six settings are themed around moods -- named Freshness, Warmth, Vitality, Joy and Comfort -- that tie in climate controls, audio settings, massage modes, 64-color ambient lighting, cabin fragrances and more, and are designed to enhance the driver's emotional state. Freshness, for example, sets the ambient lighting to a cool blue and green motif while the climate system blows a gentle, scented breeze across my face. Joy, on the other hand, triggers more vibrant red and yellow ambient lighting, a stimulating massage program and an upbeat music playlist.
The sixth mode is Training, which leads the driver through three exercise programs that can be done while seated. This setting can only be used while parked as it requires the driver occasionally push, pull or stretch against the steering wheel, which would be a pretty bad idea even in gridlocked traffic.
Yes, it's all a bit gimmicky, but Mercedes claims that Energizing Comfort can actually boost driver alertness and reduce fatigue. If nothing else, these presets really do help simplify the plethora of cabin comfort settings the S-Class offers.
One area where the S-Class is no longer cutting edge is in the dashboard. You won't find Benz's latest MBUX infotainment or augmented reality navigation in this generation S560, but the coupe still boasts a very modern cabin tech suite in the form of a dual-screen version of Mercedes' COMAND infotainment.
The dashboard consists of two 12.3-inch color displays -- one full-digital instrument cluster and one main infotainment screen -- bonded to a single, wide piece of glass. Neither is a touch display, but both can be controlled by a mix of touch-sensitive controls on the steering wheel and center console. I favored the two small thumb pads and a collection of buttons on the steering wheel that can be swiped and tapped, allowing almost complete control of all infotainment functions without ever letting go. There's also the familiar COMAND control knob on the center console that can be jogged, nudged and pressed to navigate the main display as well as a larger touchpad controller that floats just above it. A decent voice command system rounds out a very flexible (and redundant) suite of control methods.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard on the 2019 S560 and allow drivers to bring their own apps and maps along for the ride, should they so desire, but neither of these smartphone-powered technologies worked with the Benz's steering wheel or console touchpads. I could only control them with the physical COMAND knob, which was a bit awkward considering both were designed primarily for use on touchscreens.
Overall, I found this version of Benz's COMAND software to be an intuitive system, benefiting from years of Mercedes ironing out the various kinks and simplifying its structure. I was pleased with the high-resolution graphics and enjoyed interacting with the software and settings during my week of testing. That said, I'll be even happier when the next-gen S-Class finally gets the MBUX upgrade, which wowed me in the new A-Class.
The S-Class Coupe doesn't face many direct challengers. At the more affordable end of the spectrum is the Lexus LC 500: a surprisingly potent alternative with a gorgeous, avant garde design, if you can get past the terrible Entune infotainment. The 2019 BMW M850i xDrive is perhaps the S-Class Coupe's closest competitor, trading a bit of poshness for performance that slots somewhere between the S560 and the S63. With similar performance, prestige and price, I'd also toss the Porsche Panamera GTS into the mix; strictly speaking, it's not a coupe, but I won't hold that against it.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class starts at $101,350, but every S-Class Coupe is a at least a V8-powered, all-wheel-drive model -- there are no less-expensive V6 or rear-drive two-door variants -- bumping its base price up to $125,950 before a $995 destination fee.
As tested, my example stickered at $147,885 including destination, thanks to a flashy Designo red Nappa leather interior upgrade, AMG Line exterior styling and 20-inch wheels, in addition to driver aids and night vision tech, and a few other bits and bobs. A fully loaded example pushes the bottom line north of $160,000 with frivolous options like Swarovski crystal headlamps, but I think my tester is a good blend of must-have technologies and style, and is close to how I'd spec mine.
The 2019 Mercedes-Benz S560 4Matic Coupe walks softly and carries a big price tag, but it offers a fantastic blend of power, technology, comfort and exclusivity for the money, making it a tough act to follow.