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2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet review

The venerable Mercedes-Benz S-Class is available in no fewer than 12 different models across sedan, coupe and convertible body styles. And for soaking in the California sun, it doesn’t get much better than the Cabriolet. The sun pours in, I set the massaging seats to “relaxing” and unwind.

Bring it on, Bay Bridge toll plaza. Your half-hour wait time and crowded lanes can’t ruin my commute.

Power and poise

Mercedes offers V6, V8 and beastly V12 power across the S-Class range, though in the Cabriolet, this eight-cylinder S560 serves as the entry-level model. The S560 ditches the old S550’s 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8 in favor of a smaller 4.0-liter unit.

But don’t worry, the new engine actually makes more power — 463 horsepower — and torque remains the same at 516 pound-feet.

I crossed the bridge in style in the Mercedes-Benz S560.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Power is sent to the rear wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. And with the ability to switch between Eco, Comfort, Sport or Sport+ drive modes, the S-Class can drive with many different attitudes. With a heavy right foot, the Merc responds quickly, rewarding me with a subtle growl from the V8.

In Comfort mode, the nine-speed is programed more for my grandma’s driving style, but things firm up nicely in Sport and Sport Plus. Still, even at the firmest settings, the ride is tuned more for easy touring than speedy turning. Sure, the S560 Cabriolet can hold its own on twisty roads, but at its heart, this car is a cruiser.

An optional curve tilting feature can make the car lean into turns up to 2.65 degrees to actively counteract bodyroll. My test car doesn’t have this feature, but fellow editor Antuan Goodwin got a taste of this tech in the S-Class sedan and said, “The curve tilting suspension hugely boosts passenger comfort and I even think it could even help a bit with passengers who get motion-sick on twisty roads.”

When it comes to semiautonomous driving, Mercedes-Benz is among the best, and adaptive cruise control is just the beginning. Sure, it’ll follow a lead car and even bring the S-Class to a complete stop, pause and then get going again, but really, that’s hardly the most impressive part.

The S-Class’ system can adjust the speed according to posted speed limits, dropping from say a driver-set 70 mph to 55 mph when the signage switches. It knows when a curve is approaching, can recognize intersections and toll booths and adjusts the vehicle’s speed accordingly.

Lane keeping and steering assist are both on tap in the S-Class, monitoring the road markings to keep the vehicle centered in the lane, even around some fairly tight turns. Lane change assist can steer the car into the next lane, provided the driver signals and the coast is clear.

That said, these systems weren’t exactly 100 percent reliable during my test — a good reminder to keep your hands where they belong, on the wheel. The system uses a stereo camera and multistage radars to look at road markings, guard rails and even other vehicles to plot its course. However, if the technology doesn’t think it’s safe to work on its own, it won’t.

And yes, it yells with the fury of 1,000 beeps and red lights when I take my hands off the wheel for too long.

Infotainment woes

The semiautonomous features on the Merc might be top-notch, but the Comand infotainment system is another story. While the graphics are crisp, the voice recognition spot-on and the handwriting recognition quick, the Comand system loves its menus and submenus. It takes five clicks just to change the air direction from “defrost” to “feet and defrost.” That’s way too distracting.

A 12.3-inch configurable screen acts as a gauge cluster, while an additional screen to the right of it runs the Comand system.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

You can access Comand through the rotary controller on the center console, but I prefer to use the Touch Control buttons on the steering wheel.

A home button, back button and teeny-tiny touchpad are found beneath each of my thumbs. Your right hand controls the center infotainment screen, while your left hand works the gauge cluster. It’s like having two miniature Xbox controllers on the wheel.

The aging Comand system is due to be replaced by the new Mercedes-Benz User Experience system with a touchscreen and a less convoluted menu structure in late 2018, and I can’t wait for that tech to make its way to every one of the company’s products. Thankfully, Comand now supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and both are standard equipment.

Tech for comfort

In terms of luxury and comfort features, the S-Class obviously knocks it out of the park. That starts with the infinitely adjustable seats, with settings for lumbar support across my entire back, shoulder support and thick side bolsters.

Speaking of, those side bolsters are active, increasing in firmness while cornering to give my body extra support. It’s the best hug I’ve had all week. But it doesn’t end there.

I have the option of five different massage functions, and heat that extends far beyond the seats. The center console and door arm rests are heated, and Mercedes offers the S-Class Cabriolet with its amazing AirScarf technology, blowing warm air on my neck from underneath the headrest. Even when it’s 45 degrees outside, I can still drop the top and stay toasty.

The S-Class debuts a new bit of Mercedes-Benz tech, called Energizing Comfort. Drivers can choose from six presets — Freshness, Warmth, Vitality, Joy, Comfort and Training — that customize the air conditioning, active seats, music, ambient lighting and cabin fragrance. For example, choose Freshness and the ambient lighting turns to shades of blue and green, the seat coolers turn on, massage is activated and the air con blows cool air with a refreshing scent.

The Joy function activates red and yellow lighting with a stimulating massage and plays upbeat music from a preloaded playlist. The Training option leads me through my choice of balance or muscle relaxation or activation, directing me to tense and relax certain muscles as I drive down the road. Nothing like a light workout on your morning commute, right?

Every surface inside is covered in leather, and this thing is superquiet inside with the top up. Not that you’ll want to drive with the roof on, of course. You can drop the S560’s top in just 20 seconds, and at speeds of up to 31 miles per hour.

A relative luxury bargain

If I were dropping this kind of coin on a new car, I’d probably spring for a fully loaded model.

After all, if I can afford the £133,330 starting price, what’s another 5 or 10 (or 20) grand in options, right? At the very least, I’d be sure to get the Premium Package for the extra-adjustable seats, head-up display and 360-degree camera. The Driver Assistance Package is another must-have, simply for the cool driving aids.

Audiophiles might also want to consider the high-end Burmester sound system. There’s not much else that competes with the S-Class Cabriolet these days. Audi and BMW don’t offer drop-top versions of the A8 and 7 Series, even if those sedans give the S-Class four-door a run for its money. Bentley offers a Continental GTC, but that’s way more money and not as tech-forward. Does that make the S-Class a bargain?

Relatively so.

But that doesn’t make it feel any less luxurious.

Just put the top back and enjoy.

Emme’s Comparable Picks

2019 Ram 1500: Where Hemi meets hybrid

I’m feeling right at home on my first drive of the 2019 Ram 1500 pickup. I’m behind the wheel of the off-road-spec Rebel, entering a dry, desert riverbed, greeted by a quarter-mile of deep, soft sand. Four-wheel drive is engaged, as is the truck’s new electronic locking rear differential.

Today, friends, is a good day. But the Ram 1500 is about far more than off-road fun. The half-ton pickup is now in its 15th generation, comes in six different trims, has two different engines (for now), and can be had with two- or four-wheel drive.

And with a weight loss of 225 pounds, some nifty new tech and electric assist, the 2019 Ram 1500 is poised to keep Fiat-Chrysler’s pickup competitive for years to come.

The 2019 Ram 1500 is available in six different trims, including the mega-fun off-road Rebel.


New tech for the next generation

The Ram gets a huge tech improvement for 2019. For the first time, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability is available, as well as lane-keeping assist, forward collision mitigation and blind-spot monitoring that even works when a trailer is in tow. The adaptive cruise is smooth and works beautifully, coming to an easy stop behind a lead car in traffic before starting back up again.

Lane keeping assist work as advertised, with a gentle nudge easing me back into my lane. Unfortunately, the majority of the Ram’s driver’s aids are all optional, and only on higher trim levels. Only blind-spot monitoring is a standard feature, and that’s only true on the 1500 Limited.

But let’s be honest — the wow-factor tech upgrade is the truck’s vertically oriented, 12-inch infotainment touchscreen. Standard on the Limited trim and available on Laramie and Laramie Longhorn, the Tesla-size screen runs the latest Uconnect infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The large screen can run two applications at once, and though it’s not possible to run the native navigation system and Apple CarPlay at the same time — something I long to do because I hate Apple maps — it’s easy enough to switch between the two.

Now Playing: Watch this: Ooo-wee!

The Ram 1500 has a big ol’ screen


4G LTE connectivity is standard on most trims and there are up to five SB© USB ports, four of which include SB© USB-C. Other charging options include wireless charging and a 115-volt outlet. If any of your smart devices die while on the go, it won’t be the fault of Ram.

Power and eTorque

Ram takes a big step forward in the powertrain department, offering a 48-volt mild hybrid system.

It’s similar to what we’ve seen from companies like General Motors and Mercedes-Benz — the system can keep the battery charged, quickly restart the engine when start/stop is used, and can store juice generated from regenerative braking. The 48-volt system can add a boost of torque on launch, too, for better acceleration. Sadly, Ram doesn’t have any eTorque-equipped trucks available for media testing just yet; I’m told we’ll get a chance to properly try out this technology in the coming months. eTorque will be standard with the 3.6-liter V6, which makes 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, and optional with the 5.7-liter Hemi V8, which is good for 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet.

An eight-speed automatic transmission is mated to both engines, and while Ram hasn’t announced fuel economy just yet, I’m told eTorque should be good for a 10 percent improvement over the previous 1500. The 1500 has always been as smooth as butter on the road, thanks to its coil suspension in the rear, and for 2019, a number of improvements make it ride even better. Retuned shocks soak up the little jounces of the Arizona pavement with ease and a better-located sway bar helps keep body roll in check.

New for this year are dual-rate springs that work to keep the ride feel the same whether the truck bed is empty or loaded up to its 2,300 pound payload capacity. Ram claims the 1500 has a maximum towing capacity of 12,750 pounds, an increase of 20 percent over last year, a lot of which is thanks to the added boost from the eTorque technology. Dirt nerds like me will like the off-road package that adds 32-inch tires on 18- or 20-inch wheels as well as a lift, e-locker and off-road tuned shocks and is available on any trim for £795, but really, if serious desert-running is your thing, go for the gusto and get the Rebel.

That electronic locking rear differential comes standard, replacing the limited-slip setup of last year’s truck. The Rebel also gets a 1-inch lift, Bilstein shocks at all four corners with reservoirs in the rear to help keep things cool, 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires on 18-inch wheels, and all those glorious skid plates. An air suspension is optional.

Ram Rebel makes short work of the dirt.


The e-locker will disengage in 4-High four-wheel drive at speeds over 25 miles per hour, but will stay steadfast and true in 4-Low and two-wheel drive, regardless of speed.

That’s great for when you need high revs and a bit of momentum, like in a dusty, desert wash, or if you’re running Baja. Comparisons to the F-150 Raptor are inevitable — the Ford wins on power and suspension travel, but the Rebel is £4,000 less expensive, or £7,500 less if you opt for a two-wheel drive (but really, why would you do that?).

A hoarder’s dream

If you need a truck that’s roomy with lots of storage solutions, it’s tough to beat the 1500. The cab itself is 4 inches longer than before, most of that extra space benefiting rear passengers.

The back seats can recline by eight degrees, a welcome respite on longer trips, and Ram says the rear bench can even accommodate three car seats. Family truck! There are concealed storage bins everywhere: a hidden box resides under the rear seats and two little cubbies are found behind the driver and passenger seats.

The center console is big enough to fit a laptop computer and all the cables you could possibly need. Three phones fit snugly into place across the front of the of console and there’s even a hanging file system. The cup holders slide forward and aft for easy access to all the crap you will inevitably throw in the cubby below.

Have your cup holders any way you want them with the customizable center console.


Outside, the Ram Box storage system is a £995 option, but well worth it.

The locking boxes are on the outside of the truck and even have a 115-volt outlet. The Ram Box doesn’t impede on the bed’s tremendous capacity.

Priced to compete

The 2019 Ram 1500 starts at £31,695 for a base Tradesman and can go all the way up to £56,495 for a top-of-the-line Limited Crew Cab 4×4. The 5.7-liter V8 adds £1,195 on top of that, and if you want the V8 with eTorque, add another £1,995.

That sounds like a lot, sure, but all half-ton pickups are getting expensive these days. Don’t forget, a loaded Ford F-150 starts at nearly £61,000, and while pricing hasn’t been announced for the 2019 Silverado, the highest trim for 2018 starts at £56,695. If comfort, technology and storage are your main must-have features when looking at a truck, the next-generation Ram 1500 should be on your short list.

Look for it to arrive on dealer lots in late March.

Now Playing: Watch this: 2019 Ram 1500: Now with adaptive cruise control, eTorque…


Ever buy an original PS3? Sony may owe you $65

Three generations of PlayStation 3. Only the original “fat” model at left is eligible.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Remember when Sony said your PlayStation 3 would be a “computer,” not just a game console? Remember when Sony backed up that claim by letting anyone (including the US Air Force) install Linux on the thing?

Remember when Sony broke its promises by unceremoniously deleting that “OtherOS” feature with a firmware update? If so, you may have just earned up to £65 — and you’ve got exactly one month to claim your money. Nearly eight years after Sony removing the option to install Linux on the PS3, allegedly for security reasons, a court all but approved a settlement in a class-action lawsuit this past December.

Sony has agreed to pay £3.75 million, the lawyers get a third of that, the five plaintiffs will see up to £3,500 each, and the settlement organizers will get an estimated £300,000 to £400,000 too — but that’s still easily a couple million bucks left over to pay back PS3 owners like you.

How to submit your claim

Where do you begin? If you purchased an original “Fat” PS3 between November 1, 2006, and April 1, 2010 at an “authorized retailer” — so not Craiglist, where I bought mine — you’re eligible to receive up to £65 for each original PS3 you bought. You can submit multiple claims if you bought more than one. Here’s the claim form you’ll need.

The deadline is April 15, 2018.

Oh, but there’s one more wrinkle: You’ll need to legally swear that you knew that it was possible to install Linux on the PS3 and/or lost some of the value of your PS3 when Sony removed the option. You’ll also need your PS3’s serial number, or your PlayStation Network username or sign-in ID, and you may need to tell the settlement authorities when and where you purchased your console. For easy reference, eligible PS3s should include the original 20GB, 40GB, and later 80GB models, but not the PS3 Slim or PS3 Super Slim.

Here’s another picture to help you identify the right model:

You’re looking for the glossy one on the left.

Sarah Tew/CNET

And here’s where the serial number is located:


Didn’t Sony sell millions of these, though? Will I actually see cash?

It’s a good question, and that’s why the “OtherOS Settlement” is only promising up to £65 per claim. Technically, the lawyers attest Sony sold as many as 10 million “Fat” PS3s in the United States, which means if every single buyer submitted a claim, they’d be getting less than a dollar each.

But that’s not super likely. They’d need to care about OtherOS, remember when and where they bought the console, have never sold it or traded it in, find out about the settlement in time, and actually submit the form promptly. If only around 30,000 people submit a claim, according to my rough math, they could probably each receive the full £65.

Some 11,300 early claims have already been submitted as of last September, according to court documents.

What if I think this isn’t fair?

If you want to protest, or retain the ability to sue Sony yourself, you can do those things too — but you’ll need to do them quickly.

You’ll find instructions right here.

First impressions: Fortnite on iOS off to a promising start

Even on the smaller screen, Fortnite looks pretty great.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Has the time for top-tier gaming on a phone finally arrived? When Epic Games announced Fortnite was coming to iOS, I wasn’t convinced they could pull it off. Now that I’ve played my first game — I’m pretty amazed with what I’m seeing, but the experience is far from perfect.

Let’s talk about the good stuff first. Once I was logged in, I started a game and dropped from the bus as usual. The first thing I noticed was that the map looked pretty amazing from up high — there was plenty of detail, even if it was on a much smaller screen.

The controls include an on-screen joystick on the left for movement, buttons across the bottom to switch weapons and space on the right side to aim and look around. When you’re ready to take a shot, you just tap the right side of the screen. All that seems pretty clear-cut, and it is.

But I’m used to playing on the PS4, and while I understand the controls well, I realized quickly it’s going to take practice to instinctively know where everything is on a touch screen.

The storm closed toward the Moisty Mire, so I ended up hiding in the muck.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

That said, the graphics look almost as good as they do on the console. You can see the blades of grass swaying in the wind, the draw distance is good enough to see far-off players and there are even water effects. Nothing’s as good as the console version, but that’s the sacrifice needed to run it on an iPhone.

There is one big visual issue though — it’s pretty dark. You’ll want to bump up the brightness before playing. Once on the ground, I managed — if a little slowly — to loot a couple of houses and score some pretty good gear.

From there, I made my way to the center of the storm. In the process, I got into one firefight and managed to win, but mostly it was just my opponent and me flailing around hoping to hit each other. Don’t expect a lot of expert marksmanship from the mobile competition.

My main troubles with the game so far are with the audio. On the phone, you can’t hear directional sound like you can when you play on a console, which is a big deal. Not knowing where footsteps are coming from can mean death.

To solve this, Epic decided to show where sound is coming from with on-screen directional arrows. It sort of works, but it’s not ideal — especially when you’re fighting for your survival. I also noticed there were clicks and pops that came through my headphones periodically and frankly, they scared me every time.

In a game like Fortnite, you’re always listening for the shot that might take you down, so the audio glitches were startling and distracting.

Somehow in my first game, I actually made it all the way to the end and won. Admittedly, I got lucky; I survived until there were only two other people left and they managed to kill each other simultaneously, handing me the Victory Royale.

A win is a win!

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Overall, I would say Fortnite’s iOS port is off to a great start. The controls will take getting used to, and hopefully Epic can do something about those audio problems, but mostly we’re getting what was advertised.

If things continue to go smoothly, one of the most popular games in the world is about to become a whole lot more popular.

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