Mercedes-Benz re-writes the rules of the high-end luxury car segment, yet again.
There are cars then there are luxury cars and then there is the S-Class, the epitome of luxury and engineering marvel. With every generation of this flagship model, Mercedes-Benz sends its rivals back to the drawing board with new technologies which are highly advanced and state of the art. There is no doubt the S-Class has been the best car in the world and when anyone comes close to challenging it, the good folks at Stuttgart are all ready with an answer. Such is the case with the sixth generation Mercedes S-Class (V222) as well. The fifth iteration of the S was so good, everybody wondered what could be bettered but the new S-Class is vastly improved in every possible way, making it yet again the ultimate luxury saloon in the market. We spent a day with the all new Mercedes S-Class and came out thoroughly impressed.
Motor Quest: The S-Class nameplate made its debut in 1972 with the W116 although the model dates back to 1954. India is one of the three places in the world where the S-Class is assembled.
Exteriors – The already mammoth S-Class has grown further in size, being 28 mm wider, 20 mm longer and 15 mm taller than its predecessor. However the new car doesn’t look as big as the old model, probably because of the athletic styling and massive attention to detail with chrome inserts neatly packed at various surfaces of the body. Mercedes’ new styling language was first seen on the CLA and looks absolutely fab on the new S-Class. The highlights on the exteriors are the lights of course which have a gemstone like appearance and use only LEDs. Mercedes seems to have take two giant leaps when it comes to light design and that clearly reflects on its new cars (new E-Class, A-Class and S-Class).
The large grille gets four louvres and a three-dimensional design while the bumper is neatly sculpted with sporty pretext. You also get the three pointed star popping out on the hood, something which is well appreciated when you are behind the wheel. The drooping roof line gives the car a coupe like appearance while also hinting at the aerodynamic nature of the car with a CD of just 0.24. The strong body lines immediately create a visual connect with on-lookers and the large 10-spoke wheels feature a unique design. The rear has minor reminisce to the now defunct Maybach and the tail lights are easily the best we have seen on any car till date. The S-Class has a stately presence to it with mature understated elegance being the right words to describe the appearance of Mercedes’ flagship automobile.
Interiors – Engineers working in the interior design department of Mercedes-Benz have the toughest job in the world, because they have to improve upon something which is already so good. Case in point is the cabin, which now boasts of increased space but the wheelbase of the car is identical to the old model. The doors are rather heavy but the feather touch close makes it a breeze to shut them. Once inside, you are completely isolated from the surroundings as NVH levels are simply fantastic, you can’t hear a thing from outside. The dashboard is a thorough evolution of the V221, featuring supreme quality and massive attention to detail with a design language which instantly spells extravagance. Right choice of colours and high-grade materials instantly make you fall in love with this car. Wood, aluminium and leather are aplenty.
We lost count of the number of buttons inside the car, there are just too many and that too spread across the vehicle. Features are in total excess and there is so much equipment on offer (Night Vision Camera, automatic high and low beam switching, brake lights with three intensity levels, etc) that you might have to read through the 56-page press release to understand why the S-Class is the future of the automobile. The 1950s inspired steering wheel is a 2-spoke unit, dropping 2-spokes from the old car and is such a terrific thing to hold with buttons galore controlling the multi-information display and other car controls. The instrument cluster is a large 12.3-inch TFT display and there is another similar sized display placed besides it for the COMAND multi-media system (30 million programming lines have been written for it) which allows you to change almost any electronic function of the car (seat settings, vehicle settings.. you know the drift). The COMAND system is controlled via the buttons on the centre console which Mercedes likes to call “Central Control Unit”. There are more than 100 motors inside for operating the plethora of electronics.
Mercedes-Benz has re-written quite a few things with the new S-Class. First is luxury, this ain’t no luxury car, it’s a 10-star on wheels with pampering taken to an all new level. Besides, the new S-Class also changes the very definition of soft touch, with the pillows on the headrests being much softer than the softest we have witnessed on other luxury barges. This quintessential automobile basks you with opulence like no other, there is so much room in the rear seat that the tallest of tall passengers will find it in excess (that’s the reason why Mercedes did not feel the need to increase the wheelbase). Besides, you are in total control from the rear bench.
There is ventilated heating and cooling of seats and armrests along with 6 types of massage modes (each seat has 14 pneumatic massage chambers) and you can control the rear panoramic roof, windows and rear windshield sun-blinds, co-passenger front seat (can be moved completely forward and folded with a footrest to enable you to sleep in total comfort), COMMAND system all at your convenience or a touch of a button (there is a remote to control the three displays, one each is placed behind the front seats). There is a mobile app for iOS and Android which also lets you control everything from your phone. The Executive Rear Seat package lets you recline your seat to an angle of 43.5 degrees so you can enjoy the view of the sky via the large panoramic roofs.
The S-Class comes with 180-degree and 360-degree cameras (which work till 30 km/hr) making light work of parking this huge vehicle in tight spots. There are 7 colours with 5 dimming levels for the ambient lighting which lightens up the car’s interiors at night through the strip of LEDs. There is not a single light bulb in the S-Class, the vehicle only uses LEDs (more than 500 of them), the first and only car in the market to adopt LED tech completely. The round AC vents look really classy and the AC uses 21 actuators. The rear has a cup holder which can heat or cool your drinks. The individual rear seats have a storage box in between which also has two stow away tables and there is WI-FI connectively as well! The 24-speaker Burmester sound system offers terrific sound quality and has an output of 1540 watts. The 3D maps work surprisingly well and are very accurate. The Mercedes S-Class comes with a spare wheel placed in the boot (not in the boot well) which hampers practicality. Boot space is decent though and the lid can be closed electronically with a touch of a button.
Performance – Powering the S500 version of the Mercedes S-Class is a 4.7-litre V8 engine which belts out 453 HP of power and 700 Nm of turning force. This motor is extremely refined and is barely audible, even when driven on full throttle. In fact the refinement levels are so good that we suspected the speedometer was showing us 50 km/hr higher speeds than what it seemed to us. Performance is effortless and the S-Class reaches high speeds in such a jiffy that it’s not entirely believable. 200 km/hr comes up in a flash and the car continues to pull to its top speed without any signs of giving up. There is good amount of thrust right from the word go and that makes this rear-drive car such a breeze to pilot in city traffic. 0-100 km/hr comes up in third gear, taking under 5 seconds.
Coupled to the V8 motor is a 7-speed automatic gearbox with steering mounted paddle shifts (enables manual mode). You can choose between Economy and Sport modes on the centre console but in either of these modes, the S-Class simply moves with no hinderance offering muted performance. The transmission is ultra silent but isn’t the quickest to shift although its relaxed nature is much appreciated as you never know what’s happening, it’s so quiet inside the car. There is no jerkiness even at redline and you can comfortably cruise in top gear doing 100 km/hr with the RPM needle ticking in at just 1400 RPM. The car also gets an ECO start/stop mode which works silently to save fuel and in spite of the mammoth weight and engine, the vehicle returned an impressive mileage of 5.8 km/l on our test. The S350 diesel with 255 BHP and 620 Nm of torque will go on sale in India by mid-2014.
Driving Dynamics – Without doubt, the S-Class is a car which will mostly be chauffeur driven and thus the emphasis on comfort is very high. That’s why Mercedes has taken a giant leap in ride technology with Magic Body Control, a sensor based system which uses cameras to monitor the road ahead and adjusts the suspension according to the change in road surface. Due to Indian laws preventing use of certain frequencies, this technology can’t be offered in India and thus the vehicle uses Active Body Control. Still the S-Class rides extremely well and in spite of the low profile tyres on our test car, it simply glided over the worst bit of roads without giving a clue of the road surface to passengers. The Airmatic suspension and adaptive dampers work flawlessly and even at high speeds, the S-Class remains thoroughly glued to the road, wafting along with calm and composure (it lowers by 20 mm post 120 km/hr for better stability). Clearly the S-Class has been made to munch miles on the Autobahn as so evident by its high speed manners.
With the use of aluminium and high grade steel, Mercedes has boosted torsional stiffness by 50%. The new S-Class weighs 100 kgs less than its predecessor and although no one expects the vehicle to be involving to drive, it fairs extremely well when it comes to having fun behind the wheel. You can choose between Comfort or Sport on the Airmatic suspension and even when in Sport, the car doesn’t feel stiff. However it does feel better to push through corners and you will be surprised by its agility, considering it weighs more than 2.2 tonnes and is 5.246 metres long. The electro-mechanical steering is light at low speeds and weighs up beautifully at high speeds offering terrific feedback and control. We love the feel at the helm and that’s something Mercedes has mastered on all its big cars. There is so much grip on offer that you can carry insane speeds through long sweeping corners. Braking performance is good, only let down by the early kick-in by the ABS. The car also automatically brakes up to 50 km/hr to prevent pedestrian collision. While the low ground clearance means big speed-breakers need to be carefully tackled, a touch of a button on the centre console will raise the vehicle’s clearance.
Verdict – The Mercedes S-Class has always been the king of the luxury car throne and the new model only cements the company’s position as the leader in the segment. The German automaker has gone ahead and pushed the boundaries of engineering yet again, to make a car which excels in almost everything so well, it feels unreal, till it sinks in of course. Mercedes-Benz has pioneered the luxury car segment for a long time and with the sixth iteration of the world’s best car, it is further on course to continue to rule the kingdom of automobile excellence. The S-Class might seem expensive but you do get more than what you paid for and that’s the reason why Daimler simply can’t meet the demand for the new S-Class. After all, not everyday does a car come which revolutionises the segment, the S-Class makes the BMW 7-Series, Audi A8 and Jaguar XJ look a complete generation old, which itself is testimony to how outstandingly good the new S-Class is.
The 2014 Mercedes S-Class re-defines the luxury car segment by offering a stupendously awesome cabin, seamless performance and magical ride quality. The best car in the world is now even better and is simply in a class of its own, easily filling in the shoes of the super-luxury Maybach limo.