The new Mercedes-Benz S-class has moved the luxury and comfort boundaries to set a benchmark
For five generations, the S-class has been the byword for innovation and luxury because it has always debuted Merc’s latest, most advanced technologies. This sixth generation S-class has an even tougher brief than its predecessor. It has to pick up the baton of the now defunct Maybach brand and that is no easy task.
Indian roads are a testing environment to see if all the tech works.
This is the first S-class to be designed from the outset as a long-wheelbase version and the chassis itself has more than 50 per cent aluminium content with plenty of high strength steel surrounding the passenger cell. As a result, this 5.2-metre car weighs an impressively low 2200kg, spread almost evenly between the front and rear axles. Speaking of which, the 3165mm wheelbase remains identical to the old S-class with only an increase in the front and rear track. Mercedes claims a modest increase in interior volume as a result of better packaging and design.
The chassis is suspended by the standard air suspension and adaptive dampers that feature Active Body Control. Sadly though, Merc is not offering the Magic Body Control (MBC) system here thanks to some archaic Indian legislation that bans the use of certain frequencies.
For your information, MBC uses a pair of cameras mounted on the windscreen to read the road up to 15 metres ahead of the car and this information is relayed to the suspension that actively reacts to what it’s about to go through.
Yes, that means the suspension alters the wheel just in time to tackle a bump or dip. Imagine how useful that would have been on our roads!
As always, there’s been no compromise on the interiors. Open the rather light doors and you are greeted by seats that are fit to be a king’s throne — broad, infinitely adjustable and very inviting.
Shutting the door shuts out the city. In complete peace, you now face a two-spoke wood and leather steering wheel (a nod to the big Benzes of the 1950s) and two large 31.2cm displays (placed side by side) — one for speedo, tacho, the optional night-vision camera and car info and one for the comprehensive COMAND system.
Also appealing is the dashboard’s clean, uncluttered look with just air-con controls on the centre console. The stalks for the headlights, wipers and steering adjust are lifted straight off Merc’s other saloons — they should have been bespoke items in a car like this.
Still, the Mercedes S500 has enough tech to rival Mangalyaan — you won’t find a single light bulb in here or anywhere in the car. What it does have is 300 LEDs and the best use of them is probably in the dashboard where a strip of LED lights give you ambient lighting with a choice of seven colours to make the cabin feel really special at night!
Other soothing features include the 24-speaker Burmester audio system, massage seats with pillows and standard bluetooth and wifi connectivity. At the rear, there’s no shortage of legroom.
Start the 4.7-litre, twin-turbo petrol V8 and as expected, you would be hard-pressed to tell there are eight pistons thumping out 453bhp and 71.3kgm of torque.
It is incredibly smooth and quiet and equipped with a fuel-saving start-stop system that works almost imperceptibly. It’ll hit a 100kph in a claimed 4.8sec but more impressive is the way it picks up speed in such a smooth and unstressed manner. Cabin insulation is first class and the only sound you can hear from the engine is a distant purr when you extend it to its redline. It is a motor befitting the kind of car the S-class is.
The S500 comes with Merc’s 7G-tronic seven speed auto and we know it’s a smooth shifter. The long gearing and strong reserves of torque provide a superbly relaxed yet flexible quality that makes it an incredible tourer. Even on the standard air-suspension and adaptive dampers, the S500’s ride is difficult to fault. The car simply glides over bumps and even sharp edges are dispatched nonchalantly.
As for the handling, the suspension has ‘Sport’ and ‘Comfort’ modes, but even in the former, it isn’t terribly sporty. What it does though is provide that beautifully fluid steering feel that we’ve come to associate with big Mercs good body control and lots of grip from the 245-section front and 275-section rear tyres. You can carry huge amounts of speed through corners.
Though priced at an approximate Rs. 1.6 crore, the S500 is not cheap.
But there’s no denying that the S-class is an exceptional car.