The new-found pace and grace adds to the aura of Mercedes S500 L. Ouseph Chacko waxes eloquent

Priced at Rs 1.1 crore, the S500 L is the most expensive car to be assembled in India. It's been on sale as an expensive import for about two years, but now since it's being assembled here, the flagship ‘S' is now Rs. 15 lakh less!

It is still not inexpensive, but step into the business-class seats at the rear and you'll understand why it costs so much. There is more space per seat than the Airbus A320, the seat reclines, the thigh support extendable and it's got double-glazed glass and air-suspension too. Keeping the rest of the world at arm's length from here is really easy. But this you expect from any S-class. So what's different with the S500 L?

The answer lies in the two additional cylinders, two extra litres of swept volume and a 97bhp, 16kgm up in power and torque from the S350. Slipping this 369bhp V8 into the S-class has added an entirely new dimension to the big Merc's abilities. The S350 may have been smooth and effortless, but this one is fantastically so. With a torque curve that's flatter than an airplane at cruising altitude (51.5kgm from 2800-4400rpm), this is an engine that shrugs away the 2.1-tonne kerb weight of this long-wheelbase version like a hare runs away from a tortoise. Full-throttle starts feel a lot like an aircraft taking off (the Merc is much quicker to 100kph obviously). First there's that push into the seats by the sheer force of velocity and then there's a steady and strong build-up of speed as the engine works its way through all seven gears. It takes a mere 6.7 seconds to shoot past 100kph and you do a fly-past of 160kph in 15.7sec. The 7G-Tronic auto-box is fantastic and, thanks to the broad spread of torque, you won't feel the need to use the paddleshifts.

The only fly in this ointment was the occasional reluctance to shift down for a quick overtake. The software thinks there's no need for a downshift given the torque, but you can see that bus looming. It takes a quick tug on the left paddleshift sorts this out. It geared well too —100kph in seventh gear equates to a mere 1500rpm on the rev counter, giving the car a tremendous long-legged gait.

Ride quality is exemplary and is still a class benchmark. Even the most severely broken road surface is smoothed into submission by the Airmatic air suspension but we have to admit, there is a slight hint of lumpiness at lower speeds — due to the lower profile tyres we say.

Of course, the S-class is no sportscar, but its new torque-vectoring brake system (that brakes an inside wheel if understeer is detected) helps you go harder around corners. The variable ratio steering is direct and you're always aware of the weight and size of this 5.2-metre-long uber saloon. Things improve when you push one small button marked ‘sport' on the centre console and shift the transmission into manual mode. You can feel the difference in the way the S feels less wafty and body movements are more tightly controlled but this being a Mercedes-Benz, even the sport mode won't make compromises on comfort.

For sure, this ‘S' comes with some new features for the interiors, such as the three colour options for the interior ambient lighting and the Split Screen display. This allows the driver and front passenger to view different content simultaneously on one and the same screen. So the driver could be listening to traffic reports on the radio while the passenger watches a DVD.

The S500 L's brilliant blend of comfort, space, new-found pace and grace, available at Rs 1.1 crore, is the reason you should go for one. Trust us, the next step is a private jet.

Keywords: S500 LS class car