It has been rated the world's best car many times in the past. Does the new Merc S-class retain the title? RACHNA TYAGI finds out

Space is king-size in the real sense of the word. With the S-class' long wheelbase liberating room inside, real estate will probably be the last thing on your mind. Ever wondered how different living in an apartment is from living in a penthouse? The same is the case with a Mercedes-Benz. And while the C- and E-class shout their admission to the tri-star club, it is actually the S-class that really sets you apart by not only announcing your statuesque arrival, but also granting you a visaless multiple entry/ lifetime membership into the elite club. Not only does this car epitomise supreme luxury, but it gives the words - "extravagance" and "magnificence" a whole new meaning. In India, the first S320's launch in September 2000 gained it a "crorepati" tag and rightfully so. After all, with a sticker price of Rs 60 lakh and the fact that it was soon sold out, definitely made it garage-worthy to that elegant penthouse owner. Today, with the new S-Class, the story isn't very different.

Styling and design

Radically styled, longer and larger than the outgoing car, the new S boasts sporty, large wheel arches and a very modern fender line, all of which play a vital role in beautifying the car's silhouette each time it cruises past with an assumed air of effortless motion, similar to the manner in which fashionable awnings and elegant canopies enhance and complete the look of a penthouse's terrace or patio especially when viewed from the outside. Space is king-size in the real sense of the word. With a 3,030mm long wheelbase (the one we tested was a short wheelbase version, but Mercedes will only sell the 'L' version in India, which comes with a longer, 3,161mm wheelbase), more space will probably be the last thing on your mind. The 'Comfort' mode makes the car supple and the improved version of the 'Airmatic' suspension lends to a stress free driving experience on our roads. However, if ride quality is something you don't see yourself compromising on, sticking to the 17-inch rims is your best bet.Taste, they say, is in the bones and the makers of this fabulous car sure score extra points for displaying theirs. Going the extra mile to ensure that the customers have nothing to complain about, Mercedes has equipped the car with fine leather and a beautiful walnut finish that adds character to the interiors. Talk about steel and glass replacing good old brickwork especially to enhance the panoramic view offered by penthouses!

Spaced out inside

A dedicated four-seater, with very little space for the fifth passenger, the new S-class seats are each a larger size than required, for that extra bit of comfort, providing upper and lower thigh support, shoulder blade edge support, as well as supporting the entire length of one's back. The seats also have cool air or hot air flowing through them adding to the host of luxury features already on offer. Bits like the flat-screen speedometer give it an aircraft-like digital cockpit look and the meaty steering wheel feels great to grip. With rear-mounted screens and a DVD player, you are all set to dig into your favourite tub of ice cream and oh, don't forget to bring the popcorn. And oh, did I mention extra butter, please?This car has a number of features that first featured on the BMW 7-series - Merc's version of i-Drive, called Comand, a steering column-mounted automatic gear stalk or selector and a push-button parking brake. Nimble fingers, seven-speed automatic gearbox, accelerator and the road, a deadly combination to concoct that heady mix. But don't forget it is only an adept bartender who with his smart and suave bartending skills knows how to mix drinks well that will actually be able to rock that rooftop party of yours.

Under the hood

A new motor that uses a four-valve-per-cylinder head, as against the earlier model's three means power is up by 11 percent and the manner in which the S-class drives is nothing short of phenomenal, to say the least. With three modes to drive this car in - Comfort, Sport and Manual - the last allows one to shift gears via buttons behind the steering wheel. It sprints to 100kph in 8.81 seconds and attains an electronically limited top speed of 250kph. With 6.1kpl in the city and 9.1kpl on the highway for a car with this sort of weight and engine power, penthouse man does not need to look at another addition to his fleet of cars for a long, long time.