It is rare when a luxury automaker redesigns its flagship sedan. These occasions are equivalent to the birth of a royal heir or the launching of a battleship; they’re a big deal.
|Engine: The S550 is powered by a 4.6-liter twin-turbocharged V8 that puts out 449 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: A seven-speed automatic gearbox is standard.
Fuel Economy: 16 MPG city, 26 MPG highway, 19 MPG combined.
Price: Starts at $95,325, or $122,895 as tested (both with delivery).
Range-topping cars typically bring the latest features to market and push the boundaries of automotive technology. And that’s exactly what the people at Mercedes-Benz have done with their brand-new S-Class. But is this car as traditional and joyless as the Swabians that created it? Let’s hope not!
Making A Case For Comfort
AutoGuide’s own Colum Wood recently evaluated the hot new Lamborghini Huracán. He loved the car and it’s certainly an amazing machine; if you haven’t read his review or watched the accompanying video yet do it, just not right now…
The Huracán delivers organ-bruising acceleration and handling that’s practically on par with an F1 race machine. But supercars like this are the automotive equivalent of a codpiece. They’re showy and impractical.
See Also: 2015 Lamborghini Huracan Review – Video
Honestly, where are you ever going to drive 200 MPH on the street? Additionally the dash from zero to 60 takes half the time required to read this sentence. And by now you’d probably be close to triple-digit velocity; hopefully you’re not driving in a school zone. The capabilities of cars like this are astounding and completely incongruous with real-world conditions where children play in the street and people drive Ford Aspires.
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Beyond these issues supercars really can’t carry any passengers or luggage, and good luck driving up even small inclines without scraping something really expensive in the front end. Frankly, to this author cars like the Mercedes-Benz Sonderklasse are far more appealing.
The 2014 S-Class is brand-new from the ground up and it has none of the abovementioned issues. It features under-the-radar styling and a cavernous interior; it’s implausibly comfortable, eerily quiet and loaded with more features than a cruise ship. We evaluated the S550 4MATIC variant and here’s what made it tick.
As optioned the model we sampled checked out at $122,895., a princely sum to be certain. Extras that added to the bottom line include things like night vision, a sport package, glove box mounted perfume dispenser for the climate control system and special ash trim that’s been treated with a radiant silver finish.
If equipped with the Driver Assistance Package, the S-Class includes various electronic goodies like lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring – more technology than we have time to talk about.
Get up and go is provided by a 4.6-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine with 449 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque on tap. Power is routed to all four wheels through Mercedes’ 4MATIC permanent all-wheel-drive system, which provided extra traction and improved handling no matter what sorcery Mother Nature conjures up.
Those are impressive performance figures, though the S550 is decently efficient. Fuel economy measures 16 MPG in the city and 26 on the highway; its combined score is 19 MPG, which is not too bad for a massive luxury sedan with greater electrical demand than a small city.
Beyond the “base” S550 you can also opt for an enthusiast-focused AMG version of the S-Class. It starts at about $140,000 and delivers a 577-hp donkey kick that hurtles you toward the horizon at spleen-rupturing velocities. Additionally an S600 model should hit the market shortly. It will feature a twin-turbocharged V12 engine and promises even more luxury.
From a design standpoint the S550 draws very little attention to itself; you’ve got to love the stealth aspect of this car (I do), but did it have to look so much like an overgrown CLA-Class? That sagging beltline that runs along the body just doesn’t do it for me. Also, the front is rather generic looking, though some might call it stately. However, you’ve got to love the traditional stand-up hood ornament; it’s like the reticule in a sniper’s scope and makes it easy to target unwitting pedestrians (NOTE: no bystanders were harmed during the evaluation of this car).
Adding visual pizzazz are 20-inch AMG wheels. These beauties come with the abovementioned sport package, which costs $6,650. This options group also includes performance tires, new bumpers and reworked side skirts.
Curiously something like 11 different paint colors are available with the S-Class but don’t get too excited; three of them are shades of black and another three are variations of silver. The overall color palate is more conservative than Rush Limbaugh though far less infuriating. If you want chartreuse you’re going to have to consult Krylon.
Exterior design is all well and good but what matters most with the new S-Class is what’s inside. You might be surprised just how over-the-top awesome this vehicle’s cabin is.
Treasure Chest Of Delight
Putting it succinctly the S550’s interior is astounding. The car’s bodywork may be somewhat mundane but its cockpit is mind-blowing. Creamy-soft leather is everywhere, from the dashboard and doors, to seats and ceiling. The overall design is striking as well; you have to sit in one to truly appreciate all the hard work engineers and designers have put into it.
The S550’s cabin rivals the Palace of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors for opulence and grandeur. Formed by perforations of varying size, an eye-catching diamond pattern is carried throughout the interior, splashing across the dashboard, door panels and seats. Unique materials and surface treatments give everything an ultra-premium look. The silvery wood trim practically glows in the dark; even the door handles feel like they’ve been crafted by a watchmaker.
The aft accommodations offer plenty of legroom and are probably more comfortable than a first-class ticket on Singapore Airlines. Thanks to the $2,600 warmth and comfort package the outboard rear seats are heated and ventilated plus they’re power adjustable and feature detachable pillows.
Beyond squishy-feely stuff the technology they’ve included in this vehicle is crazy. Two massive 12.3-inch screens cover a large portion of the dashboard and replace a traditional instrument cluster. The right display is home to the latest version of the company’s COMAND system. Like competing technologies it’s controlled by a knob and group of buttons on the center console.
If there’s one weakness to this car’s cabin it’s got to be the electronic controls. You practically need a master’s degree in computer science to figure it all out. Playing around with everything you do start to get the hang of it but it’s still not easy. Also, the system doesn’t feel all that fast. There are small delays between control inputs and display reactions. Also, with dramatic animations between different menus it all starts to seem like a bit much.
Capping things off, at night the car puts on a spectacular lightshow that’s like Fourth of July fireworks… sort of. LEDs circle the cabin, running along the dashboard, doors, center console and even rear seats. The ambient light they cast provides and interesting visual effect throughout the interior. You can adjust the brightness and change the color of these LEDs to suit your taste.
Obviously this car is no Lamborghini but it drives extremely well and is plenty fast. You are NEVER wanting for power or torque; acceleration is effortless at any speed. Zero to 60 takes a claimed 4.8 seconds and it feels every bit that fleet, and keep in mind, with all-wheel drive the car weighs nearly 4,800 pounds!
The engine is basically vibration free and extremely responsive. The transmission is equally silky and attentive to your motoring whims.
Thanks to some of the most comfortable seats ever fitted in an automobile you could probably drive this car a thousand miles in a day and not feel fatigued. They’re heated, cooled, massaging and thanks to inflatable bolsters they can even help prop up your torso as you drive through corners.
The car’s standard air suspension system does a commendable job absorbing impacts and keeping the body under control at the same time. The S550 glides along without floundering.
Another standout feature of the S550 is just how quiet it is. Driving along with the adaptive cruise control set at 75 miles an hour, or more, you can whisper to other passengers and they can still hear you loud and clear. This car’s interior is silent to point of being disturbing.
The optional Distronic Plus cruise control, which comes with the $2,800 “Driver Assistance Package,” is a pretty ingenious piece of technology. Like other adaptive systems on the market it adjusts vehicle speed based on surrounding traffic; if a car ahead slows down it automatically reduces your speed to maintain a safe following distance. But that’s not all.
Thanks to a battery of radar sensors and other elaborate electronics, Steering Assist helps guide the car along, keeping it in the center of its lane. This technology can make small adjustments to keep the vehicle on the proper course; you can even remove your hands from the tiller for brief periods of time, though it knows when you do this and yells at you for being reckless. Sorry, you can’t prepare turkey wraps for the kids or play a game of pinochle from the driver’s seat, you’ve still got to keep your hands on the wheel.
Generally I’m not a big Mercedes fan. Don’t get me wrong, their vehicles are extremely nice, it’s just I find them a little less inspiring than products from, say, Audi. But without reservation this new S-Class is an absolute stunner. Its cabin is lavish; the technology, astounding; and its performance serene in every situation. So few cars really WOW me these days, but the 2014 S550 sets a new standard.