To drive or ride? That is the question.
Behind The Wheel: 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
If anyone “missed” purchasing a Maybach, then it’s time to rejoice in the heralding of a German luxury sedan that makes no bones about its levels of refinement, complexity and utter technological wizardry — the all-new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class ($93,825). Mercedes-Benz has clearly occupied the front-runner spot in the top-end German luxury sedan race, but the previous generation of S-class, though extremely successful, was a bit tired after seven years. Sure, mild refreshes had kept it noticeable and desired, but since the luxury sedan segment is about as competitive as they come, Mercedes-Benz found it necessary to step up their game. Though we have yet to see the actual Monroney sticker for the 2014 S-Class, we imagine it might actually be ten pages long given the sheer number of options on the vehicle — all for the purpose of delivering a class-leading luxury car that pulls no punches. We got to drive (as well as experience) the limousine-level sedan recently in Toronto.
MORE TALES FROM THE TARMAC: The 50 Most Iconic Cars in History | 45 Years of AMG | The Right Car For Any Roadtrip
Though Germans have a tendency to be conservative in their generational car changes, we certainly can’t call the new S-Class evolutionary. Mercedes has embarked on this new generation with a fresh set of eyes. Gone are the slender hood, stacked rear taillights and rather conservative door panels, replaced by an overall design that has a stronger presence and communicates the kind of lifestyle that Mercedes wants to communicate to its target market (#wellheeled). From the whoppingly large grille and more cohesively shaped headlights to the deeply sculpted sides and the more elegant taillight treatment, the new S-Class is a looker, adroitly toeing the line between elegance and sport. Opt for the S63 AMG version, and the sportiness aspect is that much more pronounced.
The cabin makes just as marked a change from its predecessor. With a general feel more like a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce, the S-Class’s interior is utterly regal. Look up the definition of “cosseted” and you’ll find renderings of passengers in the new S. There’s no mistaking it: this car aims to claim much of the poshness of the defunct Maybach. It does so at a far less expensive rate and with greater variety — much of it wholly unnecessary and appreciated all the more.
Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.
– Coco Chanel
The expansive twin 12.3-inch TFT screens for the instrument cluster and the multimedia sytem are as prominent as Gerard Depardieu‘s proboscis and significantly more elegant. Gorgeous new wood finish along the dash, gored out for four beautifully rounded vents, wouldn’t look out of place in a Bentley. The Burmester audio system not only delivers pleasurable sounds but displays seven “mood” colors (no angry black light, though. Maybe for the AMG?). Seat coolers chill your backside more quickly (comfortably) than a dip in the beer cooler. Optional executive rear seats recline just like airline business-class; tray tables deploy for space to map out your next venture capitalist project. And what would a luxo-barge be without a zone-specific “hot stone massage” that kneads your back lovingly after a long day of buying and selling companies for kicks?
The S-Class’s technology packages, filled with cutting-edge options shot up from the bow of the new E-Class, are somehow more incredible than the interior amenities. A collision-mitigation system makes use of a stereoscopic camera to detect vehicles that may move into the car’s path; active cruise control takes semi-autonomous control even at low speeds (thereby making your often painful commute less exhausting); and a brilliant brake-assist system calculates distance to impact and issues additional brake pressure to avoid hitting both cars and pedestrians. Too bad it can’t sense bad life choices, too. That would be something.
Look up the definition of “cosseted” and you’ll find renderings of passengers in the new S.
The S550 4 we drove made haste via the 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8 with 455 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque mated to a seven-speed automatic with torque converter (a gearing system that pervades the S-Class line). Both 4-Matic and rear-wheel-drive versions will grab 60 mph in an astounding 4.8 seconds, but you don’t feel punched in the back with the power. The car’s turbos spool up and hurtle the behemoth noticeably but not in an overly forceful fashion. You don’t want your rear passengers spilling too much of their Côtes du Rhône. The multi-link Airmatic suspension helps in this department as well — and with optional road sensors that detect changes in road surfaces at speeds of up to 80 mph and adjust the suspension system accordingly, the S-Class provides an eminently comfortable ride. The electro-mechanical steering doesn’t provide the level of feedback that we’d like, but we’re talking about a personal limo here, not a track car. Its ride delivers as promised, and everyone inside will be a comfortable creature.
The 2014 S-Class ups the luxury car ante, and then some. It would seem that the American culture of give-me-everything now has pervaded into Germany. After all, who wants just Grey Poupon when you can have the whole damned sandwich with some champagne to wash it down?