Does the new S Class deserve the title of ‘the Best car in the World’ in a setting where almost every major car maker is equipped with cutting edge tech and refined manufacturing techniques? We figure out in this exhaustive Mercedes S Class S500 review.
Images: Hanoz Patel & Amit Chhangani
At first I found it to be smaller than I anticipated. From a distance, around 100 meters, my very first reaction on seeing this thing in the flesh was that of slight disappointment. And then it closed in. As it approached me I realized how mistaken I was. The thing looks massive – that chrome drenched four slat trapezoidal grille is absolutely enormous! Those boomerang styled DRLs only augment the ominous aura around the enormous contraption.
This one’s not all elegance and sophistication, there’s much more brawn and testosterone to it than any of its predecessors I can think of. It probably doesn’t fit perfectly into the subtle, understated definition of the almighty S-Class, but you know what, I love it! Why? Because it embodies Mercedes-Benz’s newfound vigor and zest – it’s resolve, its aggression to take on its two compatriots and beat them at their game. M-B is not playing the kind gentleman anymore, this one’s got some blood in its eyes – you want to play ball? Let’s play ball! That’s the kind of attitude the new S-Class carries.
The tautness, the athleticism is carried over to the profile view as well. A long bonnet with a slashed snout for that angry stance, a rather small greenhouse compared to the rest of the body, a high shoulder line and those tense creases through the doors – there’s strength and vigor to be witnessed aplenty. It’s only at the rear, where with that stubby, soft cornered boot and those ultra elegant lights that the new S-class exudes the geniality that its forebears have been better known for.
I wouldn’t exactly say that the new S-class is a homogenous exercise in design all through. I find some contrasts in the approach at the front and at the rear. The boot is a tad too short too. But the sheer overall size of the thing works in lending it massive road presence.
Trust me you, though, the exteriors aren’t the headline news with the new S-Class. It’s the stuff inside – the technology, the features, the unprecedented attention to detail, the quality of materials, the old worldly touches and the new worldly gadgets. Once inside the cabin this machine makes you gape in astonishment.
Having driven almost every single premium car on sale in this part of the world, it has become rather difficult to get impressed or excited – even with some really good gear on show. Having seen those B&F speakers conduct their pop-out circus, having witnessed those massagers and the fridges on the A8L, having seen the seductive shape of the 640d Gran Coupe, Night Vision devices on half a dozen cars and having been knocked out by the punch of the F10 M5, what more remains to be seen in a limo, really? Hardly anything, I thought to myself before I entered the new S-Class. And then, I realized, there was indeed a hell of a lot that I hadn’t seen. The S-Class should be your weapon of choice when you need to treat cocky snoots like me with some lessons in humility.
I honestly believe that for this review, I need to let the images do the talking. So the features and tech will be represented by images (flip over a couple of pages) – scores and scores of them followed by little descriptions. I will keep the lead text limited to the engine, performance and some interesting facts about the new car. Once I have shown you to the caricature of the S-Class, I plan to invite you inside the cabin and take you through all the wonders of its impressive character in great details. You’ll see lots of pages in this review, and I insist you flip through all of them to understand this truly outstanding piece of machine in the way it deserves to be understood.
Let’s start with the engine. The S500 we drove is propelled by a 4.7 liter 8-Cylinder V-engine. There are 459 horses on tap between 5250-5500 rpm, along with 700 Nm of torque between 1800 and 3500 rpm. And the engine, with relatively longer ratios, has been mellowed down a little to ensure buttery smooth, jerk-free, silent power delivery. Capable of hurling this 2 ton contraption to 100 km/h from a standstill in just 4.8 seconds, that mighty engine never acts rude. The silken smooth 7G-TRONIC Plus transmission also has to play an important role in all those gentlemanly traits collectively exhibited by the engine-tranny package. Real world fuel efficiency varies from 5 to 7 kmpl depending on the amount of lead in your right foot.
So how does the car feel on the move? Well, have you ever driven an electric car? There is no sound. And these cars pull VERY strongly even from a standstill, as an electric motor delivers peak torque right from 0 rpm. The S Class feels similar – only with 10 times more powerful acceleration. Dab that throttle and the S-Class would surge ahead without making any sound, and it would pull powerfully from the very bedrock of its rev reservoir. The tranquility within the cabin is baffling, and borders on to being perturbing sometimes – is it for real, such a huge machine moving ahead with so much force with no sound inside the cabin? You run the risk of getting spooked out while driving alone on a forlorn B road.
From the driver’s seat, that bonnet looks enormous – the sheer width of it overwhelms even seasoned hands at wheel for the first few moments. And with that menacing, yet quiet response from the engine even at the slightest movement of your toe, you feel like one mighty Xerxes on his throne – omnipotent, invincible! With so much power and sophistication at hand, the most natural instinct would be to hunt for the first straight to turn this machine into what it actually deserves to be – a rocketship! But that didn’t quite happen with me in the long run – I was happy letting the S-Class glide along effortlessly – swift yet languid, rapid yet tranquil – a true automotive embodiment of ‘poetry in motion’
Chauffeur and master willing, though, the S-class wouldn’t take more than a few moments reaching its electronic limited top speed of 250km/h though. It’s one hell of a stable machine at high speeds. It’s absolutely planted on the tar, in an unusually unshakeable manner. Taking sweeping corners at some really nasty speeds is an awfully simple affair. A few extremely sharp maneuvers in some tricky conditions wiped the tiniest doubts we may have had in our corrupted mind about the capabilities of the hardware and software controlling the new S-Class’s dynamics. The steering is well weighted, and while there is some bit of bulkiness to be felt while charging hard around bends, the S-class handles bafflingly well for the Goliath it is.
As regards ride quality, the headline news about the S 500 is its Airmatic suspension and the optional Magic Body Control feature. Unfortunately the latter is not available in India, but since it’s a cutting edge tech, we’ll let you know how it works. Unlike the conventional suspension systems which ‘react’ to road surfaces on coming in contact with them, the Magic Body Control pre scans the road ahead and prepares the air-suspension in advanced to deal with the surface in the best manner possible.
The system employs a stereo camera positioned behind the windscreen. It measures the road up to 15 metres in front of the vehicle and with a height measurement accuracy of more than around 3 millimetres. Based on this, the active suspension is able to make the damping harsher or softer in advance and individually for each separate wheel. The system is known to enhance the ride quality substantially in real world conditions at speeds upto 130 km/h.
Unfortunately, some Jurassic laws in India prohibiting some radio frequencies from civilian use have ensured that the technology could not be introduced on the India S-Class. What a shame, for this is the country where the tech could actually be put to good use.
Even without the Magic Body Control, the air suspension on the S-Class provides easily the best ride you could expect from a road going automobile. There are two modes to choose from, Sport and Comfort. Even the stiffer Sport mode is very comfortable, with the Comfort mode setting new benchmarks for the ability of suspension systems to soak up undulations. There is an additional feature to raise ride height to enhance clearance on extra rough roads.
The cabin of the new S-Class has to be the most exquisitely crafted on any automobile we have seen thus far. You see, the new S-Class now shoulders the dual responsibility of holding aloft its own, as well as now defunct Maybach’s beacon. The Rolls-Royce rivaling Maybach is no mean feat to match, and thus, the new S-Class’s cabin had to be something exceptional. To achieve this, those M-B blokes back there in Germany were out on a mission while designing this cabin from inside – to attain unprecedented excellence in terms of cabin design, quality and craftsmanship.
To keep the quality and opulence levels at the highest level, use of plastics visible to the naked eyes was forbidden. High quality, expensive materials like metal, leather and glass was put to use to form the terrific interior of the S-Class which features a fresh new design, with a wraparound dash and door inlays. There is a charming new steering wheel at work, with two spokes and an alluring Mercedes-Benz lettering at the bottom. The cabin doesn’t have a single bulb, with LEDs doing lighting duties all around. For interior lighting, you have seven different colors, five dimming levels, and four dimming zones to choose from.
There are no analogue clocks inside the S-Class. The only real needles you get to see are on the elegant looking clock mounted on the center of the dashboard. Two large hi resolution screens serve all the information and menus digitally – one above the center console, and another one serving as the instrument panel. More than 3 crore lines of code were written to form the brain of this technological masterpiece.
The back seats of the car are designed to turn even the snootiest, shrewdest businessmen into puppy faced kids once they get cosseted by the luxury. Both backseats get their individual entertainment-cum-control screens. You can watch movies, see the navigation screen, browse the Internet or just listen to music while also getting a hot relaxing massage. There are as many as six massage programs to choose from. Under the rear central armrest, you have air-craft style pull out tray tables for both the back seats passengers – M-B has left no stone unturned in ensuring that you travel business class, in every way perceivable.
With the push of a button, the front passenger seat automatically moves ahead and lowers to make available the maximum amount of space to the rear left seat passenger. We have a gripe here. We found the seat of the A8L a bit better in this regard. There is even more support for the thighs, with an additional pad which unfolds from the back of the front seat to let you rest your legs.
Entertainment is provided by an optional 24 speaker Burmester speaker system, which delivers the best sound we have heard on any car. The front components of the system also twirl out in dramatic fashion when the system is turned on, to add a bit of visual glamour to the incredible sound. You can probably organize a gig with the S Class being your only sound output, so good is this audio system.
There are cameras all around, offering a 180 degree or 360 degree views – as per your choice. They provide various views of the surroundings of the car to ensure all round visibility from different angles.
In addition to all that regular jazz, the S-Class also features sci-fi thermal imaging along with night vision camera. The system automatically detects pedestrians and large animals like deer with the help of its infra-red and thermal sensors. If it senses that the pedestrians or animals are getting precariously within the car’s range, it marks them with red brackets on the central screen in real time. The marked dangers are ‘locked’ and the marking moves along with them, even if they are in multiple in number. It even flashes the headlight automatically to alert the pedestrians. Amazing, isn’t it?
The list of features, and the level of technology involved on this machine is by far the most elaborate, and we will take your through all of them using images.
To sum it up, the new S-class is lighter, more luxurious, better equipped, quieter, safer and more tastefully appointed than any other such car in today’s date. Its exquisite cabin – an astonishing blend of quality, good taste and workmanship, lifts its stature several rungs above any other similar car we can think of, as of date. With the new S-Class, Mercedes-Benz has managed to do the impossible in today’s technologically democratic times by reinventing the Best Car in the World yet again
We are absolutely astounded by the manner in which the Stuttgart based premium car maker has reinstated its supremacy in the premium limo segment. The new S Class emphatically reinstates its position as the Best Car in the World, and leaps ahead of its competition, creating an extensive gap for them – rather big to fill too quickly. Good job, M-B!
- Price: Rs 1.6 crore
- Engine: 4663cc, V8
- Power: 455bhp@ 5250-5500rpm
- Torque: 700Nm @ 1800-3500rpm
- Acceleration 0-100km/h: 4.8 seconds
- Top Speed: 250 km/h (limited)
Every panel of the new S-Class lights up fantastically. You can choose from seven different colors
The light effects are applicable in the cup holders as well (which can be heated or chilled depending on what you are drinking)
The 24 speaker optional Burmester speaker system is absolutely the most fantastic sound system we have heard on a car. The front speakers twirl out when the system is turned on. Check out the light accents under the speaker’s base.
Night Vision can be activated with the press of a button to the driver’s right. Helps you spot monsters from a distance in the dark. Rohan’s playing one for us here.
Sport and Comfort modes to choose from, for the suspension, as well as for the drivetrain behavior. The button at the bottom is to raise the ride height of the car, in case you need to negotiate some extra-tattered roads.
A specific menu can be chosen on the central screen, using a button on the central command unit. The buttons here from L to R represent Seat Settings, Navigation, Radio, Media, Telephone and Car Settings. The system can be turned off using the button on the right.
Half body colored, half chrome door handles are amazingly well-finished and look as stunning as they feel to touch.
Front, rear, side, 180 degree, 360 degree – you just have to choose one camera from the S-Class army of lenses.
Overhead buttons unit controls lights and the massive two-piece sun-roof.
Front passenger side seat controls, offering adjustments, memory and heating / cooling functions.
The most important seat control – rear left – the place where boss would prefer to sit after having spent 1.6 crore rupees. The button on the right moves the front passengers seat ahead. The button on bottom right reclines the rear left seat to offer maximum comfort.
Two zone climate control for the back seat passengers.
Those smashing looking tail lamps are the highlight of the S-Class’s exterior lighting system.
Using this remote, you can choose which screen you want to control – rear left, rear right, or the front (COMAND) screen, and then choose general settings, or options for a specific seat
Reading lights above the rear door
The perforation pattern on the leather is absolutely exquisite. That’s the kind of craftsmanship you expect on the Best Car in the World.
A cigarette lighter, another 12V power socket, two cup holders and a pair of aircraft style stow-in tray tables. You travel business class with the S
Seat belts are height adjustable – a feature which doesn’t even get noticed in the luxurious S-Class cabin
Oops! Do we see a speaker unit in the overhead buttons panel?
Leather cover for the central num-pad is retractable. The Eco mode enables stop-start and shifts to a higher gear as early as possible to save fuel.
DVD changer input ahead of the front armrest
Too drab to the S-Class – dont you think? We would have liked something fancy here as well!
Front pair of cup-holders
Parallelogram shaped twin exhausts look snazzy, and are flush with the bumper.
Two tone folding ORVMs with mounted blinkras and cameras
Spare wheel is a space saver, not a full sized unit.
Various color options for the lighting within the cabin
The interior, even with all its gizmos and gadgets has an air of old-worldly class and authenticity about it. That analogue clock is here to stay we guess, even on the MY 2050 S Class.
Those buttons on the steering wheel are finished in metal – look and feel absolutely fantastic
Exquisite! Isn’t it?
No analgue clocks here. That instrument console is fully digital – those dials are created using a hi-res screen