It takes maybe the oldest car builder in the world to show us the (right)way. To demonstrate what a modern automobile is capable of, assisted by the present state-of-the art electronics.
Of course, superb automobiles are a long tradition at the marque with the three-pointed star. They are building them since generations with their S-Class. We encountered one of the fine first S (sporting) examples recently at the Knokke Grand Prix.
The big three pointed star standing proudly in the north sea wind. Of course this is as we said a sporting car, and actually a forerunner of the legendary series of sports cars proudly bearing the star.
It embodies the spirit if the marque: solidly built, with superior technology and workmanship. Just read our report of the Zoute Grand Prix...
We drove the S-Class to Le Touquet, and parked it in front of then legendary Westminster Hotel. Needless to say, the car felt very well at home here...
Hearing the impressive sound of the big six, it is easy to believe that the historic car has participated in more than 100 events without any problems since its restauration. The latest S class is cast in the same mould. The car breathes a calm solidity, and is built with only one goal: achieve perfection, its engineers and builders aspiring to make the best car in the world. Did they succeed? Just read on...
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The essence of luxury
Indeed, the car breathes perfection, already from its looks. The architecture of the car is classic, and "breathes the elegance of our 1930s cars", according to design chief Gordon Wagner. The radiator grille is now more upright.
The bonnet is long, the roof line domed and the rear end gently slanting, and this gives the car classic saloon proportions. The convex-concave effect of the entire flank gives the elongated car body an extra touch of elegance.
Stepping in the opulent interior, one is enveloped by ultimate seating comfort and excellent ergonomics.
Supreme quality and finish together with a perfectly coordinated use of materials gives the impression that the interior is cast from a single mould.
Supreme rear seating comfort
Of course, in the "Lang" version we drove, rear passengers are enjoying first class comfort. They have a business centre console at their disposal which offers prectical amenities like integration of a telephone handset, but also a full size fridge with folding tables etc.
The reason for the superb comfort at the rear is also because the S-Class was developed as a long-wheelbase saloon. The short-wheelbase version was derived from this.
The flagship model of the Mercedes-Benz passenger cars is chauffeur-driven in Asia, and bearing in mind that this is an extremely important export market, is very wise that Mercedes focused here on rear passenger comfort, and started off with a long-wheelbase design.
It is good to know here that the client has a choice between not less than five rear seat variants. The backrest is adjusted separately, keeping legroom unchanged. The cushion can be adjusted separately for angle and horizontal position.
Behind the wheel...
Superb comfort can also be enjoyed behind the wheel. The wheel is wood rimmed and has the "Mercedes-Benz" emblem at its base; but besides its beauty and pleasant feel it is the good ergonomics of all the controls which truly stands out.
One is immediately at home in the car. The usual steering wheel column lever for the automatic transmission, the familiar rotary pushbutton, with the direct access keys in the centre console for the most important functions and the toolbar for the driving assistance systems, it is all there.
The switch surfaces are metallised and the alminium controls look and feel solid. The new control features include a touch-sensitive telephone keypad.
The seats are of course beyond reproach and it is easy to find your ideal driving position soon, with the adjustmants so easily at your fingertips in the door recesses.
Your eyes then fall on the two high-resolution TFT colour displays in 8:3 format with a screen diagonal of not less than 30,7 cm. (12,3 inches). In front of you appears the instrument cluster, with classic looking dials. The right-hand display allows the easy control of infotainment and comfort functions.
A mobile concert hall
Music lovers as we are, we were truly delighted by the sound system. The car was equipped with a high end Burmeister(R) Surround Sound system, and the radio featured DAB reception, which was quite a wonderful experience in clarity and sound definition and quality. Bravo for Musique 3, which could be heard without the slightest interruption all the time in this superb DAB quality. In the S-Class, the so-called Frontbass system is used. This means that the woofers are housed in the firewall, using the almost 40 litre space in the cross-member and the side member as a resonance chamber (!).
This makes the conventional woofers in the doors unnecessary. To improve the soundscape further, the mid-range speakers in the doors are relocated upwards.
Pushing the start button, and the smooth 3 litre V6 Diesel comes to life. A subdued hum is all you hear, indistinguishable from a petrol engine. Diesel comfort at its best. The 7 speed gearbox lets the power flow ever so smoothly to the rear wheels.
Stay in ECO mode, and you will enjoy all this power under velvet like refinement.
Choosing the more dynamic sport mode will hardly reduce this smoothness, but makes the engine even more responsive to the slightest throttle command. Not that the car needs this. Power and torque is omnipresent in all circumstances. Performance is just superb: 0 to 100 in merely 6,8 seconds, top speed is set to 250 kph. The engine develops 190 kW/258 hp at 3600 rpm, torque is a massive 620 Nm between 1600 and 2400 rpm.
Besides all this smooth power, the responsiveness of the chassis, the superb, agile, neutral handling of the car is also something to be experienced. Our test car was shod with 20 inch alloy AMG wheels. Unbelievable how nimble the 2 tonne car actually feels. Of course, the engineers succeeded in keeping the weight of the car around 2 tonnes, using aluminium for the outer skin of the bodywork, and actually more than 50 % in the whole car consists of aluminium alloys.
The ventilation and climate control is as impeccable as its finish...
On top of these superb dynamics of the car, there is a whole array of driver assist systems to help you end your journey relaxed and safely.
We loved the DISTRONIC PLUS with Steering Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist. Not only could you flick the lever of the cruise control in the chosen speed with utter peace of mind, keeping always a safe distance to the car(s) in front, the Steering Assist will keep you on the right lane, and the Lane Keeping Assist will keep you on track. Indeed, if the lane marking are broken lines, this Active Lane Keeping Assist detects when the adjacent lane is occupied, especially by uncoming traffic, and reduces the risk of the vehicle leaving its lane by applying the brakes on one side.
What was truly amazing also is the frugality of the car. We drove it to a pleasant drive from Antwerp to Le Touquet, a place where the S-Class definitely feels quite at home, and consumed on average some 6,5 litres/100 km, making good use of the power and performance of the car, within the allowed (speed) limits of course.
A word about the lighting of the car. This is the first car ever without a single light bulb. The multif-level functionality of the lighting is another world first: for example, the rear lights reduce their intensity at night or while waiting at traffic lights for example. Almost 500 LED’s illuminate the road, the vehicle, the interior and the boot.
Of course we regretted to part with this superb automobile. It is indeed an outstanding car, which breathes such perfection and comfort that it actually relaxes and rejuvenates you while you drive it. Can we say anything more?
Maybe: just go and sit in the rear and enjoy the drive even more!
Hans Knol ten Bensel