The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been on the road going on two years now, but the technology found in the these sedans remains the benchmark for the class. Under that understated skin lurks the heart of a robot. Microprocessors and onboard sensors instantaneously determine many of the forces acting upon the car, filter the data, and adjust the car's handling for you.
Starting with the S500, the S-Class was redesigned in the spring of 1999 for model year 2000. The car came out lower, sleeker (most aerodynamic efficiency in a passenger car), smaller, and roomier.
Four distinct models comprise the Mercedes S-Class. All are four-door sedans with different single-overhead-cam engines using three valves per cylinder.
S500 ($80,200) comes with a 302-horsepower 5.0-liter V8.
S430 ($71,850) uses a 275-horsepower 4.3-liter V8.
The new S600 ($115,200) marks the debut of the newest Mercedes engine, a 362-horsepower 5.8-liter V12.
And the hot-rod S55 AMG ($99,500) is powered by a hand-built 5.4-liter V8 producing 354 horsepower with 391 foot-pounds of torque. Standard equipment on the S55 AMG (classified as a Low Emissions Vehicle, even with all that power) includes an active suspension, 18-inch AMG Monoblock alloy wheels with high-performance tires, ventilated front seats, AMG aerodynamic enhancements, and a trunk-mounted CD changer.
S600 features the active suspension, high-polish 17-inch alloy wheels, greater levels of wood and leather trim, a suede-like Alcantara headliner, Parktronic, four heated and power-operated seats, four-zone climate control, CD changer and digital cellular phone with voice control.
S430 and S500 both come with Airmatic air suspension, GPS navigation, Tele Aid with enhanced functions, full leather upholstery, Bose audio system, ESP Electronic Stability Program, and a sunroof.
S430, S500, and S600 can be equipped with a Sport package that sharpens styling and handling. It includes an AMG front air dam, rear apron and side skirts, plus 8.5x18-inch front and 9.5x18-inch rear AMG Monoblock alloy wheels with 245/45YR18 front and 275/40YR18 rear high-performance tires.
Our S500 did not include any of the other many thousands of dollars in available options. Among them: $2190 for a CD changer and cellphone; $5770 for all four power seats; $1880 for four-zone air conditioning; $2960 for active suspension; and $2875 for adaptive cruise control, which uses radar to maintain the distance you program between your car and the car ahead of you. Mercedes was the first to offer this technology, although others are coming (Infiniti Q45, for one). It won't do panic stops for you, so you need to keep your foot near the brake pedal. And because it works with cruise control, presumably your S500 won't make you a captive in a car chase, if the car ahead suddenly accelerates.
For 2002, there is an option Mercedes calls Keyless Go, which uses a small card instead of a keyfob, as well as a button on the shift lever, which shuts off the engine. Among the very few other 2002 changes are standard Daytime Running Lights (sigh), and a semantics change on one climate-control button: a simple, unmistakable "AC OFF" finally replaces the mysterious "EC" (hip-hip-hooray!). Of course, now there's a new button called "ERGO" (therefore?), which replaces the third seating/mirrors memory position.