The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been the sales leader in luxury sedans for four decades. The outgoing model remained the segment leader in sales even after seven years on the market. Indeed, half of all the cars priced over $100,000 sold in the U.S. are still S-Class Benzes. That tells you something about the reputation of Mercedes-Benz's most expensive, most elaborate sedan.
Now, Mercedes has introduced an all-new S-Class. The exterior design, the interior design, and the onboard controls systems are entirely new, and all of the safety systems have been upgraded and even further integrated. Only a few parts and systems carry over from the previous-generation models, such as the air suspension system, the seven-speed automatic transmission, and most of the safety systems.
Competition among the best of the mainstream luxury cars is tough, but Mercedes may have risen to the top of the class with this ninth generation of S-Class models.
For 2007, two models of the S-Class are available: the S550 ($85,400), and the S600 ($139,900). Each is distinguished mainly by their engines. The gas guzzler tax on the V8 is $1000, and on the V12 version, $3000.
The S550 is powered by a completely new engine, the 5.5-liter V8 that has gone back to a 4-valve-per-cylinder design. The top-of-the-line S600 is powered by an upgraded version of the 6.0-liter 3-valve V12 twin-turbo engine currently used in the $350,000 Maybach sedans rated at 510 horsepower.
The S550 model offers extremely high levels of standard equipment, befitting its high market position. Virtually every comfort and convenience item is standard, with a huge option list to ease customization. The S600 adds Parktronic front and rear parking radar system, and the newly updated Distronic radar-controlled cruise control. The V8s come with the seven-speed automatic, while the V12 is equipped with a heavy-duty five-speed automatic.
Options include Active Body Control ($3900, standard on S600), Night View Assist ($1775), Parktronic park assist ($650), Distronic Plus cruise control ($2850), wood-and-leather steering wheel ($550), heated steering wheel ($450), dynamic multicontour front seats ($1800), Keyless Go ($950), power rear and side window shades ($700), Panorama glass roof ($1000), a reverse camera that displays on the COMAND screen ($1000), 19-inch wheels ($1200), 18-inch chromed wheels ($1000), and an electronic trunk closer ($500), Packages include the AMG Sport package of wheels, exhaust tips and body moldings ($5600), the P1A package of heated rear seats and Sirius satellite radio ($1250), and active ventilated rear heated power seat package ($2900). The S600 has a new designo Mystic White white-and-black interior and exterior design option for $9295, with only one other option, the 19-inch wheels for $1200.
The new S-Class safety package is unequalled in the class, with all the usual brake and airbag technology upgraded and Pre-Safe accident-readiness equipment made standard. The Brake Assist feature has been improved to Brake Assist Plus status, and is fully integrated with Parktronic and Distronic, respectively the radar-controlled parking and distance-controlling cruise control systems. The system now has two forward-facing radar systems, and can apply the brakes at any speed from zero up to about 125 mph and bring the car to a full stop without driver input. The company says the new system can reduce rear-end collisions in stop-and-go traffic by up to 75 percent. An added wrinkle to the revised PreSafe system that closes the sunroof, closes windows and repositions the seat in the event of an impending collision is that the air chambers in the backs of the multicountour bucket seats inflate to add support to the upper body in case of a rear-ender. The Electronic Stability Program, or ESP, which was introduced to the world on the S-Class two generations ago, is back as standard equipment, with two new features: trailer stabilization, and tire-pressure monitoring.
Another new offering is the optional Night View Assist. It uses infrared, not thermal imaging as the Cadillac's older systems. Using infrared headlamps, a tiny camera picks up and projects clear, sharp images of what's ahead of the car. The picture is displayed in the space normally occupied by the speedometer and tachometer, which change to bar graphs underneath the night vision display when it's activated. Unlike the thermal systems, the Mercedes system uses a sharper SIMOS display instead of a CCD, it does not depend on heat generated by engines or humans to create images, and can operate unaffected by temperature extremes. The system is a world first, and an exclusive S-Class option.
4Matic all-wheel drive is expected in the fourth quarter of 2006 for V8 models, but it is not available for the V12 version. A high-performance AMG model with a new 6.3-liter naturally aspirated V8 replacing the supercharged 5.