The dimensions of the all-new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class are only a few millimeters different from the previous version, but this new one shaves off some bulk and has a more playful exterior demeanor. From the rear, the car presents a familiar, trapezoidal rear end, although it's busy where the rear spoiler collides with the stylized exhaust.
The front fascia is a cohesive sculptured design with a large, slatted grill and headlamps encased in the body fenders. Flared arches in the front fender melt into the bumper, and sharp character lines shape the side profile, an element called the dropping line, that defines part of Mercedes's current style language.
The rear windscreen cuts into the C-pillars, which have a powerful swoop where they meet up and evaporate into the rear shoulder.
The outer body panels and the roof are made of aluminum, and there's aluminum in the interior structure and the suspension bits. Mercedes engineers claim to have achieved a 5-percent improvement in efficiency with these materials.
The overall effect is imposing and expensive, exactly what a new generation of an S-Class should be.
While the new S-Class is defined in part by its technology and a handsome, conservative exterior, the cabin is where stylists have let loose.
Notwithstanding the stereo speaker mood lights, the softest headrest pillows in creation and the option to waft perfumed air into the cockpit, the S-Class interior is sublimely inviting.
The cockpit sweeps around the driver and front passenger, and the dash is a vista of contrasting woods (some with pearl effects), metals and soft-touch leathers, with controls and buttons that are all-intuitive but can be baffling where you first meet them.
Behind the exquisite wood-and-leather two-spoke steering wheel is one of the pair of 12-inch high-resolution color displays that sits in for the conventional instrument cluster. The circular tach and speedometer flank a computerized information panel. To the right, above the four circular HVAC louvres and a fancy analog clock, is display for infotainment, navigation and comfort functions. On the center console is the command center and rotary controller, along with direct access keys for features like the radio and navigation and the menu. A speech dialog system allows users to enter complete addresses by voice. There's also the option of having emails or text messages read aloud.
A chauffeur package is part of a $3,000 Rear Seat package so that the passenger in the right rear seat can electronically raise the footrest and recline, first-class-airline style. Another option for $2,350 offers power rear seats that can be heated or ventilated, a heating steering wheel, and heated armrests front and rear.
Of course, what's a luxo sedan worth if you can't get a massage? There's an Energizing function as well as a hot-stone component if the day's been particularly rough.
Lighting inside the S-Class is something of an art form. The colors and intensity of the LEDs ambient lights in the cabin can lend a soft, romantic glow or, turned up, convert the interior into a mobile disco. In all, there's a choice of seven colors with five dimming levels and four dimming zones.
If an unpleasant odor wafts into the cabin, the S-Class offers a $350 Air Balance Package to infuse the air with a variety of scented liquid packs, including Sport, Nightlife, and Fireside( no Burnt Rubber, alas). A high-end surround sound system from Burmester kicks in if you pony up the $6,400 option price; the standard audio system features 10 speakers.
Rear passengers also have inflatable seatbelts with buckles that rise up for handy access.
Official cargo space in the new S-Class is still to be determined, but suffice to say that the trunk will accommodate more than a couple of golf bags.