Mercedes-Benz says that the S-Class is â€œthe best automobile in the worldâ€. Thatâ€
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You see, the Daimler-owned brandâ€
So, does the latest-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class â€“ with fresh styling that manages to combine the classic with the modern â€“ continue in this class-leading vein? The short answer is a resounding â€œyesâ€.
The area in which one immediately notices a marked step up â€“ even in the base S 350 BlueTec we sampled â€“ is that of assistance systems. Well-known functions have been enhanced, while a few new tricks have also been added to the already-bursting S-Class bag. And all of these futuristic functions, grouped under what the German automaker terms â€œIntelligent Driveâ€, rely on a nifty new stereo camera and a number of multi-stage radar sensors.
The introduction of this stereo camera, which is positioned behind the windscreen near the rear-view mirror, is particularly significant.
One of the systems we made sure to test was the awkwardly named â€œDistronic Plus with Steering Assist and Stop&Go Pilotâ€, which allows the vehicle to semi-autonomously follow other cars (at a set distance) in traffic. Yes, that means no pedal or steering input is required, although at least one hand must be kept on the wheel at all times. Placing oneâ€
In fact, thereâ€
But anything more than partial-autonomy would mean the fortunate person positioned in the uber-comfortable driverâ€
And the 190kW six-potter, which propels the two-tonne barge from zero to 100km/h in 6.8 seconds, is apparently also capable of taking tiny sips from the 70-litre fuel tank, with the Stuttgart-based manufacturer claiming an average fuel economy of just 5.9 litres per 100km (for the record, we returned 8.2). A super-low drag coefficient of 0.24 obviously helps in this regard. Drive to the rear wheels is via an unobtrusive seven-speed automatic transmission, which goes about its job quietly and calmly, despite the presence of the almost inappropriate paddle-shifters.
After all, the â€œentry-levelâ€ Mercedes-Benz S 350 BlueTec favours supreme comfort and lavish luxury over outright dynamic ability (which isnâ€
This comfort factor is hard to beat in the grand saloon segment, and along with the oodles of on-board tech, is what defines this class-leading Benz. Space on the rear bench is appreciable, and thereâ€
The model we tested boasted a rear entertainment system consisting of two tablet-like monitors (with independent access to various media sources), wireless headphones and individual remotes. There are also electric roller blinds all around, and back-bench options include electrically adjustable (and heated/cooled) seats, a reclining function with calf support, a massage system, a built-in refrigerator, â€œthermo-cupholdersâ€ and â€œbusiness telephonyâ€. Splendid.
The quality of materials used throughout the cabin is, of course, top-notch. Pretty much every surface your hands come into contact with feels flawlessly finished, from the almost artistic switchgear to the swathes of soft leather and polished expanses of wood. It really is a wonderful place to while away the hours, whether youâ€
Up front, the dashboard is ruled by a pair of high-resolution TFT colour displays, one of which functions as a nifty digital instrument cluster. The multimedia system is absolutely overflowing with functions â€“ including Comand Online, 3D navigation with live traffic info, an extensive media player (radio/CD/MP3/Aux/USB), and full Bluetooth connectivity (with a handy call-waiting function) â€“ which makes it a little tricky to use at first. Indeed, even the automatic climate control system is manipulated on-screen via the console-mounted rotary control. But get your head around the sheer number of functions and it all suddenly seems rather intuitive.
Safety, of course, is well covered, with eight airbags, hill-start assist, acceleration skid control, adaptive brake lights, and an electronic stability programme all standard (in addition to the â€œIntelligent Driveâ€ systems outlined earlier). And, as is the German way, there are myriad optional extras should you feel the need to splash even more cash. In fact, the list of extras on our test model cost as much as a premium hatchback.
So, back to the original claim from the folks at Mercedes-Benz: Is the S-Class really the best automobile in the world? Well, while you may find better â€œdriverâ€
And in terms of cutting-edge technology, out-and-out luxury, and absolute comfort, itâ€
Yes, the semi-autonomous Mercedes-Benz S-Class is still ahead of the pack. Incontestably so.