It is not uncommon for car manufacturers to use hyperboles to describe their products. When it comes to luxury or performance cars, this tendency reaches another level. So, when German luxury car maker Mercedes Benz called its top-of-the-line saloon, the S Class, the best sedan in the world, we took it with a pinch of salt. Oodles of it. But only till the time we actually drove it on an equally rewarding, if a tad boring, Hyderabad-Bangalore expressway. While one can go on and on about a car that has a legacy as rich as the S, we thought we will give you just five reasons why this car is so special.
To many, S class represents the epitome of luxury, and with the face-lifted version, the package has only become better. From ambient lighting--there are 64 shades on offer, to the music system--13 high-performance speakers, 9-channel DSP amplifier with a total output power of 590 W and amplifier/speaker systems configured specifically for the vehicle, to even the choice of six fragrances for the cabin, S Class is full of extravagance. This is a car to be chauffeured around and one has to look no further than the seats, particularly the ones at the rear, to know why. They come with two additional climate zones so that temperature and air distribution can be individually set for the left and right sides using a control panel on the rear of the centre console. Selective climate control is ensured by two air vents each in the centre console, B-pillars and rear footwell. The seats themselves could be reclined up to 43.5 degrees. Talking of the centre console, it comes equipped with thermo-cup holders which utilise Peltier technology to cool or warm your beverage. Then you get the famous massage function, which this time also gets the world's first hot-stone therapy, with an integrated warming function and choice of six massage programmes. While this luxury will ensure you reach your destination fresh as a daisy, the trouble is whether you would want to step outside at all.
The S Class does not have, never had and perhaps never will have, the biggest engine in town. Nor does it have the fastest sprint. That is not to say it is a slouch by any means. The one powered by the six-cylinder petrol engine that makes a peak power of 367 bhp and torque of 500 NM can sprint to 100 kph from standstill in 5.1 seconds while the three-litre diesel engine with a peak power of 286 bhp and torque of 600 NM can do the same in six seconds. But its extraordinary ride quality that it offers, be it at slow or high speeds, on good or bad roads, that we ought to talk about.
With all the attention to detail and luxury of the cabin, a lot of work has also gone into what underpins that--the chassis of the car. Working in combination with a stepless damping control system, the air suspension system ensures superlative road roar and tyre vibration characteristics and driving dynamics. The damping is adjusted on each wheel to the actual driving situation and can be set to be comfortable or sporty, as desired. Thanks to the pneumatic all-round self-levelling suspension, the vehicle maintains a constant level irrespective of the payload To increase ground clearance on poor surfaces or ramps, the suspension can be raised by up to 30 mm at the touch of a button when the engine is running - both when stationary and on the move. From a speed of 100 km/h, the suspension level is automatically lowered by 20 mm in "Sport" mode. In "Comfort" mode, the suspension level is initially lowered by 10 mm from a speed of 120 km/h, and by another 10 mm from 160 km/h. The lowering action reduces aerodynamic drag and therefore fuel consumption, while improving handling stability thanks to a lower centre of gravity.
The designers at Stuttgart know an S class consumer is one who has seen and experienced all sorts of luxury and does not need to be flamboyant to impress. Hence the car has also been designed like that--understated and classical. There aren't a whole lot of changes made to the styling of the car. It retains its traditional three-slat grille but there are some subtle changes like vertical strips with a high-gloss black finish. The LED headlamps, and you will hear about them a lot more, now feature Mercedes' triple torch design, three distinctive LED Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) that have become signature feature of a three pointed star. The S-Class being the eldest gets three, the E has two, and the C, often referred to as the baby S, has one. The S-Class is now 24mm and 31mm wider at front and rear, respectively, which means some added space inside. Overall there is no mistaking its presence on the road. It doesn't scream for attention but once you set your eyes to it, it immediately conveys that somebody important is around.
Glimpse of the Future
Autonomous driving has for long caught the fancy of carmakers around the world and Daimler is no different. The S class gives us a sneak peak of what is to come in future. Its driving assistance package has been bolstered beyond just cruise control and parking assistance to enable the various radars and sensors to completely take over the vehicle while cruising on the highways for shorter duration.
How does it do it? The Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC is able to support the driver with controlling the distance to the vehicle in front, up to a speed of 210 km/h. The desired speed can be set between 20 km/h and 210 km/h. Further, thanks to active lane change assist, the car can even change lanes on its own without any steering feedback with the guidance of the indicator. But this is not a full-fledged autonomous car so the car would prompt the driver to touch the steering wheel every half a minute just so it knows the driver has not fallen asleep. Failure to do so would prompt visual and sound alarms and ultimately the car would park by itself at the side of the road. At low speeds, the system can also react to stationary vehicles. If the vehicle is braked to a complete stop at the end of stop-and-go traffic by DISTRONIC, it can move off again up to 30 s later without the driver having to intervene.
Being the top of the line offering of the world's most successful luxury car maker, the S Class goes beyond the usual multiple airbags, ABS, EBD, ESP routine of safety features that have become the norm. Safety for the S goes beyond and percolates down even in areas that are not really seen as the domain of safety. Take the headlights for example. The multibeam LED enables extremely fast and precise adjustment of headlamps to the given traffic situation. The light can always be switched on precisely where it is required via 84 individually controllable LEDs. A total of four control units calculate the ideal light pattern 100 times per second using information from a camera behind the windscreen. If no other road user is detected, the road is straight and the vehicle speed is over 40 km /h, the additional ultra range Highbeam goes on automatically. The maximum legally permitted light intensity is produced, which means that the brightness of the main beam falls short of the reference value of one lux only at a distance of more than 650 metres. When the system detects motorway conditions, an optimised high beam pattern is selected accordingly. Motorway high beam reduces the risk of dazzling oncoming trucks and focuses the driver's attention on their own lane. In combination with COMAND Online, the cornering light with roundabout function already activates the cornering light function prior to entering a roundabout.
Then there is the emergency braking system that along with Distronic and lane assist systems explained above, gives the car a different level of invulnerability. If an accident risk is detected, the system can warn the driver, assist with emergency braking and, in an emergency, apply the brakes automatically. It can detect slower-moving, stopping and stationary vehicles as well as, vehicles at the end of a tailback and pedestrians in the danger zone with the aid of radar sensors and the stereo camera. If danger is detected, the system gives the driver a visual and audible warning. If the driver reacts and brakes, it can boost the braking effect as the situation demands, right up to full brake application. If the drivers fails to respond, Active Braking Assist is able to brake the vehicle in accordance with the situation. Up to a speed of approx. 130 km/h it can at least mitigate the severity of the accident - all within the respective system limits.