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Mercedes-Benz S-500: Supremacy reinstated

With the new S-500, Mercedes-Benz has managed to do the impossible in today's technologically democratic times by reinventing the Best Car in the World yet again, writes Amit Chhangani

It’s commonplace to see average products prefixed ‘best’ these days — more a marketing gimmick than an authentically conferred title. While good quality is more or less a given for all reputable brands in today’s competitive world, it’s the tricky topping of innovation along with some infusion of ingenuity that truly qualifies a product as ‘best’ in its respective domain. More importantly, the claim by the manufacturer should be upheld by the customers and critics alike for it to hold any water.


Pics/Hanoz Patel

The S-Class, in that context is an outstanding machine. Bearing the tag of the ‘Best Car in the World’ proudly since ages now, the luxury limo has made its maker push the boundaries to new limits, and in the process, given the world of automobiles, and consumers much to appreciate and cherish.

Of late, however, after having driven the closest rivals of the previous generation S-Class, namely the Audi A8 L and the BMW 7 series, the gap seems to be narrowing, fast! We really wondered how much better ‘the best’ premium automobile can really be when the competing crop almost matched in certain departments and even outclassed it in certain others.

Driving the Merc
And then we drove the all-new Mercedes-Benz S Class, the S500 to be precise. And we are here to tell you that we are absolutely bamboozled by the manner in which the Stuggart-based premium car maker has reinstated its supremacy in the premium limo segment. The new S Class emphatically reinstates its position as the ‘Best Car in the World’, and leaps ahead of its competition, creating an extensive gap for them — rather big to fill too quickly.

The cabin of the new S-Class is by far the best we have seen in any automobile. Those M-B blokes back there in Germany were out on a mission while designing this fuselage — to set new benchmarks as regards cabin design, quality and craftsmanship. M-B forbid the use of plastic within the cabin, and used high quality, expensive materials like metal, leather and glass to form the solid and tasteful interior of the new S. The cabin features a brand new, organic interior design, with a wraparound dash, new two spoke steering wheel and ambient cabin lighting employing modern LEDs with as many as seven different colors, five dimming levels, and four dimming zones to
choose from.

There are no speedo or tacho needles inside the S-Class’s cabin. The only real needles you get are on the classy clock mounted on the center of the dash. Everything else is taken care of digitally, with two large hi-resolution screens, one above the centre console, and another one serving as the instrument panel representing the gigabytes of data needed to control the innumerable features and functions offered on this technological marvel.

Silent and fast
On the move on a well laid out road, the S-Class astonishes you with the quiet within the cabin. It’s surreal and eerie from the inside, almost perturbing for an automobile in motion. It’s only as the digital rev needle swings past the 4000 rpm mark that you get to hear a distant purr from the big V8 engine. There is close to 460bhp and 700Nm on tap from that monstrous engine, and it makes the S Class accelerate extremely fast — but in an awfully sophisticated, smooth and jerk-free manner.

The back seats of the car are designed to turn even the snootiest, shrewdest businessmen into puppy- faced kids once they get cosseted by the luxury. Both backseats get their individual entertainment-cum-control screens. You can watch movies, see the navigation screen, browse the Internet or just listen to music while also getting a hot relaxing massage. There are as many as six massage programmes to choose from. Under the rear central armrest, you have air-craft style pull out tray tables for both the back seats passengers — M-B has left no stone unturned in ensuring that you travel business class, in every way perceivable.

With the push of a button, the front passenger seat automatically moves ahead and lowers to make available the maximum amount of space to the rear left seat passenger. Entertainment is provided by a 24 speaker Burmester speaker system (optional), which delivers the best sound we have heard on any car. The front components of the system also twirl out in dramatic fashion when the system is turned on, to add a bit of visual glamour to the incredible sound. You can probably hold a gig with the S Class being your only sound output, so good is this audio system.

There are cameras all around, offering a 180 degree or 360 degree views — as per your choice. The Airmatic suspension allows you to soften or stiffen the suspension with the press of a button. It doesn’t matter whether you are in Sport or Comfort mode though, as hardly any thuds ever percolate inside the cabin, even on some of the most tattered roads. You also get to increase the ride height of the car, with just the press of a button while traversing those cratered roads. Handling is terrific too.

Cut above the rest
The car features the wondrous thermal imaging tech for pedestrians you may have overlooked. It identifies pedestrians and big animals automatically and marks them in red on the instrument screen to alert the driver. It even flashes the headlight automatically to alert the pedestrians.

Features abound, and this little space here would never be enough to list all of them. You get heated armrests, tyre pressures monitors, Adaptive Braking, Attention Assist and whole bevy of safety, comfort and convenience features. Some items on this list are standard, some of them are optional — but the list of features, and the level of technology involved on this machine is by far the most elaborate.

The new S-class is lighter, more luxurious, better equipped, quieter, safer and more tastefully appointed than any other such car in today’s date. Its exquisite cabin — an astonishing blend of quality, good taste and workmanship, lifts its stature several rungs above any other car we can think of, as of date. It rightfully claims the badge of the Best Car in the World, once again.

Price: Rs 1.6 crore
Engine: 4663cc, V8
Power: 455bhp@5250-5500rpm
Torque: 700Nm@1800-3500rpm
Acceleration: 0-100km/h: 4.8 seconds
Top speed: 250 km/h (limited)

Rivals

Audi A8 L

A true rival of the S-Class, the A8 is a technology showcase for Audi, its Ingolstadt-based maker. Focussing heavily on ultra lightweight chassis using advanced alloys, with extremely sophisticated engines powering it, the A8 L in some ways even outshone the previous S class. We were dazzled by the machine when we drove it last. It’s loaded to the gills with luxury features and comes across as one heck of a limo. Doesn’t have the traditional, old-worldly charm of the S-Class on the inside though. Expect the 2016 model to create some waves.

BMW 7 series

BMW 7 series

The driver’s limo is past the mid-point of its life cycle, and still holds its own when it comes to driving dynamics. It’s impeccably built and boasts an intuitive menu driven control system. The cabin, however, doesn’t seem distinctive enough from the rest of the BMW models for a car in this class. BMW owners prefer driving to being driven, and the attitude of the 7series reflects just that. A 2016 model is due – expect some great innovations on the new model.

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