Sliding behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz S class is always a treat, but when it’s the first time behind the wheel of a completely new iteration of this most luxurious of European luxury sedans it’s extra special. I’m fully aware that I’m not the target audience for this car, although many of our SL Market Letter subscribers and customers are. After putting a new 2014 W222 S550 sedan through its paces for an afternoon recently, I’ve certainly found something to aspire to.
From the outside, the new S class seems to be an evolution of the previous body style incorporating the styling cues that are being passed around the entire Mercedes-Benz product line… following the Mercedes tradition of evolution as opposed to revolution. The styling lines that flow down the sides of the new S class are similar to the lines found on the new CLA class we reviewed in the last issue of the SLML (Vol. XXVIII, No. 7). It is unmistakably Mercedes Benz, updated and modern.
Our rear wheel drive S550 test car, on loan from our friends at Sears Imported Autos Mercedes-Benz in Minnetonka, MN was powered by the 4.6 liter biturbo direct injection V8 cranking out 449 hp with an impressive 516 lb-ft torque @ 1,800 – 3,500 rpm. This is one of two engine options at this point for the U.S. market, the other is the 5.5 liter biturbo direct injection V8 with 577 hp and 664 lb-ft torque at 2,250 – 3,750 rpm found in the S63 AMG. Other engine options will become available as production moves forward to include the S350 BlueTEC diesel, the S400 gasoline electric hybrid and the S300 BlueTEC diesel electric hybrid, they may not all make it to U.S. shores, but they will be available somewhere.
The S class family will grow in terms of body styles as well. Word is that Mercedes will release other S classes including a short wheel base version, an extra long wheelbase version, coupe, convertible and ultra-upscale Pullman to pick up the slack left by the now discontinued Maybach.
The driving experience doesn’t feel all that different than the outgoing model. The W221 S class was as fine a car as I certainly have ever driven… but the new W222 is just a little better. It does feel a bit faster when accelerating onto a highway on ramp, it even seems a bit more quiet inside, more serene. You don’t feel much from the driver’s seat… whether it’s the bumps in the road or feedback through the wheel, it’s a fairly sterile experience. Don’t misunderstand, if I needed to drive across the country today with a couple of passenger’s I would take this car in a heartbeat, I’m just not sure how you would make a car any better, any more comfortable.
The ‘Magic Body Control’ suspension system with hydraulic active body control (ABC) is part of the reason the new S class feels like you’re riding above the road. The system uses stereoscopic technology (2 cameras) to watch for bumps in the road ahead of you only to relax the suspension as you approach, absorbing the bump so you don’t have to feel it. There is more ‘magic’ in the new S class, in its ‘Magic Vision Control’ windshield wipers (originally introduced on the 2013 SL class). Windshield washer fluid is sprayed from the wiper blade itself, through tiny little holes along the wiper blade edge itself, lest you be blinded for 3/100ths of a second by a regular hood mounted washer nozzle of yesteryear.
Safety features are many in the new S class… things like Blind Spot Assist are available, as in previous models, While the new S class continues with packages like the Driver Assistance Package with very useful options such as Blind Spot Assist and DISTRONIC PLUS ® with Active Lane Keeping Assist, things that actually make driving safer and easier, it’s the almost never ending list of new ‘comfort and convenience’ features that I find a bit overwhelming.
I’d be interested to hear from new S class owners who already have the 2014 model… how much the ‘Air Balance Package’ with a fragrance atomizer and multiple scents to be plugged into the glove box, played a role in your buying decision.
Massaging seats are perhaps old news for the S class, but for 2014 there is a ‘hot stone massage’ option, heated seats have been around a long time, but how about heated center console armrests and door panel armrests… available for the front and rear seats. Over the top? I think so. I like new cars as much as the next guy, but the sheer amount of high tech gadgetry and over the top comfort and convenience equipment in the new S class is dizzying.
Since the early days, Mercedes-Benz has used its top of the line sedans as test beds for their newest comfort, convenience and safety features. It’s clear that Mercedes is rising above traditional competition from BMW and Audi and approaching ultra-luxury manufacturers like Bentley and Rolls Royce when it comes to the complete pampering of driver and passengers. If the goal of Mercedes-Benz was to ‘one up’ every other luxury carmaker out there, I think they’ve succeeded in the new S class. I just wonder where these cars will be in 20 years? I’m afraid we will park a 2014 S63 AMG next to a 1969 300SEL 6.3 at Legends of the Autobahn in 2035 and the 6.3 owner will lament his clock not working while the S63 owner may have to explain why 38 of the more than 100 interior motors powering everything from foot rests to seat massagers aren’t working.
Price and options as tested…
2014 S550 Sedan (rear wheel drive)
Suggested Retail Price $92,900
PAINT/UPHOLSTERY & TRIM
775 Iridium Silver N/C
801 Black/Black Nappa Leather 2,290
731 Burl Walnut Wood Trim N/C
OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT AND VALUE ADDED PACKAGES
137 Comfort Box 350
P01 Premium 1 Package: Active ventilated 4,500
front seats, KEYLESS-GO® with HANDS-FREE
ACCESS, PARKTRONIC with Active Parking
Assist, Power rear-side window sunshades,
Active multicontour front seats with massage
321 Sport Package: 19” AMG® Twin 5-Spoke 5,900
Wheels with All-season Tires, Sport Bodystyling
(Front and Rear Bumpers, Side Skirts)
325 Rear Seat Package: 4-zone climate control,3,000
Power right-rear footrest, Outboard rear
seatbelt air bags with illuminated PRE-SAFE®
445 Warmth and Comfort Package: Heated 2,600
steering wheel, Power outboard rear seats with
memory and detachable headrest pillows, Heated
and Active Ventilated outboard rear seats,
Heated front/rear center armrests and heated
585 Air Balance Package: Cabin-air purification 350
system with ionizer and dual-activated charcoal
filters. Fragrance atomizer with LED-backlit vial
864 Rear Seat Entertainment Package: Rear 2,650
Seat Entertainment System with remote control.
997 Driver Assistance Package: 2,800
DISTRONIC PLUS ® with Steering Assist, Active
Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist,
PRE-SAFE® Brake with Pedestrian Recognition,
BAS PLUS® with Cross-Traffic Assist, PRE-SAFE®
PLUS with rear-impact protection
Destination and Delivery 925
Total Retail Price $118,265