We Spend a day with the new 2014 S-Class in Mumbai to see if it still the 'Best Car in the World'
Imagine a room where all the automobile manufacturers of the world are talking about their luxury automobiles. Everyone from Rolls-Royce to Hyundai is there to stake a claim to the future of luxury cars, but the discussion is never over till Mercedes-Benz has said its final word. The German giant, the inventor of the motorcar, has probably sold more luxury motorcars than the rest of the world combined but that doesn’t stop them from going one step further every time they launch a new generation of their flagship luxury saloon, the S Class.
Although the S-Class nomenclature officially saw the light of day in 1972 with the series W116, Mercedes-Benz officially considers the 1954 ‘Ponton’ series to be the first official S Class. 60 years on, the S Class has held the title of largest sold luxury saloon for years and the new 2014 model year W222 series S Class is all set to take the legend to a whole new benchmark. Although we know most readers are eager to know what the new S Class holds in terms of sheer technology, it is equally important to hark back upon all the technological advances that the S Class has introduced, which in turn have made it to every single car in the world.
The S Class was the first car in Europe to have airbags and the first car in the world to popularize ABS systems (in 1976), the first car in the world with traction control (in 1995), and crumple zones (in 1957) making it one of the safest cars on the road. The impressive list of gadgetry continues with features like a night vision camera that made its first appearance in 2005 and Mercedes-Benz’s acclaimed ‘PRE-SAFE’ system which adjusts certain factors in a car if it senses the driver on the edge of control, just in case the car is heading for a collision. But enough with the history lesson. Lets get back to the present. And lets get back to the all-new W222 S Class.
At first glance, the new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S Class looks like just another evolution of the model gone by, but we are happy to announce that after spending a whole day with the S Class, it is infact just the opposite. The new Mercedes-Benz S-Class is infact a revolution- and a digital one at that. Everything that you see on the car screams ‘The Future is Now!’ (in fact, that would make a pretty appropriate marketing tagline for the new S-Class too). The front fascia has the distinct characteristics of the current generation of Mercedes-Benz. Although similar (if one can use that term broadly) to the design of the likes of the A-Class, the new S-Class is in fact a lot more, and then some.
The new S-Class features a large ‘get-out-of-my-way’ 4-slat chrome grille that makes onlookers demand respect. The large swept-back LED festooned headlamps merge seamlessly into the frontal design. Talking about LED headlamps, the S Class finally brings an end to the ‘Edison-Era’. By that, we mean, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the first car in the world without a single conventional light bulb on it. Every single bit of illumination on the new S Class is done exclusively by Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs).
Mercedes-Benz has moved into the future with its design and materials but at the same time it has decided to keep a huge part of its glorious heritage intact with one very important touch. The new Mercedes-Benz S-Class will continue to have its iconic ‘Three Pointed Star’ hood ornament as opposed to the current generation of Mercedes Benz that has moved to a sportier and larger grille mounted logo. The new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is not only about flashy chrome and a flashback to sepia though.
When seen from the side, the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class has one of the most distinguished (almost coupe-ish) profiles we have seen in a while. Again, although one might argue that the new S-Class is not that different from the one that it replaces, the new coupe-ish stance and pronounced shoulder lines on the new S-Class is unlike what we have seen on S-Classes of recent times. In fact, if we look closely, the way the lines are placed are almost like the ones on the 1954-1961 Mercedes W180 (Ponton Series) sedan. The forward shoulder lines break up the visual bulk of the side by angling the eye downwards as one moved to the rear of the car giving the new S-Class a much sportier stance than before. There is also a similar design element that initiates from the rear tail lamps making its way ahead towards the rear doors giving the S-Class a pseudo ‘flared fender’ look, harking back to the original Ponton era once again.
The all-new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class has an uncanny resemblance to the now deceased Maybach family of automobiles. But then, with Mercedes-Benz making it clear that the new S-Class is good enough to fill the Maybach’s shoes, this was expected. The similarities though are a good thing though with the highly raked tail lamps and the extremely well crafter tail gate. One of the most important observations with the new S-Class’ design though is the simplicity of it. No part of the design feels cluttered or overdone. The trapezoidal exhaust tips integrated into the lipped subtlety of the rear bumper is one of our personal favorite touches as it hints on the powerhouse of an engine that rests under the hood of this new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
If one thinks that the exterior of the new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is slightly understated, worry no more. Open the doors to the new S and one is instantly transported to what is beyond doubt one of the most exciting and fascinating interiors of any production line manufactured car we can remember setting our eyes on. Lets start with the big news though. The first thing that captures one’s eyes as they step into the S-Class are the four well appointed and extremely inviting seats. Those who sit in this new S-Class will certainly not be missing their luxury leather couches back home. The four seats can be equipped with cooling and heating options and individual massaging systems which can offer the passenger a set of six different 15-minute massage packages. There is even a ‘Hot-Stone treatment massage’ treatment which makes the occupant feel as if heated snooker balls are being gently, but firmly plummeted into his back. We cannot begin to explain how comfortable sitting in one of these lounge chairs is!
Continuing on how technologically advanced the interior on thenew 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is though, there are certain aspects that can be quantified only though a barrage of numbers, so here are a few to numb your senses. 6 ventilation motors per seat – 100 comfort enhancing motors for the seats and the steering wheel – 14 pneumatic massage chambers per seat – 1540 watts of sound output from a staggering 24 speakers – 43.5 degrees of recline on the backrest of the rear left hand side seat and the list goes on and on.
One of the most striking aspects on the interior are the large twin screens on the dashboard that create the central console and driver console. As with most cars that feature this level of luxury, the central command screen can generate two different sets of images (e.g. TV and navigation on the same screen) and are processed to generate a mixed image that is then separated by advanced prism technology that allows the driver to see one image and the passenger to see a completely different image. This means that while the driver follows the route set by the extremely competent navigation system, the passenger can enjoy a movie at the same time. The driver console too is one large screen which in turn generates the speedometer and tachometer and other visual aids. The fuel gauge for the first time shows the percentage of fuel left in the car rather than a conventional display. The central console also displays the night vision system that can help improve visibility under fog and general poor visibility conditions.
Another really cool feature on the interior of new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the ambient lighting. Although ambient lighting has been a standard feature in many cars through the yers, the new S-Class takes it to a whole new level! With 7 different light colors for the interior lighting from a day-glow yellow and while to a sbtle pink to the striking blue and red, there is something to attract everyone. Our favorite though was the uber-cool purple ambient lighting option that converted the S-Class into a high end lounge at the touch of a button! In our opinion, the ambient lighting is so cool that it ought to be impemented in every single car henceforth!
While we would not usually reserve an entire paragraph on an automobiles audio system, the new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class’ Burmester sound system certainly deserves a special mention. As we mentioned earlier, the S-Class has a staggering 24 speaker system emitting 1540 watts of sound output! When we did a simple decibel meter test of the audio system with the volume turned up to max, we registered an output of a 90 decibels. Although the boffins at the Mercedes-Benz sound lab could have gone louder, we have been told that 90 decibels is the acceptable limit for a human ear before the sensation of discomfort begins to set in. On similar lines, we also parked the S-Class on the side of one of the busiest roads in South Bombay and to see how much noise filtered into the car while the car was shut down and we got a staggering low figure of 40 decibels. Comparing that to day-to-day life, 40 decibels is the kind of sound one would generate while having a hushed conversation with someone else at a close distance and mind you this was when the car was parked next to one of the nosiest traffic intersections of Bombay - a truly staggering feat of engineering indeed.
Engine, Gearbox and Performance:
Mercedes-Benz India is playing a sheer masterstroke by launching only the 4.6 Litre, twin-turbo, V8, Petrol engine car first with the S500 badging, the diesel is not too far behind. However, for those wanting a bit of extra muscle on their portable bedroom/office/lounge, the S500 has enough poke. With 469PS of peak power on tap (which incidentally is about 60 more than on a Porsche 911 Carrera S), and 700NM of peak torque available on demand by twitching your right foot, the S500 is the sheer definition of a split personality. The S-Class is most certainly one of the most relaxed ways of going really really fast. All 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Classes will feature the 7G-TRONIC, 7 speed, dual clutch gearbox, which incidentally still feels slightly slower than the rest of the car (as is the case with most Mercedes-Benz cars).
The S-Class in standard (non-AMG) form is limited to 255kmph or 155mph as per European Union regulations, but it is the way that it gets there that shatters all senses! There is no noticeable turbo lag whatsoever on the S500 and the large V8 pulls smoothly all the way to the permissible (and legal) limits of the road you are on. Not only does power delivery feel linear and non strained, but there is no real bucking or juddering of any sort in a car this large and this powerful. The all-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class already meets Euro 6 emissions standards, which by itself explains how technologically advanced this car is. Mercedes-Benz claims that the new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class consumes atleast 20% less fuel as compared to its direct predecessor. Mercedes-Benz is also betting big on Hybrid technologies and will have both a Petrol and Diesel Hydrid motor in their fleet of S-Class options.
Ride and Handling:
The 2014 S-Class is one of the best riding cars we have been in recently. Although us auto journalists enjoy putting a car through its paces, this is one of the cars that even us 'wild-bunch' drive with a whole lot of dignity and respect. That said, we did subject the S-Class through a bunch of twists and turns and it came out with flying colors. The ACTIVE BODY CONTROL, Mercedes-Benz's version of adaptive hydraulic suspension is absolutely fantastic and makes mince meat of most potholes and road undulations. Abroad, the new Mercedes-BEnz S-Class comes with a new system called 'MAGIC BODY CONTROL' that adjusts the cars suspension using a set of Stereoscopic Cameras that scan the road to upto 15 meters ahead and adjust the suspension according to what it feels would be the best setting to tackle road condidtions.
Although we personaly feel this is one of the biggest achievements in the new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, this one feature will be missing inthe Indian spec cars. Can you imagine this system trying to keep up with Indian road conditions? One would probably need one of NASA's supercomputers to feed and process pothole data in India! The real reason for Mercedes-Benz not bringing in this technology though is due to a government ban on high-frequency radar based scanning devices which it claims could cause interference with crucial communications and defence systems.
The Airmatic suspension can be adjusted to either Comfort or Sport mode, both of which exhibit very significant changes in the S-Class’s suspension characteristics. The S-Class, ‘engineered like no other’ was built as one of the best ways to get across Germany on its legendary Autobahns quietly, comfortably but also with immense speed. To facilitate high speed stability, the S-Class automatically lowers itself by 20mm over speeds of 120kmph hunkering down onto the road like a supersonic cruise missile.
The S-Class we drove rode on a set of 245/45R19 tyres up front and 275/40R19 tyres in the rear. These huge wheels and tyres are essential to keep the 2015kg (kerb weight) S-Class planted on the road at all times. The S-Class even has a height adjustment system which can increase the ground clearance of the car by 20mm in order to navigate a particularly nasty speed hump or pothole.
Mercedes-Benz has always claimed that the S-Class is the ‘Best Car in the World’. In the past, that statement has certainly held true. Today though, there are several cars that can stake claim to that title. So although the S-Class may not be the ‘Best Car in the World’, we are struggling to remember a car that can do so much, so well and with such grace and panache as the new S-Class.
Although we appear to be completely head over heels in awe of the new S-Class, this new car is certainly worth every word of praise. As picky as us auto journalists are, we haven’t been able to find a single negative on the new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. This then, is most certainly one of the best cars one can buy today in India!
We estimate the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class in S500 specification to be priced at about Rs 1.3 Crore, ex-showroom, Mumbai which also makes it immense value for money for someone who can afford a car this premium!