January 24th, 2014
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When Mercedes-Benz SA launched the new S-Class at the Joburg International Motor Show as “the best car in the word” the German car giant opened the doors wide for motoring journalists to dive in and prove them wrong. If I say that I was not one of the sceptics, it would be a blatant lie.
Being chauffeur-driven to dinner in the S 500 the night before the long-awaited drive, I was dying to get behind the wheel myself, especially after the young driver plugged his phone into the car’s phenomenal Burmese® High-End 3DSurround Sound system and proudly showed off its superior sound clarity as I reclined in the electric rear seats which tilt backwards by about 43°!
At first glance it is clear: the new S-Class has an ambition to lead. The radiator grille is now larger, upright and distinctly three-dimensional and the long bonnet, the flowing, domed roof-line and the gently slanting rear end contributes to the car’s classic saloon proportions. After a spectacular launch at Cape Town International Airport, I took to the road. On offer to drive were the S350 BlueTec turbo-diesel (with 190kW and 620Nm), the S400 hybrid (3.5l V6 engine that makes 225kW and 370Nm), the impressive S500 model (the 4.7l V8 twin turbo engine delivers 330kW and 700Nm) and the flagship model, the S63 AMG (the 5.5l V8 bi-turbo engine produces 430kW and 900Nm with 7-speed twin clutch automatic transmission).
Compared to its predecessor, the new model boasts a moderate increase in size by an improvement in all the interior dimensions. The interior is spacious, plush and luxurious and although one is spoilt with the widest range of gadgets to play with, the at times overwhelming technology is very user-friendly.
Normally I would elaborate on driving performance, but we are talking about the S-Class, so five-star road-handling goes without saying — this is all about experiencing a list of futuristic, sophisticated and advanced and technological features no other luxury car in the world can match, yet.
I expected the S350 BlueTec turbo-diesel and the S400 hybrid to be sluggish, but due to Merc’s super-advanced aluminium hybrid body-shell, the weight of the body, in relation to its size, has been improved by 50%. The S 500 is probably one of the smoothest Mercedes engines I’ve ever driven. The best way to possibly describe the S 63 is to say that it is a dangerously fatal rocket that would land me in trouble, especially as the S-Class boasts a high level of crash safety and outstanding rigidity.
My favourite new feature is the Distronic Plus system, which monitors the situation ahead of the car and can recognise an impending accident. If Distronic Plus detects that heavier braking is necessary, the car will prompt the driver to exercise special caution and to apply the brakes himself, if necessary.
Not that it should make the slightest difference in the pockets of the discerning S-Class buyer, but all models boast up to 20% lower fuel consumption than the outgoing series. The combined fuel consumption is also surprising: S350 (5.5l/100km); S400 hybrid (6.3l/100 km); S500 (8.6l/100 km); S 63 (10.1 to 10.3l/100 km).
Thanks to a new stereoscopic camera and multi-stage radar sensors, the S-Class has 360-degree all-round vision and detects potential dangers on the road better.
The Magic Body Control system scans the road ahead and adjusts the vehicle’s suspension to anticipate oncoming road imperfections, enhancing the driving experience. The S-Class is the world’s first car capable of detecting road surface undulations in advance.
Every part of the new S-Class is well-conceived and thought through and I only had one problem: I could not use my car charger to charge my phone as the cigarette lighter is positioned at an angle and I could not manoeuvre the charger into the socket. But then again – the car is well equipped with USB ports – and nobody driving one of the world’s most technologically advanced cars should be running around with a traditional cigarette lighter cell phone charger anyway!