In this fast-paced world of new gadgets, products and apps launched every other day, seven years seems like a long time for an all-new model. But perhaps not so when you are Mercedes-Benz and the model in question is the S-Class, the setter of new standards for technology and luxury for Mercedes-Benz and, as it believes, for the entire automotive industry. A brief glance at the legacy of the S-Class should convince you the company is not wrong. The S-Class, over the years, has indeed set benchmarks and improved cars across the board. The new S-Class, in line with those expectations, is grander, richer, safer and futuristic.
It does not look radically different from the outgoing model, on the outside. The bigger grille and smaller high-tech headlights up front, pop-out door handles that sit flush with the doors, fewer creases in the profile, and the two-section tail-lights are the main changes, and they all come together to reinforce the family look we have seen on other Mercedes models like the E-Class and the CLS. The result is a cleaner, understated look which is instantly recognisable as a Mercedes. It is 208.3 inches long (up from 206.9 inches), 59.2 inches tall (up from 58.8 inches), and has a 126.6-inch wheelbase (versus 124.6 inches). More space for everyone on the inside and a cleaner, contemporary look on the outside.
The interior is where you realise how much the S-Class has changed — and it is hard to not be impressed. The S-Class welcomes its passengers with cleaner lines and a minimalistic look. It is not just the materials and workmanship, like the previous generations, but technology which makes the cabin luxurious and futuristic. It’s available with up to five screens, including a giant centre touchscreen and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. The days of two screens under one piece of glass that took up two-thirds of the dashboard are over. Instead, the centre screen is set lower, is an OLED screen with richer colours, better contrast, and lower energy usage of that technology. Twenty-seven physical buttons were sacrificed in the making of this interior, and while I did take a moment to mourn them, I didn’t really miss them. The centre screen works on the latest version of MBUX software that comes with improved voice-command functions and a UI which is very much in line with what we see on our phones and tablets, including facial recognition and fingerprint scanning.
What is luxury on most cars is staple fare in the S-Class, but it has been elevated to the next level. Navigation is standard, but the driver can choose the 3D mode; the Burmester surround system pumps 1750 watts from 30 speakers and 8 exciters; the seats are not just electric and comfortable, but offer 10 different kinds of massages; wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but you can plug in a Firestick at the back for the rear screens; voice commands are supported in 27 different languages, and MBUX can learn the voices of individual drivers and passengers, while driver preferences can be accessed through voice commands, fingerprint recognition or facial recognition. If you are old school, you can do all that with a PIN, too — you get the drift, right? Almost anything and everything that can make your ride comfortable is there, but only more luxurious and intuitive.
Like everything else on the new S-Class, safety gets a mega update, too, starting with the industry’s first rear-seat airbags — mounted in the front-seat backrests — which inflate tubular wings designed to protect anyone from adults to occupants in child seats. Up front, standard ‘pre-safe impulse’ inflates outer bolsters in the front seats to quickly shift passengers toward the vehicle’s centre, away from an impacted door and side glass. A set of speedy new processors enables more sophisticated driver-assistance systems – adaptive cruise control, active lane control and lane-change assist, active brake assistance, blind-spot monitoring, and much more. International markets will even get Level 3 autonomous driving, but in India one has to be content, and mildly irritated, with the beeps and alerts for the good cause of safe driving.
Looking at the cabin, and the history of chauffeured S-Classes in India, one may feel the driver’s seat will be the least preferred one. It is not, let me tell you, since I spent most of my limited time with the car in the driver’s seat. The new S-Class has been launched in India with two engine options, a petrol and a diesel with misleading nomenclature, if I may say so. The S450 which I drove isn’t a 4.5-litre V8, but a 3.0-litre inline-six which makes 367 bhp and 50 kgm and is mated to a 9-speed automatic. There are driving modes to choose from and even in ‘sport’ or ‘individual’, as long as you don’t expect the S-Class to be a performance sedan, you will not be disappointed. The mechanicals are always ready for a sprint or a quick stop, but nothing gets through to you in the cocoon of luxury. The chunky leather-wrapped steering is confidence boosting and finely weighted. Body control is impressive for a big 5-metre-plus sedan, and the ride is always creamy. The rear-wheel steering makes the car more manoeuvrable, hiding its size in tighter parking spots.
While the ‘best car in the world’ debate can carry on ad nauseum, no one can deny what Mercedes-Benz has achieved with the latest generation of the S-Class. The luxury, the comfort, the technology are all at the level you expect in a flagship car. A lot of what we see on the new S-Class will filter to other, and hopefully more affordable, Mercs as it has in the past. This generation of the S-Class is the most realistic glimpse into the future when it comes to driver support systems or AI capabilities or the level of comfort. It is, in a way, experiencing the future today. I’ll love it even more once the AMGs arrive.
Mercedes Benz S450
Displacement: 2999cc, inline-six, turbo-petrol
Max power: 367 bhp@6100 rpm
Max torque: 50 kgm@1600-4000 rpm
F/R: 225/45 R19 / 225/45 R19
L/W/H (mm): 5289/1954/1503
Wheelbase: 3216 mm
Ground clearance: 183 mm
Kerb weight: 1915 kg
Fuel capacity: 76 litres
PRICE: Rs 2.17 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi)