Ok now picture this: You’ve been flown to Hamburg, Germany to witness the reveal of Mercedes-Benz’s flagship vehicle, the hallowed S-Class. They shuttle you to a giant hangar at the Airbus factory, next to where the fuselage of the world’s biggest commuter plane, the A380, is built. Once there the fine craftsmen at Benz ply you with plate after plate of gastronomic delicacies, and then wash it all down with bottles of champagne, Johnny Walker and enough alcohol to stun the entire Florida State campus. Once you’re good and well plied they lead you to a large auditorium where a gorgeous blond begins to recite the many excellences of the Mercedes brand, and then shows on a large screen the guest of honor, the S-Class, arriving to the factory in a massive red and yellow DHL airplane. Sure, it’s all quite opulent — but nothing we haven’t seen before.
And then, suddenly, it happens. The back wall opens up exposing the wide rain-slicked airfield behind it, the backdrop of which is an enormous A380. A SLS AMG sits center, and then begins doing donuts. Before it can finish a 720, a representative of each of the vast Benz fleet rushes from out of view to the tarmac, lead by the S-Class itself. Fireworks start shooting into the sky, lighting up the dark clouds with their plumes of gold. Actual lightning flashes across the skies. It could not have been scripted any better by Punor himself (or as the Norse call him, Thor). Then the S-Class rides onto the stage of the luxury suite, the back door opens, and out walks Alicia Keys. At that very moment, actual thunder boomed.
It was fitting Punor oversaw the festivities, because not only is he the Germanic god of thunder but he’s also the god of hallowing, as in consecrating. And for Mercedes Benz there is no vehicle more holy than the S-Class, their flagship car and the very vehicle on which they pin their long-earned laurel wreath of luxury. The S-Class represents luxury, and the S-Class unlike any other car in their line-up represents Mercedes-Benz.
Hence the bombastic pomposity of the event. This was no time for subtlety, as the Tristar decided to consecrate the evening with all guns blazing. And fireworks shooting into the black clouds.
So Alicia sat down in front of the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra (yes, they invited the actual Hamburg Symphony Orchestra) and proceeded to serenade the hall of international auto journalists, executives and guests with “That Girl Is On Fire”, in a voice that sent goosebumps crawling across arms. There are worse fates than to be flown to Germany to witness the unveiling of a world class luxury car, let me tell you.
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“The S-Class represents luxury, & the S-Class unlike any other car in their line-up represents Mercedes-Benz…”
Visually the new S-Class is pretty much what one would expect, the linework won’t shock anyone. Its long hood is ornamented with a taller, bolder, more 3D grill, as is the style of the day. The domed roof leads down to a gently sloping rear end, the side view augmented with Benz’s now signature “Dropping Line”. The end result is a graceful large saloon. “Stylish sportiness and sensual forms in synthesis with timeless clarity and effortless superiority make the S-Class a true design icon,” Benz Design Chief Gordon Wagener verbosely stated. Now I don’t know about all that, but it’s surely aesthetically potent.
But the S-Class has never been about fireworks, visual or actual. It’s about groundbreaking technology — tech that not only informs the rest of the Benz fleet, but nearly every competitor. And once again it should have its rivals scrambling to keep up, as Mercedes loaded its executive sedan with a ridiculous suite of amenities. So let’s begin.
Interior-wise the car is loaded with innovations. Moving beyond simple seat massagers, the S-Class follows a “hot stone principle” with 14 independently controlled heated air cushions inside the backrest that move in concert to massage your overworked back. In addition, active seat ventilation uses oscillating fans to increase the heat. As usual for Benz the interior is a stunning play of wood, glass and leather, trimmed with metallised switches with pearl paint finishes and solid aluminum controls. The S-Class has also ditched incandescent lights entirely, and is the first vehicle in the world to solely utilize LED lighting — in total, almost 500 LEDs are placed throughout the vehicle.
Two massive 12.3” displays with 1440 x 540 resolution dominate the dashboard. The left screen acts as the instrument cluster and displays speedometer, tachometer etc, while the second functions as the satnav infotainment screen. Like the old S-Class, the 2014 model comes with a remote control that users in the back can use to control whatever aspect of the car they’d like. New for 2014, however, is an app that can convert any iPhone or Android to act as the remote. This is all part of their “First Class Rear” concept, which endeavors to make the backseat as important as the front in reaction to the growing Chinese market — unlike American and European markets where owners prefer to drive themselves, Chinese buyers prefer to be chauffeured.
Dr. Z unveils the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class to much fanfare…
We can’t all have Alicia Keys welcome us to the S-Class on a daily basis, so Benz has offered the top tier Burmester 3D High-End surroundsound system. It features 3 speakers in the headliner above that fully augment your audio selection. To keep your sound pristine, more than 150 insulation components have been integrated to reduce engine, road and ambient noise.
OK so now you’re feeling nice and relaxed. You’re eyes are feasting on a visual epitome of luxury and your ears are serenaded with 3D sound. But what about smell? Sure, your nose wants in on the action too. Hence Mercedes is the first car manufacturer to offer an Active Perfuming System. Yup, perfume for your car. But fret not, unlike those pungent “air fresheners” you get at the car wash the Benz fragrance molecules won’t transfer to either interior materials or you clothes — so even if you want your car to smell like “Nightlife Mood” your Tom Ford suit won’t. Other fragrance options include “Freeside Mood”, “Sports Mood” and “Downtown Mood”, which may or may not smell like a homeless junkie. The verdict is still out. Vials can be easily exchanged, with a range that will be expanded in the future.
All this means that you’ll love your S-Class so much you won’t want to leave it. Which is fine, because now you won’t even have to. The new S-Class’s seats can recline to 43 degrees, something you can’t do in any other car of its class. The backseat reclines almost flat, while the front seat reclines enough to become a footrest for the backseat passenger. So catch a nap while Pierre drives you to the airport. How nice.
What began a decade ago as Pre-Safe was then augmented with Distronic Plus, and has now become “Intelligent Drive” — a new dimension in driver safety. With a new stereo camera and multistage radar sensors, the S-Class has 360-degree all around vision, to see the road better than any other car. But not only does it see potential dangers like pedestrians and large animals, but it also senses impending discomforts like large potholes and bumps. Using this Road Surface Scan (via its stereo camera) the car continuously scans the road ahead and warns the Magic Body Control system that then preps the suspension for whatever comes your way. This results in what Benz execs like to dub a “magic carpet ride”. Magic? Not quite, but certainly innovative — and, again, the only one its class.
Add this to Mercedes’ already impressive safety technology suite — e.g. Active Lane Keeping, Brake Assist System, Attention Assist, Night View Assist, Adaptive Highbean Assist Plus etc. — and you have what they claim is the safest car on the road.
At first the executive sedan will launch in America solely as the S550 this September, with the all wheel drive S550 4MATIC coming in November (there are whispered rumors of an S63 AMG 4MATIC coming in November as well, but those are yet to be confirmed). As for further rumors, a plug-in hybrid may also be coming in Fall of 2014… but you didn’t hear that from us. Unlike Europe, America is only getting the 124.6-inch long wheelbase, which is a little over an inch wider and .7-inches taller than the outgoing 2013 model. Engine-wise the S-Class’s 4.7 biturbo V8 increases horsepower to 455, 26 more than the outgoing model (its 516 lb-ft of torque stays stat).
While we wait for a return volley from Audi, BMW, Lexus and company, Mercedes-Benz has certainly fired a potent volley into the luxury executive sedan market. Certainly its technology separates it from the crowd, but we look forward to getting behind the wheel so we can test out some of its features. Perhaps a little a “hot stone principle” warming our backs, Alicia Keys on the Burmester 3D High-End surroundsound system and “Downtown Mood” tickling our olfactory senses. And if we’re lucky, maybe Punor will make a visit and we can test out the Magic Body Control system. There are worse ways to spend a commute.