• Mercedes-Benz S-Class: First Drive Review

The pioneering limousine ekes out everything possible to push the envelope of automotive technology to a new level

If you want to tell the world you’ve arrived in life without telling you’ve arrived, getting an S-Class would be the simplest thing to do. However clichéd it may sound, I’m going to have to use Mercedes-Benz’s tagline for the S-Class that you may have already read in at least nine reviews out of ten. It is known as ‘the best car in the world’, as long as you are not driving it! The S-Class has always been the pinnacle of what a motor-powered automobile could achieve. For every iteration, the Mercedes’ boardroom seems to be sending out a two-word note to its R&D folks that reads: “surprise us” and they’ve been delivering, every single time!

Today, almost every South Mumbai baller rolls down Marine Drive in nothing but an S-Class. It’s the default choice for millionaires, be it bureaucrats, plutocrats, ambassadors or politicians. Mind you, there are Mercs out there in dozens. In fact, it’ll be easier to spot a Mercedes than a Nissan Kicks today, but the S-Class is extra-special. It’s massive, quick and yet subtle at the same time. My point of focus just like every S-Class’ owner is the rear seat and that’s where I intend to go road testing from, pretending to play Dwayne Johnson from Ballers, while the Ed drives me around! How else do you live a ballers life after all!

The W223 is a refresh over the W222 and most of the changes are inside. Of the 54 pages in the brochure on the Mercedes-Benz India website, 28 are dedicated to the interiors. It’s all about getting the interiors right in the case of the S-Class and I’m not surprised. Getting into the seats is an occasion as the flush-fit door handles detect the key fob and pop out of their slots. Gimmicky? Well, no. This new S-Class also cuts through air like my well-oiled bald head with a drag coefficient of just 0.22. No stone has been unturned like I said. I’m imagining wiping my Gucci glasses, lowering myself into the swanky but understated rear seat, as it’s a space that’s simply magnificent.

The seat is nothing less than a spa. packing in as many as 19 massage motors. The headrests are fluffier than an Akita and the 1,750W Burmester 4D system with 31 speakers, eight exciters and two subwoofers built into the seats is an audiophile’s wet dream. Feeling fatigued? Eject the Samsung tablet (why no iPad, Mercedes?) and select the Energising Comfort programme that alters the audio and massage settings depending on your mood. Or just say, ‘Hey Mercedes, I am stressed’ and the S-Class will make sure you are prepped for your next board meeting. The left rear seat can also be transformed into an airliner’s business-class lounge, at just the touch of a button. But before I spoil myself silly, I catch the Ed’s eye in the rear view mirror and know it’s time to switch seats already!

Nobody manages to blend technology with tradition like Mercedes-Benz. It’s a complex cabin that takes some time to wrap your head around. Everything is touch-based, be it the steering-mounted controls or the swipeable sunroof switch. It may all seem confusing today but I’d not be surprised if the same tech trickles down to every other car within the next decade. Technologies that are omnipresent today in cars, be it ABS or double-glazed windows, debuted with the previous S-Class generations.

The screens float in front of you and even in the centre. The driver’s 12.3-inch display gets a 3D functionality that got me dizzy after a while but that’s maybe because my brain isn’t calibrated to digest so much information just yet. MBUX apparently packs in 50 percent more processing power and recognises eye directions, hand gestures and body language even! It’s insanely futuristic, yet very simple to control once you get the hang of it. There are 250 LEDs bathing the interior in all possible shades. Even the radar-assist systems utilise the lighting with red flashes on respective door panels, depending on the direction of the hazard. And when you finally hit the engine ON button, you’re greeted to another pleasant surprise.

The S 400 d we drove is powered by a massive 3.0-litre, six-cylinder diesel motor. However, it could be distinguished as an EV even, such is the refinement! I decided to put my best ‘gentlemanly’ right foot forward with the S-Class and the car responded nicely. Just like the theme on the inside, everything feels ‘soft’ from the driver’s seat as well. The air suspension allows it to waft around town or over potholed B-roads even in the sportiest, Sport+ setting. The steering could be more communicative, though the rear-wheel steering’s sorcery allows for mind-bending manoeuvres. While taking a U-turn I could switch from the right-most lane on my side to the left-most lane on the other side which is unbelievable given the car’s length of over 5 metres!

The S isn’t slow either. It masks its speeds very well and questions your choices every time you press on with your right foot. I’ll refrain from using utilitarian keywords like ride or handling in an S-Class review because this car really makes them sound and feel trivial. There is a sensorial deprivation cocooning you from the outer world in this car. In fact, Mercedes could even use the tagline, ‘the best mother in the world’, given the unreal comfort levels! And when you’re in the mood for hoonery, she’ll simply scold you by responding with minor body roll. Even the brakes work like cushions. They have a gingerly feel though braking itself is impeccable. On several occasions I was reminded of the length of the car, especially when tackling the massive speed bumps in and around Pune city. But that’s not a big problem either.

Let MBUX work its magic to get the air suspension to lift the 2.3-tonne limousine and you’ll be out of trouble in most situations. If I were to change something, it’d have to be the low-profile rubber on 20-inch rims for their ‘discomforting nature’, especially in our conditions. Even the design language outside isn’t very inviting, especially the car’s rear-end. Maybe I’ll need to have a look at the car in another colour. Oh well, there’s one more thing I would want to change and that’s the car’s price. At Rs 2.17 crore ex-showroom for the diesel version and Rs 2.19 crore for the petrol, it has gotten a lot more expensive. However, an S-class announces your arrival like no other car in the world. Some things in life are priceless after all.

Cars First drives

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