Luxury spelt with an S: The new Mercedes S-Class
Traditional strengths meet a new engine and driver assist systems to keep the new S-Class right at the topUpdated: Mar 10, 2018 20:54 IST
On the face of it, the facelifted Mercedes-Benz S-Class is well, just another facelift. It gets a typical mid life cycle refresh with a new grille, bumpers and lights. The changes under the bonnet however are monumental, because with this facelifted S-Class, Mercedes has introduced a pair of brand new, state-of-the-art engines that bring along a string of industry firsts. Also, the S-Class is the first Mercedes in India to get some form of semi-autonomous tech with its suite of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). But before a dive under the car, let’s have a look at some of the cosmetic upgrades.
The play’s the thing
You can’t miss the new headlights with their cluster of three LED light strips, which Mercedes calls the ‘triple-torch’ design. The LED strips also give a hierarchy to the Mercedes range and establish the S-Class at the top of the range with three light strips, whilst the E-class gets two and the C-class just one. And in case you’re wondering, no, Maybach versions don’t get four! The grille gets a high-gloss black finish for the vertical strips and the front bumper is partly new. The tail lamps have a brilliant crystal effect that genuinely stands out and there’s also a new set of five-spoke alloy wheels that look sportier than before. But these 18-inch wheels look too small and ordinary on a car as big and classy as the S-Class. Mercedes can’t seem to design alloys as well as, say, BMW does.
There are no major changes to the interior, so what you get is a traditional design which isn’t as modern as the 7-series or as high-tech as the new A8. But the cabin still has a special old-world charm to it, with retro-looking circular vents, lots of chrome bits and wood finishes. However, the infotainment system has been completely modernised. The two huge 12.3-inch displays with stunningly sharp graphics have been integrated into a one-piece glass panel and offer a myriad of customisable display options which you will never tire of playing with. You also get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (a first on the S-Class) to interface with your smartphone. Your phone can be charged wirelessly in the front and the back. The steering wheel, wrapped in sumptuous nappa leather, is completely new, but overloaded with buttons to control multiple functions. There’s so much to play with inside the new S-Class, including a choice of 64 mood lighting colours; this festival of lights makes the cabin feel like a Diwali celebration every evening on the way home from work.
There are no changes to the suspension but I’m not complaining. The all-conquering ride is still magical and the S-Class glides over potholes, ruts, and bumps as if they didn’t exist.
The back seat is the place to be in the S-Class. It’s not just the heavenly ride, but also the fantastic seats that still offer unparalleled comfort in this class; they are perfectly cushioned, recline by a sleep-inducing 43 degrees and have electrically retractable footrests. It’s supremely quiet for a diesel too, more so than the previous S 350d, if that were possible, and sets a new standard for refinement.
The coolest one
But how does the new engine perform? In a word, it’s absolutely brilliant. Take off is smooth and the big S-Class gathers pace in a measured but extremely brisk way like an Airbus thundering down a runaway. It’s deceptively quick for a heavy, stately diesel – the dash to 100kph comes up in 6.8sec, which is over a second faster than the older car.
The driver assistance aids that debut on the S-Class can be lifesavers if you’re the type that checks Twitter whilst driving. These electronic nannies will apply the brakes on their own in an emergency, and warn you with a loud beep of a car in the lane next to you. The Distronic system – a kind of adaptive cruise control – will keep a constant distance or pace with the car in front of you to let you drive completely with your feet off. How cool is that?
The S 350d also shows the proverbial middle finger to the anti-diesel lobby by meeting the far more stringent BSVI emission standards norms two years before the deadline. Breakthrough hardware has allowed the S 350d to achieve BSVI on BSIV fuel, which the engine was not originally designed for. This makes it the cleanest diesel in the country by far.
The S-Class’ traditional strengths like the high-quality cabin, pillowy ride, and soothing ambience are hard to beat and this new S with the new engine, greater refinement and driver assist systems just takes it to a next level. This is still the car that defines the luxury segment.
Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India
From HT Brunch, March 11, 2018
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First Published: Mar 10, 2018 20:54 IST