By Robert E. Calem
While Mercedes-Benz has historically used its flagship S-Class sedan as a gorgeous canvas for presenting the latest and greatest technology from its workshops, this year’s models make particularly compelling, future-shock advances that will entice and excite new luxury car buyers.
As is to be expected, the specs on the new S-Class flagship’s top-of-the-line model, the S63 AMG 4MATIC, are truly impressive. Powered by a direct-injection, 5.5-liter twin–turbo V8 engine, this power plant produces 577 hp and pushes the car from 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds.
The hand-built AMG engine, which features start/stop technology for better fuel economy, is mated to a multi-clutch, seven-speed automatic transmission that is sheer poetry.
In fact, all of the new S-Class variations are simply stellar performers on the road, but the story I want to relate is all about the inside. From headlights to taillights, the big sedan can be outfitted with game-changing driving assistance and safety systems you just won’t find in any other vehicle, as well as technology for pure luxury’s sake.
A new adaptive cruise control system keeps the vehicle centered in the lane or, if no lane markings are visible, behind a leading vehicle. The system uses radar and a stereoscopic camera to detect vehicles ahead and to the side. It works at speeds of up to 124 mph and around slight bends, but not around sharp curves.
Similarly, a new brake assist system uses the camera to detect other vehicles and pedestrians about to cross in front of the car and boosts braking power or automatically brakes the car to avoid hitting a detected pedestrian at speeds of up to 31 mph. It can also sense an impending rear-end collision to the car and applies brakes and tenses the seatbelts to mitigate whiplash injuries.
A revolutionary night view system, meanwhile, uses a thermal imaging camera to detect both pedestrians and animals at the side of the road and automatically shows what it sees on an LCD screen behind the steering wheel.
Parking is made easier with technology that will accelerate, brake, and steer the car into any parallel or perpendicular parking spot, relying on the driver only for shifting the transmission into drive or reverse with or without his foot on the brake pedal. The technology worked flawlessly in my tests.
But the engineers’ influence goes well beyond advances in safety and convenience and into the realm of aesthetics. This new S-Class is the first vehicle in the world with no lightbulbs inside or out. Instead, there are LEDs—almost 500 of them.
The taillights house another world first for a car: Automatic brightness control. Inside, the high-tech hits keep coming with surround sound systems with up to 24 speakers from a new supplier, Germany’s Burmester Audiosysteme GmbH.
Massage seats (including a “hot stone” simulator), an interior air freshener system that disseminates any aroma the owner desires, two airplane-style folding tray tables and two thermoelectric cup holders in back, state-of-the-art entertainment systems…the list of enviable options goes on and on.
Base price for the S63 AMG is about $140,000, but technology options will add to your final price.
Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec
The Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC diesel-powered sedan benefits froman actual price reduction over its predecessor while delivering a host of improvements.
A new 2.1-liter, four-cylinder bi-turbo diesel delivers V8-equivalent torque, 4MATIC all-wheel-drive is optional, and there’s a choice of luxury or sport versions distinguished by two different front-end designs.
Inside, refinements include the three-tube instrument cluster. Base price: $51,400.
Jaguar XKR Convertible
With Jaguar’s new F-Type dominating auto news, fans of a more civilized approach to top-down sport touring should not overlook the elegant supercharged Jaguar XKR.
A growling 5.0-liter, 510hp V8 adds over 100 hp to the standard version, and its blend of thrilling road dynamics and gentlemanly style puts it in a league of its own. Base price: $103,500.