Here are some sights and scenes from one wicked cool tradeshow.
It was appropriate when I pulled away from Mercedes-Benz USA headquarters in Montvale, N.J. to test drive the new 2014 S550 that the SiriusXM radio was programmed to the Bruce Springsteen station — rockin’ the cabin via the new Burmester High-End Surround Sound system. Considering that the musician hails from New Jersey and his lyrics often mention the Garden State, it was a good vibe to start the review zipping along the New Jersey Turnpike, arguably one of the busiest transportation arteries in the U.S.
As you would expect from the top-of-the-line S Class, the S550 handled the turnpike with muscle, comfort, assurance, safety, and when needed, (trust me…) precise braking and maneuverability. At the top of the limousine’s industry’s food chain in vehicle quality, luxury, technology and passenger amenities, the S550’s sticker-shock starting price of $92,900 wanes after you realize your most discriminating high-end clients will be impressed seated in this state-of-the-art luxury cabin.
Considering the sedan brims with innovative technologies (and a hefty owner’s manual to figure it all out), surprisingly, the basic controls are easy and intuitive to program without hours doing homework. The interior includes luxury-laden wood trim, chrome and leather combined with new LED ambient lighting with seven color choices, five dimming levels and four dimming zones. Of course there are option packages that pile-on the luxury and technology, especially the rear-seating “Executive Rear Seat Package PLUS,” which turns the rear of the cabin into the equivalent of a first-class pod on a jumbo jet, including, get this — a “hot stone inspired” massage function for all seating positions.
Because the S550 is all about satisfying — and exceeding — your high-end clients’ expectations, here’s a summary of what they can expect in this luxury large sedan. First, the vehicle is church quiet due to its sleek 0.24 drag coefficient, fully aluminum outer body and smooth, seven-speed automatic transmission that has two driving modes: Sport and Comfort — the latter obviously the choice for transporting clients. Both modes have an “Eco” start/stop function for fuel efficiency. The standard AIRMATIC suspension ensures a smooth ride, and the optional Magic Body Control detects unevenness in road surfaces ahead and instantly adjusts the suspension to minimize turbulence. That’s some serious German engineering.
Rear Seat Package
The S550 offers three rear seat packages that enhance passenger comfort, controls and amenities. The Rear Seat Package option requires the optional Warmth and Comfort Package that offers power rear seats and rear memory seats, heated and active ventilated rear seats, and rear-heated armrests among other creature comforts. (Note: This option reduces trunk space.) In addition, the package comes with four-zone climate control, power rear right footrest, right-rear passenger controls for right-front seat with three inches additional fore-aft movement, and outboard rear seat belt air bags with PRE-SAFE belt buckles.
Executive Rear Seat Package
This additional option requires the options above and includes active multicontour outboard rear seats with “hot stone” massage and an executive right-rear seat with added recline angle and power calf rest. Ideal for a cozy nap.
Executive Rear Seat Package PLUS
This requires all of the above and includes a specially designed two-passenger rear cabin with dual power seats; wood-trimmed center console with dual folding tables; and heated and cooled cup holders that are LED lit in red/blue. Workaholic CEOs will love these additions.
Overall, the S550 is a pleasure to drive and surpasses previous models with added rear seat creature comforts, safety features and technologies. A combination of city/highway driving delivered on average the advertised 16-27 mpg range, except in heavy stop-and-go traffic when it dipped below 16 mpg. I didn’t notice any mpg difference whether in Sport or Comfort mode, but no doubt chauffeurs will flick on Sport mode when driving solo to have some fun with the 455 horsepower engine that delivers 516 lb.-ft. of torque. As Springsteen would sing, this S550 is “Born to Run.”
Wide-angle camera: Four cameras create a 360-degree overhead view of the car’s surroundings.
Far-infrared camera: Spots wildlife and pedestrians at night up to 525 feet away — both constant hazards on New Jersey roads.
Multi-mode radar: Monitors traffic behind with both a wide-angle 98-ft. range and a narrower 262-ft. field. [The alert saved me once from getting struck by a texting driver veering into my lane].
Short-range radar: Tracks traffic ahead of the car and in blind spots.
Engine: Direct injected 4.6-liter, twin-turbo charged V8 engine
Acceleration: 0-60/4.8 seconds.
Estimated Price: starts at $92,900
Passengers: 5; 2-3 in rear
Rear-seat legroom: 42 in.
Fuel economy: 16 city/26 hwy
New amenities/key features: individualized and highly adjustable rear seating, rear center console and folding tables, heated rear seats, surround view camera, radar-based collision prevention assist, Magic Body Control detects unevenness in the road surface ahead and instantaneously adjusts suspension to maximize driving comfort, Active Parking Assist with semi-automatic curbside parking function.
Warranty: Four-year/50,000-miles; additional one- to three-year extensions available for 75,000, 100,000 and 125,000 miles.
Leg room: front/rear: 41.9/42.9
Headroom: 39.2 in.
Rear-seat legroom: 43 in.
Trunk capacity: 16.3 cu. ft.
Competition: BMW 7-Series, Audi A8, Lexus LS
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