Strengths and weaknesses:
- a powerhouse in the marketplace
This is the kind of day I rarely get to experience. As an automotive journalist, we have the opportunity to explore strange new worlds on a regular basis all for the cause of driving sometimes equally strange new automobiles. But today is definitely different. I am surrounded by luxury at every turn; speed boats, a multi-million dollar log home on Lake Rosseau, private jet and a total of 12 Michelin stars serving us a 5-course dinner. What’s the occasion? It happens to be the worldwide media launch of the all-new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class and its being held right here in Oh Canada!
The S-Class is by definition Mercedes-Benz top-of-the-line luxury cruiser. It is as much a car meant to be driven as it is to be driven in. Meaning, whether you choose to get behind the wheel and pilot this personal jet for the road, or have someone else take the controls, the experience is worth it. The word ‘serenity’ can henceforth be demarcated simply as the all-new S-Class.
In Canada, potential S-Class buyers will have one model to start, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 4MATIC. Now to be fair, there are actually two options available, short or long wheelbase versions, but in essence these cars are the same. On this day, I am driving a European spec Mercedes-Benz S500 which according to our Canada rep is essentially the same car as the S550. That is, of course, if you discount the options we are testing that won’t be available here in Canada. The why of that scenario is a whole different story.
Power comes in the form of a 4.7-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine. It is similar, though more powerful, than the previous generation engine, as is the 7-speed automatic transmission used to change gears.
Acceleration is smooth and progressive, with a nice kick-down for those occasions when speed is necessary. My driving partner experiences this several times on the two-lane cottage country roads passing trucks and slow moving vacationers with ease.
Performance numbers indicate 455 horsepower at 5,250 rpm and 516 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,800-3,500 rpm. Zero-100 km/h takes approximately 5 seconds, which is amazing given the size of the car. Aluminum body structure combined with high-strength steel makes for a 50% improvement in structural rigidity, as well as the perfect canvas on which to build agility.
From the outside, the new S-Class stands proud. A four-louvre grille looks slightly menacing as it approaches from behind and the standard LED headlights offer exceptional performance, but they could be better still.
As Canadians, we are in essence being forced to use ‘lesser’ technology given Transport Canada’s requirement to have a fixed switch when changing between high and low beams. In Europe, Mercedes-Benz goes one better allowing high beam headlights to stay on all the time, while making adjustments electronically as it senses various objects ahead. In fact, Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus is so smart; it can tell the difference between a vehicle, person or animal and adjust accordingly. Why this is not available here, only Transport Canada knows.
Additional options we won’t be getting in Canada include Magic Body Control. Cameras, mounted under the mirror on the windshield, monitor the road ahead and adjust the suspension accordingly. Bumps are made smooth in milliseconds. Our European test vehicle is equipped with this option and it too works flawlessly on our drive to Muskoka. As for why it isn’t available here in Canada, Mercedes-Benz says it is not currently compatible with 4MATIC and since this is standard in the Great White North, we won’t get it.
What we do get in the new S550 4MATIC is a superior full-size or super-sized luxury sedan. What makes it so superior is in the details. Close the door and you are instantly surrounded with quiet, elegant ambience. Three layers make up the windshield, glass, plastic and glass for super sound insulation.
All doors are sound proofed, every corner and seam finished to perfection. Wood accents are available in several colours, the most sticking being the white wood trim pictured here. Matching leather and satin metal are everywhere, but it doesn’t feel like a Las Vegas nightmare. Leaving the world behind for a few moments and turning up the exquisite Burmester High-End 3D Surround Sound system is heaven on earth. Turn the car off and the door-mounted speakers do a little rotational magic, adding to the opulence.
Driving or riding as a passenger provides a whole different reason to wax poetic about the new S-Class. Six unique massage positions allow for a broad range of back and butt manipulation. From Stone Massage to Active Sport, each one is distinctive and equally satisfying. Hot or cold, reclining or sitting upright, in many ways this is more comfortable than resting at home in my living room. Large screens affixed to the rear of the front headrests allow backseat passengers full access to the same information displayed on the massive front center console screen.
If there is one area of minor complaint, it might just be the all-new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S 550 4MATIC is too isolated for its own good. This is an exceptional automobile in every way; don’t get me wrong. But as someone who likes to drive rather than be driven, I somehow feel a little disconnected from the road.
The new S-Class does so much so well, to the point of offering near autonomous driving, that it seems as though my role as a driver is somehow diminished. Buyers at this end of the market are most likely not going to care, as they would prefer to get in and go somewhere in complete comfort and silence. If that is in fact your goal, look no further than the all-new S-Class. It’s the closest thing to a personal jet on four wheels.
Canadian pricing for the 2014 S550 (Standard Wheel base) 4MATIC starts at $106,600 while the 2014 S550 (Long Wheelbase) 4MATIC is priced from $115,200.
2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 4MATIC
Trim Levels: Short wheelbase, Long wheelbase
Model: 4-door full-size sedan
Price as tested (before taxes): $115,200
Available engines: 4.7L 8 cyl. Twin-turbo
Available transmissions: 4MATIC.
Fuel economy ratings: N/A
Warranties: 4 years/ 80,000 km (basic); 5 years/unlimited (corrosion)
Competitors: Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Jaguar XJL, Lexus LS 460 L AWD, Maserati Quattroporte,
Strengths: engine; comfort; quality
Weaknesses: somewhat disconnected