It’s a day spa on wheels

In the realm of au­to­mo­tive ex­cess, the mega-Mercedes adds even fur­ther to its lus­tre, fit­ting a suite of driver com­fort gear to the crash-avoid­ance kit

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige - JOSHUA DOWLING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR joshua.dowling@news.com.au

THE Mercedes-Benz S-Class has long been hailed as the world’s most ad­vanced car.

In seven gen­er­a­tions cov­er­ing 62 years, the S-Class sedan has been the Mercedes pi­o­neer for the crum­ple zone (1959), anti-lock brakes (1978), airbags (1981) and sta­bil­ity con­trol (1995).

This safety equip­ment is now stan­dard on ev­ery new car sold here, from a $12,990 Suzuki Alto.

But with safety ad­vances reach­ing their peak, MercedesBenz has turned its at­ten­tion to new lev­els of driver com­fort in­clud­ing, to our amaze­ment and cu­rios­ity, a “hot stone

mas­sage” for the front seats.

VALUE

The 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel S350 Bluetec starts at $215,000. Mercedes has held the price of the pre­vi­ous model de­spite adding what it says is $7500 worth of ex­tras.

The S500, pow­ered by the su­per-smooth twin-turbo 4.7-litre V8, has had a $10,000 price re­duc­tion, to $285,000, yet also gets ex­tra equip­ment.

The ’bahn-storm­ing S63 AMG (with a twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8) ar­rives in Jan­uary, to be fol­lowed midyear by the S400 (the re­place­ment for the S350 and pow­ered by a twin­turbo 3.0-litre petrol V6).

TECH­NOL­OGY

It’s more than a car — it’s a day spa on wheels.

The S-Class abets its crashavoid­ance kit with six radar beams, eight cam­eras and 12 park­ing sen­sors — and the abil­ity to smooth out pot­holes be­fore you hit them. Th­ese how­ever are over­shad­owed by a “hot stone” mas­sage func­tion for the front seats.

Seat mas­sagers are not new but the mega-Mercedes takes it to new lev­els, with a “hot stone” func­tion that heats sec­tions of the seat up to 55 de­grees.

The 14 air cham­bers in each front seat can be pro­grammed to give up to six types of mas­sage, one of which is called “work­out”.

In ad­di­tion to the heated and cooled seats, there are now heated arm­rests to go with the “busi­ness class” re­clin­ing rear seats, on which even the seat belts have airbags (not a world first; a Ford in the US pipped Mercedes at the post).

They com­ple­ment the heated and cooled cup hold­ers. And an air­con­di­tion­ing fil­ter and ioniser that claims to help asthma suf­fer­ers by im­prov­ing air qual­ity in­side the cabin by 15 per cent. There are also four fra­grances built into the air­con­di­tion­ing (which Benz claims won’t leave a scent on your clothes or over­power the new-car smell) al­though it re­sisted the urge to join Lexus with a built-in mois­turiser.

Auto elec­tri­cians may be in for a shock try­ing to get their head around the S-Class’s 734 wiring har­nesses, 2400 wires and 5km of ca­bles — driven by 144 con­trollers.

It is the first car in the world with­out a con­ven­tional light bulb; in­stead it has 500 LEDs.

The tele­phone, nav­i­ga­tion, au­dio and TV “telem­at­ics” sys­tem is run by 30 mil­lion lines of code — and there is an op­tional 24-speaker, 1540W au­dio.

But don’t scoff at such au­to­mo­tive ex­cess — lux­ury cars even­tu­ally drive tech­nol­ogy into af­ford­able ve­hi­cles.

DE­SIGN

De­spite its al­most two-tonne weight and 5-me­tre-plus length, the big Benz slips through the air with a drag co­ef­fi­cient of 0.24, which makes it more slip­pery than a Toy­ota Prius.

The in­te­rior looks wider and larger thanks, in part, to hor­i­zon­tal themes and an un­usual two-spoke steer­ing wheel.

Or as Mercedes-Benz puts it: “Hor­i­zon­tal el­e­ments and lines cre­ate a set­ting char­ac­terised by vis­ual breadth and calm so­lid­ity. High qual­ity and el­e­gance har­monise with clar­ity and func­tion­al­ity.”

The high­light: two mas­sive 32cm di­am­e­ter dig­i­tal dis­play screens mounted on a “float­ing” back­lit panel.

SAFETY

A world first, two cam­eras in the wind­screen scan the road ahead look­ing for pot­holes — then pre­pare the sus­pen­sion in mil­lisec­onds to soften the bump.

Nine airbags are stan­dard but you can op­tion two seat belt airbags if you buy the re­clin­ing rear seats.

As be­fore, the new S-Class can slam on the brakes au­to­mat­i­cally from 7km/h to 200km/h (for Ger­man au­to­bahns) if it de­tects you’re about to hit the car in front.

New for this model: Mercedes has fit­ted a radar beam to the back of the car to de­tect if it is about to rearended.

If an im­pact is im­mi­nent, it tight­ens the seat belts and, in mil­lisec­onds, ad­justs the head­rest (the rear head­rests,

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