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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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,