We were in Zürich for a first drive in the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class. We drove three cars — the S 560 V8 petrol, S 400 d, and the AMG S 63. Here is what the experience was like
Wherever you may be in the world, people like to talk about cars and when the discussion involves high-end luxury cars — the best automobiles in the world — then the discussion invariably veers towards the S-Class from Mercedes-Benz. Last month I was invited by Mercedes to Zürich for a first drive in the new S-Class. Since this was not a run-of-the-mill first drive and since the car was the S-Class, it was all about luxury and all that goes with it, starting with the accommodation at the Dolder Grand, one of the best golf resorts and spas in Zürich. From the design perspective, the S-Class has not changed much — the finely drawn lines and salient details enhance the stance of the car. The new radiator grille comes with three double slats and vertical rods in high-gloss black. The new LED headlamps have three distinctive torches of DRL (daytime running lights) emitting from the multi-beam LED headlamps that merge with the wide radiator grille, thus giving the S-Class a distinctive look from the front. The bumpers with their voluminous air inlets add a sporty flair to the car. The side profile of the car is equally impressive with the dome-shaped roof-line that creates a sense of space and superiority. The integrated tail-pipe trims and rear LED tail-lamps make the car look classy from the rear.
The S-Class interior has always set a benchmark for luxury cars, and now that of the new S has raised the bar even further. The quality of materials such as open-pore wood, leather-clad door panels and belt lines along with the leather seats is top-class. Mercedes-Benz have presented the new energising comfort control as world-first. This consists of different comfort systems being networked in especially co-ordinated programs to enhance the well-being of all passengers. The system utilises the climate control system (including fragrancing), the seats (heating, ventilation, and massage), the panel heating, as well as the light and music settings.
The luxury is further enhanced with 64 colours, 10 colour worlds, and three different illumination zones. One has to experience the Burmester surround sound system to appreciate the sound quality. As expected of Mercedes-Benz, they have taken the interior quality, well-being, and luxury in the new SClass to another level.
The suspension setup both at the front and rear is multi-link with air suspension. The Mercedes Magic Body Control combines the active chassis suspension, continuously adjustable dampers, and Road Surface Scan. With the aid of a stereo video camera, the road surface ahead is scanned precisely to allow the damping of each individual wheel to be optimally adjusted in
advance to tackle the impending bumps. The new curve inclination function has the effect of causing the body of the vehicle to lean inwards by up to 2.65 degrees on turns. In this way the lateral forces experienced are significantly reduced, thus noticeably enhancing both dynamic handling and comfort.
The biggest change comes under the hood with all-new straight-six petrol and diesel engines. It has been quite some time since Mercedes brought out all-new engines. With per cylinder capacity of 500 cc now Mercedes make a six-cylinder 3.0-litre, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder that is already in India in the EClass; in the future we may see a 1.5-litre three-cylinder and a 1.0-litre twin-cylinder unit to power a plug-in hybrid. All these engines will have common technology and component sharing and this will help the company bring down the cost of manufacturing considerably.
The new six-cylinder motor is belt-less for the water pump and the a-c compressor run on the new 48-volt electric system. The camshaft drive chain has been moved to the rear of the engine to make the motor as compact as possible. A 48-volt integrated starter generator (ISG) is fitted between the engine and the gearbox. An electric turbo helps spool up the turbocharger and the ISG works in tandem to propel the car from standstill, capable of generating up to 250 Nm of torque. When the main turbo kicks in, the electric turbo cuts off along with the motor. The ISG is also used to charge the 48volt battery. The only reason why this car cannot pass itself off as a hybrid is because the engine does not disconnect from the electric motor. To save fuel, the cylinders do not get de-activated, rather the whole engine is shut down while coasting. The transition from power to coasting and back to power is absolutely seamless.
The car started driving itself — going round corners and maintaining distance from the car in front even while slowing down to 80 km/h when the speed limit came down to that figure
( Right) Greater luxury and even greater autonomous capability ( Far Right) Making the move from V6 to modular in-lines
( Interior once again sets the benchmark in comfort and luxury