Vancouver Sun


Pricey Stuttgart steed loaded with latest safety features, creature comforts


Stylistica­lly self-assured presence, exclusive appointmen­ts and refined sportiness — but enough about me! The car isn’t half bad, either.

Actually, not half bad is an insult, worthy of a slap across the face with a leather glove and duelling pistols at dawn, should someone at MercedesBe­nz be sufficient­ly miffed. The new S-class Coupe is nothing short of a marvel, a high-priced ($147,500) reward for a captain of industry, a member of the moneyed class or one of those celebrity types who, in a nod to good taste, doesn’t feel the need to make a scene in one of those silly, mega-horsepower Italian exotics.

Or a really well-off techno-geek, for the S550 4Matic Coupe is rife with gadgets, devices and creature comforts, more than in any car I can ever remember testing. Safety and assistance systems abound and, although the luxury, full-sized two-door is much more than merely a safe and secure ride, it is that and should quell the fears of the most nervous of Nellies.

The car moves the bar closer to fully autonomous driving with what Mercedes calls “intelligen­t drive” systems such as Pre-Safe brake and pedestrian detection, active lane keeping assist and, my personal favourite, Distronic Plus. This last one keeps the S550 a safe distance from any vehicle ahead, including the ability to recognize an impending accident and take appropriat­e measures to minimize the incident. Collision Prevention Assist Plus can, if the driver fails to respond, carry out an autonomous braking manoeuvre at speeds of up to 105 km/h thereby reducing the severity of collisions with slower or stopping vehicles. It also, says Mercedes, brakes in response to stationary vehicles at a speed of up to 50 km/h, and is able to prevent rear-end collisions at up to 40 km/h.

Considerin­g the insanity of stressed out holiday shoppers when behind the wheel, these intelligen­t drive systems provide a healthy measure of comfort. With that said, the day I give up full control of driving to a mindless drone is when they pry the steering wheel from my cold, dead fingers.

However, safety isn’t sexy. Necessary and desirable, yes. Sexy, no. And the S550 is very sexy — not in a sixpack and guns sort of way, more like Daniel Craig in a Giorgio Armani tux. This replacemen­t for the CL-Class is curved and contoured, bulked up and aggressive where it looks proper — particular­ly the back half of the car — more traditiona­l Mercedes where it doesn’t. Despite the long hood and flowing lines, though, it hides its fiveplus metres of length well.

Neither does it drive “big,” even though it weighs a hefty 2,090 kilograms. Powering the S550 is a 4.7litre twin-turbo V8, punching out a solid 449 horsepower and 516 poundfeet of torque at a low 1,800 r.p.m. There’s more than enough oomph when the pedal is pushed, though it’s rather déclassé to make it act like the full-sized sporty coupe it is — there’s something hedonistic about just wafting along at a buck-20, eating up huge gobs of tarmac in sublime comfort while the Airmatic suspension smoothes out the ride.

Still, testing done by AJAC this fall at its annual TestFest show the big Merc will launch to 100 km/h in five seconds flat, and accelerate to 120 from 80 in four seconds. (It’s also worth noting the S550 was named Best New Prestige Car for 2015 by AJAC and is in the running for overall Car of the Year honours.)

Said engine is mated to a seven- speed manumatic transmissi­on, with power flowing through Mercedes’ highly regarded 4Matic all-wheeldrive system. So, barring a Buffalosty­le snowpocaly­pse, the S will get you through the winter with as much élan as a Range Rover, Lexus or other highbuck sport-ute. It’s also as profligate as one, the Mercedes downing thankfully cheap premium unleaded to the tune of a swinish 19 litres per 100 kilometres during a week of mostly intown commuting.

But back to that sublime comfort — as in the heated contoured seats with multiple massage options (classic massage, mobilizing, hot relaxing, etc.). Oh, bliss, oh, rapture. They probably cost more than what I spent on my first two cars. And not only are the seats heated, so is the steering wheel

Overview: High-end luxury sports coupe pampers and surprises

Pros: Luxury and safety features galore, smooth and sophistica­ted

Cons: Tight rear seats, fuel hog, big bucks Value for money: Fair What would I change? Turbodiese­l would help improve fuel economy

How I would spec it? As is

and the armrests on the door and centre console.

The cabin is equal measure luxury and high-tech, with stitched leather covering much of the interior, a large panoramic sunroof overhead, headup display and myriad buttons controllin­g the car’s various functions.

The dashboard is divided into a wraparound top section that extends to the doors and contains a widescreen TFT display, and a sculpted lower section that houses the HVAC controls. It’s a happening place to hang out. Here’s the thing, though, unless there are munchkins up front doing the driving, there’s not much room in the back seats for anybody other than small kids. In other words, the Coupe is pretty much a 2+2.

Priced as it is, the big coupe, while lacking for little, is not filled with useless features, such as a minklined glove box or a wine cellar hidden underneath the back seat.

One option does come close, however, the $4,000 Swarovski crystal LED headlamps — 17 angular crystals form the flare-shaped daytime running lights, with 30 round-shaped crystals making up the turn indicator lamps.

My daughter, who loves bling generally and Swarovski specifical­ly, thought the lights were (excuse the pun) brilliant.

Trying to justify a $150,000 luxury sports coupe to most consumers is like trying to explain quantum physics to a bunch of kindergart­ners.

The best way I can describe it is that it’s Mercedes being Mercedes, flexing its might with all of its engineerin­g know-how — plus decades of experience catering to the wealthy — and crafting a fine automobile as a showcase. One has to admire the result.

And, yes, it’s OK to be envious of those who can do more than look.

 ?? BRIAN HARPER ?? This two-door coupe weighs in at a hefty 2,090 kilograms, but is bulked up and aggressive where it looks proper.
BRIAN HARPER This two-door coupe weighs in at a hefty 2,090 kilograms, but is bulked up and aggressive where it looks proper.
 ?? BRIAN HARPER ?? The coupe is powered by a 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8 that generates 449 hp.
BRIAN HARPER The coupe is powered by a 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8 that generates 449 hp.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada