The back seat is even plusher and level 2 au­ton­omy means the S-Class can al­most drive it­self but it's no sur­prise what po­ten­tial own­ers will be more interested in

Evo India - - CONTENTS - Sirish Chandran (@SirishChan­dran)

IDON'T CLAIM TO BE THE last word on lux­ury but the Falaknuma Palace in Hy­der­abad has to be among the finest her­itage ho­tels in the country. In the course of this ‘job' I've wined and dined at them all – the palaces snug­gling the Udaipur lake, the enor­mous ed­i­fice on the hill above Jodh­pur, the pre­sum­ably haunted one built on the back of pil­lage and plun­der, dozens of old forts that are now so lux­u­ri­ous even the kings and queens would have blushed at the deca­dence – and yet the op­u­lence of the Nizam's res­i­dence and par­tic­u­larly the ex­pe­ri­ence of din­ing at the 101-seater ta­ble with a per­sonal but­ler lay­ing out a meal to ri­val the Bukhara in Delhi, oh it's some­thing else.

As is the car we’ve come to drive

Now, be­fore we go any fur­ther, I should add that this is a mid-life re­fresh to the S-Class, not an all-new model, and you will need a very keen eye to spot the new S on the road. To make ev­ery­body's life eas­ier Mercedes has given the S-Class three LED ‘eye­brows' in the head­lights – one eye­brow is for the C-, two for the E- and three for the S-Class, es­tab­lish­ing the vis­ual hierarchy. And, no, the May­bach doesn't get four eye­brows – that job is done by the big wheels and slabs of chrome. Other blink-and-you-will-miss-it ex­te­rior de­tail changes on the S-Class in­clude slim­mer, by 25mm, head­lamps, wider air-in­takes on the

bumper, chrome gar­nish on the rear bumper, new lou­vers on the grille and a new de­sign for the alloy wheels. Mercedes has done well to re­sist the urge to up­size the wheels and though the 18-inch­ers have vis­i­bly high-pro­file rub­ber, it does de­liver on the big­gest ask of an S-Class: ride qual­ity.

In most cities the tailpipe emis­sions of the S350d will be cleaner than the air sucked in

In goes BS IV, out comes BS VI

The big­gest change to the S-Class is un­der the hood, the V6 of the S350d re­placed by an in­line-six. The Re­ally Big Deal about the mo­tor is not that it goes the BMW straight-six way but, in the In­dian con­text, is the first diesel to have BS VI emis­sions while drink­ing BS IV fuel. The S350d is one of the first cars to get an Ad­blue tank that in­jects liq­uid am­mo­nia so­lu­tion on the SCR (Se­lec­tive Cat­alytic Re­duc­tion) to con­vert nasty Ni­tro­gen Ox­ide and Ni­tro­gen Diox­ide – the stuff that is said to be re­spon­si­ble for smog and res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems – into harm­less wa­ter vapour and Ni­tro­gen. I guess in most cities the tailpipe emis­sions of the S350d will be cleaner than the air it sucked in! The Ad­blue tank will re­quire top­ping up, which will be done by the dealer dur­ing sched­uled main­te­nance, and Mercedes claim the ser­vice costs will not be any higher despite the more so­phis­ti­cated en­gine.

As for the head­line fig­ures, power goes up 28bhp to 282bhp while torque re­mains steady at 600Nm. The trans­mis­sion is also new, a 9-speeder that uses a multi-clutch pack in­stead of the tra­di­tional torque con­verter. To­gether they drop the 0-100kmph sprint to six sec­onds flat. Which re­ally, isn't the most press­ing concern of a po­ten­tial S-Class owner. What they'd be interested in is the

re­fine­ment and on that front, oh boy, the S-Class has become even smoother and even more re­fined. There's barely a grum­ble from the mo­tor or a hint that it's an oil-burner. Even when driven in a de­cid­edly un-S-Class-like man­ner, with vigour and a heavy right foot, the S-Class is in­cred­i­bly hushed and iso­lates ev­ery­thing. Un­til a scooter cuts across, like scooter riders con­sider their birthright, and the S slams onto its brakes wak­ing us all up from the slum­ber it put us in.

It’ll brake and even drive it­self

The S-Class now gets level 2 au­ton­omy which, as I dis­cov­ered last year in Zurich on the in­ter­na­tional me­dia drives, means it can ac­tu­ally drive it­self. Set the nav­i­ga­tion to the de­sired des­ti­na­tion, set the speed, rest your hands lightly on the 'wheel (Mercedes still wants you to be nom­i­nally in con­trol), and the S will hold a set dis­tance to the car in front, ac­cel­er­ate, brake, go round cor­ners and do just about ev­ery­thing. It will even read speed limit signs and slow down based on what it reads and it's all linked to the drive mode selec­tor so in Com­fort it will get to the des­ti­na­tion com­fort­ably while in Sport mode it will lower the sus­pen­sion, make some growly noises and main­tain, you guessed it, a sporty pace. And with it work­ing on the 76-77Ghz band­with sig­nal that isn't re­stricted by the de­fence min­istry, all of this is avail­able on the In­dian S-Class.

Ex­cept this is In­dia, not Europe

I saw the scooter­ist charg­ing out of the side lane, I knew he'd cut across, I lifted off the gas to slow down for him, but there's no com­puter in the world that can pre­dict the er­rati­cism of In­dian traf­fic and the S-Class panic braked. I promptly switched all the aids off, and chauf­feurs will be well ad­vised to do the same if they value their jobs. An­other thing, the lane­keep as­sist only works on prop­erly marked out lanes and it got con­fused by lane mark­ings that ran­domly came and went. Again, no fault of the car and on the outer ring road, a bril­liant 10-lane ex­press­way that, like the Falaknuma Palace, ranks among the best in the country, it read all lane mark­ings, did all the au­tonomous trickery and re­ally came into its own with the stun­ning re­fine­ment that masks speed like noth­ing else.

What else?

Did I men­tion the cabin is like a spa at the Falaknuma, so re­laxed is the en­vi­ron­ment? There's now some­thing called ‘en­er­gis­ing com­fort' mode that weds the cli­mate con­trol, am­bi­ent light­ing, air-con per­fume ioniser, ven­ti­lated mas­sage seats and au­dio tracks to cre­ate an am­bi­ence to ‘en­hance phys­i­cal com­fort' of oc­cu­pants. I said oc­cu­pants – the driver and front pas­sen­ger do not get mas­sage seats, why waste money on the per­son that isn't ac­tu­ally buy­ing the car? In­dian-spec S-Class' are all long-wheel­base and all get the Com­fort Pack­age that, at the push of a but­ton, folds the front pas­sen­ger seat out of the way, re­clines the rear seat (up to 43.5 de­grees) and also presents an ot­toman to rest your feet on. Which the ear­lier S-Class also did; on the new one the Chauf­feur Pack­age lib­er­ates 77mm more knee room and the head rest can be taken out to give the boss­man an un­hin­dered view ahead. Or he can sink his head into the down-filled head­rest and get trans­ported to a bet­ter place.

As for the tech there are now sharper graph­ics on the even larger TFT dis­plays, 64 colours for the am­bi­ent light­ing, more touch pads for the COMAND in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem and a newly de­signed steer­ing wheel that looks re­ally sporty and sig­nals an end to those half-wood steer­ing wheels Mercedes used to in­sist upon not that long ago.

Small de­tail im­prove­ments, yes, but put to­gether is does make a car uni­ver­sally re­garded as the best in the world, even bet­ter. And on this front I can claim to be some­what of an author­ity. ⌧

There’s no com­puter in the world that can pre­dict the er­rati­cism of In­dian traf­fic and the S-Class panic braked

Left: Falaknuma Palace was the Nizam's last res­i­dence. Three DRL 'eye­brows' put the S-Class at the top of the hierarchy. Bot­tom: Rear seats re­cline and the front pas­sen­ger seat now goes fur­ther for­ward to lib­er­ate an ad­di­tional 77mm of knee room;...

Pho­tog­ra­phy: Ro­hit G Mane

Be­low: Burmester sound qual­ity is fan­tas­tic. Bot­tom: Af­ter 20 years, Mercedes has dropped the V6 diesel for an in-line six

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