Get­ting the VVIP treat­ment in the plush Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS - Them­bek­ile Vok­wana

Bucket list: be­ing chauf­feur-driven in a Mercedes Benz S-class: Ticked. I re­cently had the priv­i­lege of be­ing driven by a gen­tle­man from the AMG Driv­ing Academy, Muham­mad Hoo­sain. I call it a priv­i­lege be­cause this R1.6m S-class, in “en­try-level” trim, is the by­word of lux­ury.

As I sat there with my legs com­fort­ably stretched at the back of the car, I imag­ined my­self con­clud­ing multi­bil­lion­rand deals hid­den be­hind blacked-out pri­vacy win­dows that came with re­tractable blinds that made it im­pos­si­ble for any­one out­side to see me.

The S-class has al­ways been re­garded as a jewel in the Mercedes Benz crown and with the S450L the com­pany hasn’t done too badly ei­ther.

My late dad used to own a silver 1980s Mercedes Benz 380SE (W126), with beige in­te­ri­ors and a sun­roof. He swore by the brand as he saw it as the epit­ome of lux­ury and ex­cel­lence. I won­der what he would say now if he were sit­ting with me at the back of this “limou­sine” from Stuttgart?

This car has been a firm favourite of busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives, pres­i­dents (elected or despots), VIPs of any sort and more re­cently oli­garchs in most likely bul­let­proof ver­sions.

The S-class is re­fined, ex­udes suc­cess and money with­out be­ing blingy. The pro­file is that of un­der­stated lux­ury and a high­achiever who doesn’t want to shout out loud about his/her achieve­ments.

The model I drove came with a 3.0l V6 twin-turbo charged en­gine, de­spite the 450-nam­ing con­ven­tion, which pro­duces out­puts of 286kW at 500Nm. As it cov­ers 0-100km in 5.1 sec­onds and tops out at a gov­erned 250kms, the 450L is no slouch de­spite its bulky two tons.

The car is long, mea­sur­ing 5.2m, which proved to be a bit of a chal­lenge when parked in my stan­dard garage of 6m with lit­tle room to ma­noeu­vre around the car.

That length though made it pos­si­ble for the gen­er­ous in­te­ri­ors that make it a dream to sit at the back and work an­other per­son drives..

The air sus­pen­sion eas­ily ab­sorbed the bumps on the un­even tar­mac while I con­tin­ued to work un­in­ter­rupted.

The al­most 2m width also gave enough space to com­fort­ably sit three adults at the back with­out el­bow­ing each other out of the way.

Elec­tric blinds for to­tal pri­vacy, while a sky­roof at the back and van­ity mir­rors with lights at the back are some of the fea­tures that made be­ing a pas­sen­ger at the back of this car en­joy­able.

I en­joy driv­ing cars and I ab­so­lutely loved driv­ing the S-class, but for a change it felt great to be driven around in to­tal com­fort and rel­a­tive si­lence.

One of the things I like that showed at­ten­tion to de­tail in this car was the soft fab­ric in­side the door stor­age space. Few peo­ple pay at­ten­tion to this as most just throw keys and cell­phones in there, or even water bot­tles. But Mercedes de­cided to put a soft fab­ric so that if you hap­pen to put your hand in there it doesn’t feel any hor­ri­ble plas­tic. Nice touch, Mercedes.

When it was my turn to drive the car, I got a lot of stares, gasps and out­right ac­knowl­edge­ment. It felt great and made me won­der what it must be like to own this R1.6m Ger­man be­he­moth.

I got to ex­pe­ri­ence the Glide mode. What ba­si­cally hap­pens is that the en­gine and trans­mis­sion dis­en­gage, al­low­ing the car to “glide” silently.

The nine-gear trans­mis­sion is smooth as would be ex­pected in this class.

I es­pe­cially love the gen­er­ous in­fo­tain­ment that has all the elec­tronic giz­mos at the touch of the cen­trally-lo­cated ro­tat­ing knob, touch­pad or the small steer­ing lo­cated touch­pads.

The S-class cock­pit felt like I was sit­ting in the con­trol cen­tre of the Star­ship En­ter­prise with gi­ant LED screens and an ar­ray of al­most over­whelm­ing tech­nol­ogy at my dis­posal.

The screens are crisp and easy to nav­i­gate.

ABS, EBD, brake as­sist, hill­start, trac­tion con­trol, sta­bil­ity con­trol, air sus­pen­sion, mul­ti­ple airbags, mul­ti­func­tion steer­ing wheel, dig­i­tal in­stru­ment clus­ter, fa­tigue de­tect, head-up dis­play, cruise con­trol, voice con­trol, mas­sage in front seats, and wire­less charg­ing are some of the stan­dard fea­tures.

There is alu­minium and leather ev­ery­where and the in­te­ri­ors are plush and seats very com­fort­able.

The com­pe­ti­tion will con­tinue to nib­ble at the heels of this ven­er­a­ble car from Stuttgart and I am sure in some cases will be ahead de­pend­ing on the pref­er­ence of the owner of the car.

I se­ri­ously en­joyed this model of the S-class. This car re­mains clas­sic and time­less in terms of de­sign and re­fine­ment, but is mov­ing with the times as is ev­i­dent in the gad­getry that is in the car.

My fa­ther would have been def­i­nitely happy that he had cho­sen the pre­cur­sor to the S450L as a mode of trans­porta­tion when he had to at­tend what he called “im­por­tant meet­ings.” He al­ways said it made him feel like a VVIP.

And yeah, dad, af­ter driv­ing and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the S450L, I share your sen­ti­ment.

The Son­derk­lasse (Ger­man for spe­cial class) re­ally is a spe­cial car.

THE S-CLASS COCK­PIT FELT LIKE I WAS SIT­TING IN THE

The Mercedes S-class has been a firm favourite of busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives, pres­i­dents and VIPs. Be­low: Mas­sag­ing front seats and wire­less charg­ing are stan­dard fea­tures.

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