The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been completely redesigned for the 2014 model year. The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class has a soft-spoken style but boasts technology unheard of when the previous S-Class arrived as a 2007 model.
Essentially, the new 2014 S-Class has more of everything. Leaving alone for a moment the sumptuous perforated-leather seats, the rear-seat legroom that would accommodate a stretched-out LeBron James, the illusion that the windshield actually seems to widen out toward the top, well, there's the extraordinary safety systems and sophisticated electronics built into this iconic automobile.
The 2014 S-Class deserves a doctorate as a study in automotive technology and safety features. It is stuffed with sensors, surrounded by cameras and radar, and it can sense rough roads, pedestrians and other cars in its path, predict collisions and initiate braking. Data are collected by a stereoscopic camera able to see a 3D view of the environment up to 50 meters ahead and sense the spatial position and movements of objects ahead of the vehicle.
Mercedes calls all of these sci-fy-ish systems Intelligent Drive. Some of the components are standard, such as Collision Prevent Assist and Magic Vision Control. Others, while others such as the Driver Assistance Package and Magic Body Control are options.
The latter is worth a special mention. While the standard S-Class receives a pretty good air suspension, Magic Body Control employs the stereo camera to detect irregularities in the road surface ahead, and to automatically adjust the hydraulic suspension damping to a softer mode in a fraction of a second. The system works at speeds of up to 80 MPH. Goodbye, bumps.
The curvaceous interior is welcoming to all occupants, with fine leather and threads and a wraparound sweep to the cockpit. This is no cabin to cozy up to, but this is no sports car either.
The 2014 S-Class arrives in the U.S. in its long-wheelbase iteration (124.6-inch wheelbase, 206.5-inch overall length), making it ideal for a chauffeur-driven sedan, where it's possible to stretch out in the expansive rear seat, and on the passenger's side to recline much as in the first-class cabin of an international jet.
The all-new S-Class begins in the U.S. market with the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 and S550 4MATIC and the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG 4MATIC.
The 2014 S550 and S550 4MATIC are propelled by a V8 that displaces 4.6 liters and outputs 455 horsepower at 5250 rpm and 516 pound-feet of torque from 1800 to 3500 rpm. Zero-to-60 acceleration performance is 4.8 seconds, according to the manufacturer. Top speed is limited to 130 mph. All 2014 S550 models come with a 7-speed automatic. The S550 uses rear-wheel drive, while the S550 4MATIC is all-wheel drive.
The 2014 S63 AMG 4MATIC is powered by a 5.5-liter V8 biturbo engine hand-built by Mercedes-AMG rated at 577 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. All-wheel drive is standard as is a 7-speed AMG Speedshift sports transmission and an AMG ADAPTIVE sports suspension. The new S63 AMG is 220 pounds lighter than a comparable previous-generation version. This high-performance sedan is capable of 0-60 mph in a very quick 3.9 seconds, according to Mercedes-Benz USA.
Options are plentiful for those who wish to extend their car payments. How many makes offer heated armrests?
Competition in this autobahn-blaster segment is robust. There are the usual suspects from Germany, including the Audi A8 and the BMW 7 Series, but they lack the cachet of the Mercedes brand (although they maintain a fashionable cachets of their own). Lexus also presents an appealing luxe alternative with its top of the line LS series.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 rear-wheel drive and S550 4MATIC four-wheel drive come with a 4.7-liter twin turbocharged V8 and 7-speed automatic transmission.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 ($92,900) comes standard with leather upholstery, heated front seats, the COMAND system with navigation, a panoramic sunroof, rearview camera, a complete LED lighting system. Technologies include Magic Vision control, Attention Assist, Pre-Safe, Adaptive Braking, Collision Prevention Assist, mbrace2, electronic trunk closer, soft-close doors.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 4MATIC ($95,900) includes all-wheel drive.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG 4MATIC ($139,500) is powered by a 5.5-liter V8 biturbo engine hand-built by Mercedes-AMG rated at 577 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. All-wheel drive is standard as is a 7-speed AMG Speedshift sports transmission and an AMG ADAPTIVE sports suspension. The S63 AMG is equipped similarly to the other S-Class but also includes powered AMG sports seats in Nappa leather, Keyless Go remote starting, an AMG exhaust system, LED ambient lighting, and a Burmester audio system.
The dimensions of the all-new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class are only a few millimeters different from the previous version, but this new one shaves off some bulk and has a more playful exterior demeanor. From the rear, the car presents a familiar, trapezoidal rear end, although it's busy where the rear spoiler collides with the stylized exhaust.
The front fascia is a cohesive sculptured design with a large, slatted grill and headlamps encased in the body fenders. Flared arches in the front fender melt into the bumper, and sharp character lines shape the side profile, an element called the dropping line, that defines part of Mercedes's current style language.
The rear windscreen cuts into the C-pillars, which have a powerful swoop where they meet up and evaporate into the rear shoulder.
The outer body panels and the roof are made of aluminum, and there's aluminum in the interior structure and the suspension bits. Mercedes engineers claim to have achieved a 5-percent improvement in efficiency with these materials.
The overall effect is imposing and expensive, exactly what a new generation of an S-Class should be.
While the new S-Class is defined in part by its technology and a handsome, conservative exterior, the cabin is where stylists have let loose.
Notwithstanding the stereo speaker mood lights, the softest headrest pillows in creation and the option to waft perfumed air into the cockpit, the S-Class interior is sublimely inviting.
The cockpit sweeps around the driver and front passenger, and the dash is a vista of contrasting woods (some with pearl effects), metals and soft-touch leathers, with controls and buttons that are all-intuitive but can be baffling where you first meet them.
Behind the exquisite wood-and-leather two-spoke steering wheel is one of the pair of 12-inch high-resolution color displays that sits in for the conventional instrument cluster. The circular tach and speedometer flank a computerized information panel. To the right, above the four circular HVAC louvres and a fancy analog clock, is display for infotainment, navigation and comfort functions. On the center console is the command center and rotary controller, along with direct access keys for features like the radio and navigation and the menu. A speech dialog system allows users to enter complete addresses by voice. There's also the option of having emails or text messages read aloud.
A chauffeur package is part of a $3,000 Rear Seat package so that the passenger in the right rear seat can electronically raise the footrest and recline, first-class-airline style. Another option for $2,350 offers power rear seats that can be heated or ventilated, a heating steering wheel, and heated armrests front and rear.
Of course, what's a luxo sedan worth if you can't get a massage? There's an Energizing function as well as a hot-stone component if the day's been particularly rough.
Lighting inside the S-Class is something of an art form. The colors and intensity of the LEDs ambient lights in the cabin can lend a soft, romantic glow or, turned up, convert the interior into a mobile disco. In all, there's a choice of seven colors with five dimming levels and four dimming zones.
If an unpleasant odor wafts into the cabin, the S-Class offers a $350 Air Balance Package to infuse the air with a variety of scented liquid packs, including Sport, Nightlife, and Fireside( no Burnt Rubber, alas). A high-end surround sound system from Burmester kicks in if you pony up the $6,400 option price; the standard audio system features 10 speakers.
Rear passengers also have inflatable seatbelts with buckles that rise up for handy access.
Official cargo space in the new S-Class is still to be determined, but suffice to say that the trunk will accommodate more than a couple of golf bags.
Solid and stable, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class performs as advertised: It is fast without any touch of drama, monolith-solid, and, once you figures out the buttons and the controls, awesome in terms of its tricks.
By trimming mass with extensive use of aluminum, the 2014 S-Class is a finesse-balancing act on the road, totally isolated from wind and road noise even at prodigious highway speed. The firmed-up air suspension dismisses potholes with a soft thump (we only found one pothole in Canada), and rough tarmac is history thanks to the optional Magic Body Control system. Occasionally at lower speeds in traffic, we felt an awkward little bark from the transmission as its settles into what's usually the appropriate gear, thanks to the dual-clutch.
Steering feel is light and neutral, as we'd expect in this class. Several curves set up a suggestion of body lean but didn't upset the civility in the cabin.
Peering over the long, flat hood, sightlines are excellent, as are the ergonomic visibly of the major controls.
We had the chance to experiment with some (but not all, there are too many) safety systems available in the 2014 S-Class.
The autonomous Mercedes isn't here yet, but one can option Distronic Plus with Steering Assist and Stop & Go Pilot, which allows for hands-free driving at 37 mph, as the stereo cameras follow the car ahead, even on gentle bends, says Mercedes. The system uses both the car you're trailing, as well as road markings, to keep centered in your lane. It's all part of the $2,800 Driver Assistance Package, which also includes Mercedes's Pre-Safe Brake. Using data from radar and the camera, it will automatically apply braking at up to about 30 mph without driver input if it detects a pedestrian or stopped vehicle. Jetsons stuff.
The S550 and S550 4MATIC use a 4.6-liter that produces 455 horsepower from 5250 to 5500 rpm and 516 foot-pounds of torque from 1800 to 3500 rpm. Mercedes-Benz says these two models can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. Top speed is limited to 130 mph. Fuel economy data were not available from the Environmental Protection Agency at press time.
The S63 AMG features a twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 with an output of 577 horsepower and 664 foot-pounds of torque. Mercedes-Benz USA claims the S63 AMG can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds.
Completely redesigned for 2014, the Mercedes-Benz S550 boasts a seamless driving experience and cosseted luxury. The sublime, inviting interior is swathed in rich leather and wood, complete with mood lighting and aromatherapy. The S550 is fast and extremely stable at high speeds. Steering is light, there is little body lean and precise handling yet the suspension muffles the worst potholes. The S-Class is quiet underway and the driver benefits from excellent visibility.
Stephen Williams filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the S550 in Ontario.