Mercedes-Benz S 450: Luminary Of Luxury
A recollection of automotive history would have us repeating one particular manufacturer and model: the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Built to cater to the 'Sonderklasse' (German for "special class"), and abbreviated to S-Class, it has been the staple mode of transportation for dignitaries and VIPs the world over. While it may seem a favourite amongst favourites, we'd like to keep the integrity of journalism intact by giving you our unbiased opinion of the recently-launched 2018 Mercedes-Benz S 450!
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class is still in its 6th generation, but with the 2018 model comes a mid-cycle facelift. It is, essentially, the same limo-like full-size executive sedan that we have seen since 2013, with subtle reimagined detailing that has endowed some newness.
Upfront, instead of a single string of daytime running LEDs stretched over the headlamps, there are three. The lower air intakes have been made bigger for better breathability and the grille gets three twin-slats instead of a set of four single slats. The rim design has changed too; our car wore multi-spoke alloys with a sporty V-shape. At the rear, the lamps have a new sparkling quality - that replaces the predecessor's 3 sets of red-stenciled lines. Below, a new metallic strip goes around the new and slimmer faux trapezoidal exhausts.
All in all, the changes may seem inconspicuous. That being said, it's still our favourite pick over the new BMW 7-Series and the newer Audi A8. It is also a luxury sedan that tells a story, one of financial accomplishments and of understated German elegance. In fact, it's so special that everybody who is somebody has one and that brings us to the problem: in a flamboyant city like Dubai, you'd need one in a red, pink or a green livery to set yourself apart.
As for the S-Class interior, this remains the most architecturally profound rendering in any purchasable car. It's got not one but two 12.3-inch full-colour displays set on a beautifully quilted dashboard. Then, there are lashings of wood veneer, as expected, that wraps around the cabin in style. You have perforated aluminium speakers, two of which swirl when the engine starts up. And about the ambient lighting that keeps the mood cosy, our choice of violet may seem burlesque to some, but you can choose from some 64 hues to suit your mood. Even simple things like storage is made special in the S-Class. who doesn't want a central cubby that opens in different ways, one towards the passenger and the other towards the driver? Again, the changes are minimal on the inside, except for the steering wheel. The unconventional but chic 2-spoke wooden steering wheel that was a bit like a mole on a supermodel's face has been replaced by a more sophisticated wheel, one that has satin finished spokes with tiny touch panels to navigate the menus, in addition to the usual iDrive-like swivel wheel.
Space is of little concern in the S-Class. We found it to be more cavernous than many modern pod hotel rooms. The rear seating is fit for kings - who, in this age, are financial moguls. they would definitely like the aircraft-style table that pops out whenever they need to tend to their signatory duties.
And when he or she decides it's close of business, they can turn it into an aircraft-style First Class seating. At a simple press of a button, the front passenger seat displaces itself for more space, then a footrest pops out from under it and, finally, the rear seat backrests recline. giving you an almost-180 degree temporary sleeping arrangement. It is the closest you'll ever get to a bed while on the move. All you have to do is roll up those privacy shades and snooze away.
If there had to be a gripe, it would have to be build quality; though exceptional by almost any standard, it seems to falls short of that of the Audi A8!
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
In past generations, base models like the S 280 couldn't get past the 100 km/h mark in under 9 seconds. But things have changed dramatically since. The base engine on the pre-facelift model was the twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 - which sent 333 horses to the rear wheels and was rather quick. For 2018 - and for pretty much the same money - they've done one better by upping power on the turbo V6. Maximum power is now rated at 362bhp, while twist at the crank is a healthy 500Nm. Adding to the mechanical advantage is a new 9G-tronic transmission that replaces the 7-speed unit.
Floor the gas pedal at a signal and it will get away from still traffic onto a ton in a claimed 5.5 seconds or so. Do the same on highway and the transmission will skip a few gears on the kick down to give you the torque you demand while operating seamlessly between ratios. So it's got the power, relentless power might I add, that arrives in a wave rather than a jolt, which is quite appropriate for a vehicle of this kind.
But for the most part, you'd want to leave it in 'Comfort' mode - the softest setting - and make use of the plushness of the air suspension and enjoy coasting down a highway in that well-insulated cabin with double-glazed windows and noise-cancelling speakers. Do note that in the pursuit of sportiness, a small degree of 'waftability' has been sacrificed, which leads us to say that the W221 model - sold from 2005 to 2013 - actually rode better. But overall, this 2018 models hits the sweet spot in terms of comfort and handling. It drives better by staying planted at all speeds and keeps body roll to a minimum while negotiating curves. To me, the number one selling point for the S-Class is its buttery smooth steering feel. You need to drive it to feel it!
The S 450 puts on a show for 'Green' index watchers too, by delivering a manufacturer-claimed 8L/100km while releasing to the environment an impressive 183 g/km of CO2. But as well as the S 450's engine may stack up, our choice in the revised powertrain line-up would be the new S 560 armed with a 465 bhp and 700 Nm output. Although it's a V8 with bigger displacement, it's also more economical. or that's what the spec sheet says!
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
This S-Class, like the ones before, is a culmination of luxury that possesses every creature comfort, including those that involve comfort, safety and technology. It has a customisable digital instrument panel. It has LED headlamps with a throw of around 650 metres and a radar system that scouts for cars and people where the eyes can't reach, like in a fog. There's predictive braking to avoid collisions, at high and low speeds, and there are virtual rails - i.e., lane keep warning and lane assist to help you drive between the lanes.
The front seats have dynamic bolsters to hold you in place when you a take a turn. And the seats heat, cool and massage your body in numerous permutations and combinations. You can also heat up that over-priced coffee or chill that flavoured water right from your cup-holder. At the rear, dual screens keep eyes entertained (surprisingly, they are not touch sensitive), and 2 sets of wireless headphones come with them. You can also charge your phone wirelessly while streaming songs through Bluetooth.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class remains, arguably, the best car in the world, and yet, the German-automaker has bettered it! Even if you don't notice the changes, you still get an elegant personal limo service that shows off your financial standing to the world while being pampered by the cavernous interior and its many lavish features. Some plushness has been sacrificed for dynamics and, perhaps, in the locale you reside, considering you can afford its lofty sticker price, you'll only be as important as your neighbour who probably owns the same car. This is simply because the S-Class is the obvious answer to anyone who asks the question: "What's the best car money can buy?"