The S-Class is redesigned for 2014, and the latest iteration of the top-drawer Mercedes-Benz brings with it a host of new technologies along with the performance and refinement that have made the S-Class the most popular choice in a category where buyers can afford the best. The one thing that the latest S-Class offers less of is choice: The model lineup has been trimmed to just the S550 -- with or without 4Matic all-wheel drive -- and the S63 AMG 4Matic. Gone (for now at least) are the S350 BlueTec diesel, the S400 Hybrid, and the twelve-cylinder S65 AMG...
As Mercedes-Benz stretches its lineup in all directions, it's fortunate that the S-Class luxury sedan is good enough to cast its aspirational glow over so many disparate Mercedes models. Although it has long been an excellent all-around luxury sedan, the 2014 S-Class tops the previous models chiefly in two areas: coddling rear-seat passengers and easing the burden for drivers via a slew of electronics.
The luxury-car market is a global one, and in many countries (particularly China) a car like an S-Class is often chauffeur-driven. Therefore, it makes sense that the new S-Class strives to make its back seat feel first-class. All S-Class cars sold in North America are the longer-wheelbase version (as was the case with the outgoing model), so space is plentiful. How buyers can outfit that space, however, has changed. Individual rear seats bisected by a wide console are available. Pillowed headrests and individual tray tables are a nice touch. With the executive seating package, the right-hand seat gets an extendable leg rest. Some features, however, veer toward the absurd, such as the available heated armrests and the perfume atomizer, which can waft one of four scents through the HVAC system.
This S-Class is also characterized by its extensive suite of high-tech driver aids. Beyond the expected lane-departure prevention and blind-spot warning systems, the S-Class pre-collision system can, after alerting the driver, autonomously brake to avoid a collision. The BAS Plus system can detect cross traffic (such as when backing out of a blind parking space), again alerting the driver and braking to avoid a collision. The system can even detect a car closing too fast from behind and can prepare the S-Class for an imminent rear-end collision. The optional Magic Body Control scans the road ahead for bumps, relaying its findings to the active body control suspension so it can react before reaching them -- this has the affect of making speed bumps virtually disappear. The biggest wow feature is Steering Assist, the hands-free steering feature that is part of the Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control. With cruise engaged and a steering-wheel icon illuminated, the system can follow the car ahead, autonomously steering through curves; if the car in front pulls off or changes lanes, the system will pick up the lane markers, although the driver might have to grab the wheel. Steering Assist can detect a driver's hands on the wheel and allows hands-free driving only briefly before flashing a warning; below 19 mph, it allows more hands-free driving time.
Beyond all the available features, the S-Class is a very rewarding car to drive. The S550's familiar 4.6-liter bi-turbo V-8 now puts out 455 hp, smoothly hustling the big Benz from 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. This powertrain is creamy, and the seven-speed automatic transmission never makes a false move. The S63 AMG proffers even more power from its 5.5-liter bi-turbo V-8, cutting the 0-to-60 sprint to four seconds flat. The AMG car also features a bolder exhaust note, high-performance brakes, and AMG's specific sports suspension (but no Magic Body Control). For such a big car, the S-Class proves surprisingly easy to maneuver, with a very tight turning circle and an ingenious split-view screen that can show images from the rear-view camera and the top-down surround view simultaneously.
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