“Shattering!" At Autocar India, we consider that exclamation to be our very own. Right from the editor to the interns, it's everyone’s go-to word when something really impresses you. The right way to use it is as such - “The ride is shattering!” or, “It is just shattering the way that engine pulls!”. In very rare instances an entire car is deemed "shattering". And in even rarer circumstances, the plaudit is conferred with greater enthusiasm after a good night’s sleep.
But, days after having had driven Mercedes’ S-class, I still find myself going, “What a car!” Big, fat backseat-oriented machines rarely warm my heart as fully as their hefty price tags and incredible features list suggest. For me, the previous W221 fell short of the 'World’s Best Car' tag that the S-class has carried for so long. Sure, it was fantastic to lounge around in, but from behind the wheel, it was deadly dull and equally unimaginative in terms of cabin design. It didn’t feel like the pinnacle of automobile evolution. New cars like Audi’s A8 and the uber-luxurious car crafters - Rolls-Royce and Bentley were redefining expectations at the upper end of the market. The official burial of the Maybach brand only exacerbated matters further.
It was a wake-up call that Mercedes needed and clearly it pushed them out of their comfort zone. The three-pointed star needed to be revered once more and Mercedes has pulled out all the stops to do so. The new Mercedes is truly fantastic in every way that you expect an S-class to be. The seats have perfectly judged cushioning, the adjustability is astonishing, the ride quality is unreal and the sense of lavishness inside the cabin is positively creamy. Aircraft style flip-out tables, massage seats, individual DVD screens, powered sun blinds on the door are some of the features on offer. The sumptuousness of it all is accentuated by the quiet cabin.
But what really bowled me over was the technology and design. “It’s a meeting of classic – even retro – design and avant-garde technology worthy of an HG Wells novel,” said Autocar UK about the interiors. Paraphrased, adventurous and classy. Agree? You don’t look at the air vents and think – air vent. You think – “Cool! How do I work these? What’s that knob for?” The font used to write 'Mercedes Benz' on the steering wheel, where is that from? As the new S-class whisks you from point A to B, it takes you into another world in between. Sure, the excitement will wear away in some time but, the pleasure of being in the S-class is unlikely to be dimmed anytime soon.
I love technology that feels techy - a bit futuristic and sci-fi. The night vision system is just that, and incredibly cool. It will prove extremely useful on the highway. The Magic Body Control system reads the road ahead and tunes the suspension to absorb bumps! Sadly though, this system isn’t going to be offered in India. That’s because while MBC uses two cameras to operate, the entire electronics package also includes a radar system, which operates at a frequency that isn’t free for civilian use. That’s a pity, as it would have been the ultimate piece of tech for Indian roads.
Other than that, the S 500 was enjoyable, but controlled to drive. I would have been mildly disappointed if it had been overly sporty, thankfully, it isn’t. I found a few things to grumble about – the air vent knobs, the garish shades for the cabin light, the slow shifts on the 7GTronic but other than that I knew this car was special. No, not special. Shattering! All of it.