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Rating 9 9

Mercedes S350

9th Dec 2009 8:00 am

This is easily the best luxury car you can buy and now that it is being assembled here, it’s easier on the wallet too

  • Make : Mercedes-Benz
  • Model : S-Class

Set the car in ‘Comfort’ mode and the S-class suspension becomes especially supple. It dispatches poorly paved roads without breaking into a sweat, the massive chassis floating on four thick columns of air.

The car has an improved version of the ‘Airmatic’ suspension found in the earlier version, and we don’t hesitate to call this the best air suspension system around — better than on any of its competitors. As with any of these systems, it has the ability to raise the ride height of the car if road conditions demand it, making the S relatively stress-free to drive on our roads. What makes all this even better is the fact that the absorbent ride is not attained through soft springs. It’s also amazing that even though the thin, 55-profile tyres may be rolling through a poorly paved section, there is little rocking or pitching from the suspension, the S-class sailing over like that proverbial ghost ship, the Flying Dutchman.
 
Sharp-edged bumps and large potholes, however, still catch out the air springs, primarily because the air springs find providing instant compression (demanded by such obstacles), difficult to deal with.
If ride quality is important to you, we strongly suggest you stick to 17-inch rims and avoid the temptation to go up to 18 inchers.  However, ride quality over big potholes apart, there is little to criticise as far as comfort and relaxation are concerned. Accommodation is first rate or seven star, as they like to say in the hotel industry.

You really haven’t experienced Mercedes Benz’s lofty standards if you haven’t driven or sat in an S-class. A car hat stands at the pinnacle of everything the three-point star stands for, the S-class may not be Merc’s bread and butter car, but it’s certainly the one that carries brand DNA forward.

The new S is certainly radical in the looks department and its styling splits opinion right down the middle. Longer and generally larger than the outgoing car, the new S has an all-new profile that blends sporty, large wheel arches and a low nose with a Maybach limo-like steeply raked rear windscreen and boot section. At the front, a very modern fender line blends wheel arch and headlight, and the bonnet line sweeps up from the windscreen over the roof and down the rear. The car’s silhouette looks elegant when cruising past, imparting an air of totally effortless motion.

The 3,030mm long wheelbase gives even this short-wheelbase version we tested a massive amount of space — enough for four six-footers to stretch out. Incidentally, while our test car was a short-wheelbase version, Mercedes will only sell the ‘L’ version in India, which comes with a longer, 3,161mm wheelbase.

 Every inch of the S is covered in the finest quality. The earlier S-class suffered much criticism for its ordinary plastic quality, that Merc has gone the extra mile to see to it that this car is over-built. The grain of the wood, quality of the thick but supple leather, the manner in which the metal capped buttons work, the micron perfect fit and the well-damped manner in which they function, all prove that Mercedes has met its objective.

Of course, no story on the new S-class can be complete without talking about the seats. This car is a dedicated four-seater, where all seats can be adjusted for various parameters. Yes, this may leave precious little space for a fifth passenger, but only superlative adjectives can be used to describe the seats. Each a size larger than necessary for that extra bit of comfort, they support you in areas other seats don’t reach — upper and lower thigh, the edges of your shoulder blades, and the entire length of your back. You’re seated at the perfect height behind, and like the earlier S, the seats can either have cool air flowing through them or be heated, adding considerably to overall luxury. Again, cabin quality and that feeling of well-being are much higher in the new car.
 
What we didn’t particularly care for was the design of the dash. Some elements of the design echo the solidly-built Mercs of yesteryear, with chunky detailing and bold surfaces. But the manner in which they have been integrated with elements like a large command screen and chromed surround around the vents, feels like the designers have been slightly heavy-handed. Still, bits like the flat-screen speedometer that are more aircraft digital cockpit than car, and the chunky steering wheel, look great.
Merc has also included a number of features that first featured on the BMW 7-series —Merc’s version of i-Drive, called Comand, a steering column-mounted automatic gear stalk or selector and a push-button parking brake. Also, because the Mercedes is designed primarily as a left hand-drive car, it’s difficult for the driver sitting on the right to see the button that controls the Comfort, Sport or Manual settings over the bulge of the telephone keypad. And some additional storage space would have been nice, especially in the elbow box. There is also a Comand dial for rear seat passengers, but this only offers control for the rear-mounted screens and a DVD player — part of the package.
 
Use your fingers on the column-mounted stalk to bring the seven-speed automatic gearbox into Drive, dab at the accelerator and the S moves off the line. The seven-speed box skips up once you reach cruising speed. The speed-sensitive rack and pinion steering is very accurate and allows you to place this huge car exactly where you want, without much mental effort or strain. It’s so good, it’s actually easier to thread the S through traffic than many smaller luxury cars.

Set the car in ‘Comfort’ mode and the S-class suspension becomes especially supple. It dispatches poorly paved roads without breaking into a sweat, the massive chassis floating on four thick columns of air.

The car has an improved version of the ‘Airmatic’ suspension found in the earlier version, and we don’t hesitate to call this the best air suspension system around — better than on any of its competitors. As with any of these systems, it has the ability to raise the ride height of the car if road conditions demand it, making the S relatively stress-free to drive on our roads. What makes all this even better is the fact that the absorbent ride is not attained through soft springs. It’s also amazing that even though the thin, 55-profile tyres may be rolling through a poorly paved section, there is little rocking or pitching from the suspension, the S-class sailing over like that proverbial ghost ship, the Flying Dutchman.
 
Sharp-edged bumps and large potholes, however, still catch out the air springs, primarily because the air springs find providing instant compression (demanded by such obstacles), difficult to deal with.
If ride quality is important to you, we strongly suggest you stick to 17-inch rims and avoid the temptation to go up to 18 inchers.  However, ride quality over big potholes apart, there is little to criticise as far as comfort and relaxation are concerned. Accommodation is first rate or seven star, as they like to say in the hotel industry.

Mercedes S350
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