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.