Probably the most unexceptional heading to an S-class review ever, but also one that holds the most truth. No pressure then! What we have here is the imported (CBU) S400d, but in recent months, Mercedes-Benz India has also started assembling the S-Class in India, significantly slashing its (honestly) irrelevant price tag. If you want an S-Class, you want one, regardless of chump change. So what does more money get you?
The world’s best car gets better
Design: Restrained modernity
Benefitting from the extended wheelbase, this imported S400d looks regal from any angle and illustrates why owning an S-Class ranks up there with a corner cabin at the BSE. It’s classy without being ostentatious, attention-grabbing without seeking it and that is the true beauty of this generation of the S-Class…its understated nature.
Just the Digital LED lights on the new face hold more tech than many ground-up automobile platforms. Made up of a million micromirrors, they illuminate the road ahead with a million pixels (each) and since all those pixels can be intelligently controlled, they don’t dazzle oncoming traffic, can light up corners and even project messages or warning symbols on the road ahead if need be!
The all-new cabin design is dominated by two large screens that make up for the digital instruments and the infotainment control. iPadesque in orientation, the giant 12.8 inches of real estate gives it enough room to have large touch points and brilliant sharp resolution to pan through maps, myriad of vehicle settings and climate control settings. Overall, more than 27 physical buttons have been eliminated from the cabin, thanks to all the virtualisation of buttons. Even the seat controls are touch controls, steering stalks now only hold capacitive controls and even the sunroof slider controls are touch sensitive!
Tech: de force
While it may take a thesis-sized review to unravel all the tech inside the cabin, there are a few highlights that really steal the show. Hands down, the S-Class has the most elaborate ambient lighting system of any car on sale and is punctuated by strips of fibre optics all around the cabin, in two layers. This not only offers you granular control of colour, but also gradation so you can have the cabin sweep from pink to purple and it is also reactive to voice commands and other inputs like climate control, flashing in different colours to indicate inputs. It’s playful and sophisticated at the same time and post sundown, literally creates a whole different world inside the S-Class, regardless of what’s happening outside.
In another first, the 12.3in digital instrument cluster for the driver can also be viewed in 3D mode and this allows text to float on images, or dials to be ever-so-slightly in the foreground compared to trip information. It’s subtle, effective and most importantly, non-distracting. But, the all-virtual capacitive buttons on the new steering wheel are a hit or miss. Ok honestly, they are a miss most of the time since you have to take your eyes off the road to even hit the right target and the volume and track change are not even on the corresponding stalks on either side, triggering off some peoples OCD.
Step inside the wrap-around cabin doesn’t intimidate you at all. The cossetting seats with active bolsters hold you in place while cornering and the silken 6-cyl diesel motor keeps the momentum going as long as your right foot instructs it to. The 9-speed auto is buttery smooth in transmitting the mega 700Nm of torque to all four wheels since the S400d comes in the 4Matic guise, which is MB speak for all-wheel drive.
It also gets rear-axle steering that turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts at low speeds to aid in tighter turning radius and in the same direction as the fronts at higher speeds for better stability and agility. Indeed, the 330 horsepower doesn’t feel like a rocketship given the weight, but more like a torpedo, just sailing through unfazed, never letting your mind wander about what's going on underneath. The ride is cushy without being soft and the drive modes come in handy, where Sport is the sweet spot. Comfort just makes it a bit too wallowy at high speeds but is great for pottering around traffic.
Whichever seat you choose to be seated on, the S-Class pampers you with a feel-good factor that’s second to none. Its mix of exquisite design, materials and craftsmanship blended with high-tech is what sets it apart from the other accomplished competition. Going on a 350km round trip, I emerged fresher than at the start, drenched in music and rejuvenated by the vitality programs that hit all the right spots to keep your body from stiffening up. The quietness of the cabin and the smoothness of all the oily bits just remove any discomfort from the equation, leaving just the legend to speak for itself. This really does feel like the best car in the world!
Regal in appearance and in ride, if you want to emerge fresher at the end of the journey, the S-Class is in a class of its own.