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Tuesday, Jul 23, 2024
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ROAD TEST–MBz S500 Captures Top of Ultra Luxury Class

The new totally redesigned Mercedes-Benz S500 has retaken the top of the ultra luxury class for the German carmaker.

To sweeten its appeal to buyers who want the ultimate in tasteful accommodations, Mercedes has introduced special editions that feature the last word in elegance with special paint, wood and upholstery treatment.

The S-Class is available in two V-8 versions, an S500 and an S430 model. The S500 carries a larger V-8 engine and a higher price tag. Mercedes calls its new luxury-oriented models, “designo” editions. Yes, that’s no typo, the “d” is lower case.

Our test car is officially designated the S500 designo Espresso Edition, bearing a coffee-colored exterior and an interior leather dyed the color of toffee, as well as a lavish display of natural elm wood on the dashboard and console.

The overall effect is a richness of visual effect that surpasses anything we’ve seen from Mercedes-Benz. The designo treatment is an $8,500 option. But who’s counting when you have a base price of $80,000 that includes gas guzzler tax and destination charge.

Over the last decade there have been many changes at Mercedes-Benz. People in the auto business used to joke about the fact that while Mercedes automobiles were marvels of engineering, there seemed to be a stern, Teutonic quality to the cars’ interior design. This attribute seemed to say that you needed to suffer a bit to drive a Mercedes , and the seats in models of past generations were akin to sitting on a park bench.

Character Has Changed

But that rigid character at Mercedes-Benz has changed. And while the company is not turning away from its unparalleled engineering tradition, there now is an imperative to impart a more sensual note to its automobiles. The designo editions raise this sensibility to a new level. The Espresso Edition is a stunning automobile. It is almost like Mercedes imported Italian designers to give their models a new level of sex appeal.

The most sensual automobile I have ever driven was a 1983 Maserati Quattroporte, a large luxurious sedan that was over the top in terms of its extravagant interior. Its sumptuous leather seats cradle the body in soft creamy leather. The S-Class with the designo package is the only car that has ever reminded me of that incredible Maserati.

Our test S500 carried a number of other options to coddle the driver and passengers , even those in the rear seats. Back seat drivers will welcome the electronically adjustable heated seats and an electric rear-window shade that can be raised to block direct sun. Other interior amenities include an integrated CD changer and portable phone.

Climate Comfort Seats

Last but not least, our test S500 offered the climate comfort seats, which feature an interior fan to draw moist air through the perforated seat leather as well as a seat back device that offers a kind of gentle slow-motion massage.

But the new S-Class is more that just a rolling living room. It is as solid as an express train at high speeds, although its sheer bulk is a bit unwieldy on really challenging mountain roads. The new S500 is an adept road car , able to take high-speed sweeping curves with the utmost composure, yet maintaining excellent overall ride quality. The S500 just demands to be driven fast, so keep a close eye on the speedometer.

New technology is the leading theme of the new S-Class. The car’s aerodynamic qualities have been significantly improved which improves both gas mileage and interior noise levels at highway speeds. Smart airbags deploy with full force during a high-speed impact, but with only partial force for a low-speed collision.

Standard equipment also includes side-impact airbags mounted in each of the four doors as well as safety curtain airbags that drop down from the headliner and cover the windows to protect passengers from head injuries.

Although it would take thousands of words to describe the features, the operation of the new S-Class incorporates three basic control components and takes some time and concentration to master.

The centralized control unit located in the center console consists of several keypads and a display screen that monitors and controls the voice-operated phone, on-board navigation system and audio components.

The overall control function is further enhanced by the multi-function display screen in the center of the instrument panel and steering wheel mounted buttons that engage basic functions for audio, phone and navigation. The climate control is located in a separate system below the central Command System on the center console and offers an unprecedented ability to customize operation for both driver and front-seat passenger.

All of the systems work flawlessly with the exception of the navigation system. I found it rather difficult to input information and the system didn’t seem to want to address certain details. For example, I dialed in a street in South San Francisco, and the system didn’t seem to care about the exact address on that street, an omission I found puzzling. Although all current navigation systems have their weaknesses, Acura’s unit still strikes me as the best available.


Mercedes S500 Espresso Edition

Price as tested: $94,850

Engine:

Type: 5L V-8

Horsepower: 302 @ 5,600 rpm

Torque: 339 ft. lbs. @ 2,750 rpm

Fuel economy, manual transmission:

City – 16 mpg

Highway – 23 mpg

Curb Weight: 4,133 lbs.

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