First drive impressions of new S-Class in Canada

By HONG BOON HOW | 13 February 2014
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Completed in 1976, the CN Tower in downtown Toronto held the record as the world’s tallest free standing structure for 34 years before losing the title to Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

Nevertheless, the 553m tower is a recognisable part of the city skyline, and gets lit up by superbright LED lights where the colours can be changed to liven the mood at night.

While replacing the tower’s conventional bulbs with LEDs did result in a more colourful nightscene, the original intention was to make CN Tower more energy efficient.
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Incidentally, the iconic landmark also became the backdrop for our test drive of the latest Mercedes-Benz S-Class which shares a similar affinity for LEDs.

In fact, the new S-Class, also known as the W222, is the world’s first car that is fully lit by LEDs - some 500 of them.

From headlights to room lights and tail lights, illumination is all by LEDs, an energy saving feature that Mercedes-Benz is proud of.

The German car maker says the LED low-beam headlamps of the S-Class only require 34 watts to produce the same light output compared against 120 watts by the halogen bulb type, and this translates into savings of 0.05-litre of fuel per 100km.

Though the savings might not be significant for a S-Class owner, it underscores the seriousness of Mercedes-Benz in making their vehicles as efficient as possible.

That’s just the start of things anew with the W222.

From a look, you will know this is a S-Class as it shares a similar large sedan styling and silhouette with the outgoing S-Class model W221.

The new model is sleeker and refined in appearance, getting a steeply raked windscreen and more upright radiator grille.

It also loses the flared wheel arches of its predecessor for a leaner look.

Aside from being larger and more spacious, the long wheelbase W222 does not get heavier, weighing in around two-tonnes like the W221, thanks to increased usage of aluminium.

Extensive wind tunnel testing has enabled the W222 to get a segment-leading low drag co-efficient of 0.24, a figure that can put many supposedly “aerodynamic” hybrid cars to shame.

Inside, the W222 easily impressed with its lavish offering of Nappa leather and polished wood trimming.

Its dashboard is even more hi-tech now, featuring two 12.3-inch TFT displays, with the one in front of the driver acting as the instrument panel with virtual dials and gauges, while the other centrally located unit provides viewing on infotainment, satellite navigation and other vehicle set ups.

The second display can also give an all-round 360-degree view of the S-Class.
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The CN Tower.

Rear leg room is abundant and the Executive Seat (the one behind the front passenger) can be reclined by up to 43.5 degrees for maximum comfort.

Before driving off from the Four Seasons Hotel to Muskoka Airport, Mercedes-Benz officials had made it clear that the speed limit for motorways was 100kph and there were reported speed traps along our 180km route.

Keeping the car within the 100kph limit, the S 500’s planted and quiet ride made us feel like the car was running at half the actual speed.

Other Canadian road users whom we suspect were more knowledgable with the whereabouts of speed trap locations were much harder on the accelerator pedal and easily zoomed past us.

The glimpse of a Canadian Ford Crown Victoria patrol car stopped on the roadside as its enforcement officer summoned a speedster made us postpone our intention to go harder on the accelerator until we were much further away.

It was only much later on clear trunk roads that we decided to unleash the turbocharged 4.7-litre V8 engine with 455bhp.

Power surged strongly but smoothly with hardly any lag.
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Accompanying the speed build-up was a pleasant engine purr which does not seem to disrupt the cabin serenity.

A 0-100kph sprint can be done in 4.8 seconds (vs 5.4 seconds in the S 500 W221), a rare feat for a large vehicle and is edging into high performance sports car territory.

It even promises 20% lower fuel consumption despite the increased oomph.

Mercedes-Benz touts the “Intelligent Drive” package, that uses a combination of cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors to detect obstacles and hazards, as making the S-Class more pleasurable and safer to drive.

New is the automatic braking system that detects pedestrians and vehicles in front and applies the brakes should the driver fails to do his bit.
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Even if the driver had not applied enough brake pressure to bring the car to a full halt, the S-Class can complete the job for him.

Other systems include the Distronic Plus with Stop&Go Pilot smart cruise control that allows the S 500 to be driven at a safe distance from the vehicle ahead during automatic cruise mode and the Steering Assist which keeps the car moving at the centre of the lane.

Steering Assist can even turn the electromechanical steering wheel for the driver on gentle curves.

Also equally sophisticated are the Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus that does not dazzle oncoming vehicles by blocking a portion of the high beam towards them, and the Night View Assist Plus night vision camera which allows the driver quickly to spot pedestrians and animals on unlit roads.

The rear seats get enhanced safety through the innovative “belt airbags” that expands during a vehicle collision to reduce stress on the wearers’ chests.

But the highlight of the S 500 has to be its optional “Magic Body Control” hydraulic suspension system that scans the road ahead for bumps and adjusts the suspension to respond accordingly.

The W222 comes with an enhanced version of the Airmatic air suspension system as standard.

Testing out the Magic Body Control over a series of speed bumps at the Muskoka Airport, we felt slight thuds with the system switched off.

With the system turned on, we went over the same bumps again and were impressed that the impacts felt were reduced to almost non-existent.

Other luxury features in our car included Burmester Surround Sound, on-board perfuming system, ventilated seats with massagers, Linguatronic voice control and automatic parking.

At the end of the drive, we seemed to have spent all our time with the S 500, leaving little time for the other variants - the S 400 Hybrid and the S 350 BlueTec diesel.

As the flagship of Mercedes-Benz, every new S-Class generation has to make technological leaps over the previous in order to stay ahead in the ruthless luxury car game.

Not everyone can afford an S-Class but no worries. Expect some of these innovations to make their way into entry-level Mercedes-Benz models.

The new S-Class will arrive here soon with prices and specifications to be announced by Mercedes-Benz Malaysia.

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