Thursday June 19 2014

2014’s S-Class is fit for a king

The Mercedes Benz S-Class has plenty of

The Mercedes Benz S-Class has plenty of features including eight optional and standard safety features. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA 

By Peter Mutimba

It is rather difficult to be objective about the new Mercedes Benz S-Class. And there is a good reason for that too, as this happens to be the fastest, most powerful, most beautiful, and most comfortable car I have had the fortune to test. So let us start with three reasons why you should not buy this car.

For starters, the S-Class is not cheap in any sense of the word: Price on request at Spear Motors.
It also has so much technology, I was wondering if some of those parts won’t fail in future. And finally, it is very conspicuous. It is a head turner. With all that properly swept under the rug, I can now tell you why you must have this car.

Luxury and comfort
If you think it is beautiful on the outside, wait till you step in. The S-Class can take four passengers in very comfortable leather seats that massage your back with little mechanical hands. There is plush wood trim wherever you look and there is real elegance about the buttons and the layout of the dash.

The air conditioning, gives a whole new meaning to climate control. Besides cutting off all the smells from outside, it perfumes the cabin air if you feel like it. The air conditioner is also in the seats, blowing air at your back. The reclining executive seats at the back are better experienced than explained. Mercedes are trying to cater to the client with the most discerning tastes and I think they pulled it off.

At the front, the driver gets a chunky steering wheel that allows control over almost everything, which means you never have to take your hands off the wheel. If you are stuck in a traffic jam, the car plays you a movie on a sizeable console at the front, though it instantly fades out once the car starts moving again. The Bluetooth connectivity plugs your phone into the car and turns the sound system into a receiver. Now you will have no excuse to ignore the mistress’ call if your wife is in the car.

The S-Class we tested has a seven speed automatic gearbox with additional sequential flaps on the steering. It is powered by a 449 horsepower twin turbo, V8 petrol engine. What this means is that, it accelerates from 0 to 100km per hour in 4.8 seconds. Think about it for a moment. That figure might not make a lot of sense on paper until you count it out or if you witness it firsthand.

The rate at which it picks up speed is frankly, quite alarming. You just need the smallest of spaces to overtake. The price tag on the S-Class excludes most of the younger clientele. We naturally come with a less defined sense of self preservation and a high propensity to show off. Not a very good combination that. Truth is, it requires quite a bit of self control to ignore all that power however much it winks and bats its eyelids at you.

The ride and handling
There are a lot of attributes that make handling a dream in this car, chief among them being a unique air suspension system. What it does is virtually eliminate body roll. It just eats up high speed corners. And then it has something called magic body control. Let me explain that for a moment.

The Mercedes has cameras; lots of them. Every angle is covered. I was particularly impressed with the satellite view that shows you anyone and anything approaching the car. I like to think its best application is against thieves. Gives you enough time to lock your doors or pull out your machete and prepare for the perp. But the cameras we are interested in are the ones associated with magic body control.

As they scan the road ahead, the system adjusts the suspension and keeps the car flat. So you are looking at the taxi ahead of you hit a bump and throw the occupants a foot in the air, yet you wait your turn and nothing happens. All you are getting is a little vibration, and that is it.

When I asked sales director Gilbert Wavamunno about the safety ratings on the S-Class, he joked that it should have a six star rating. The maximum is five. After a ride in the S-Class, I could see why he thought the five star rating was not sufficient. The new S-Class is the only production car with autonomous braking. That is not an exaggeration. I have checked the facts.

Autonomous braking is the car’s ability to brake without driver input. This one was demonstrated to me quite unintentionally. Out of the blue, a man, probably under the influence of alcohol (at 9.30am?), crossed the road with as much care as a two-year-old. All we heard was a beep and the brakes and the intelligent drive (as Mercedes so named it)- slammed the brakes. That same system also allows you to set your Mercedes to follow the car in front of you. Hands off the steering wheel, feet off the pedals. If the car in front slows down, the Mercedes follows suit.

And that brings me to the collision warning system, which Wavamunno had to turn off. While driving on our roads, it is practically beeping the whole time. Somehow there is always a boda boda trying to do something that upsets thesystem. I have to mention the attention assist; because it really isn’t something you see every day.

As you drive along, it scans your face and works out your mood or disposition. Let us call it the onboard psychiatrist. On a normal day it reads your face and actions and works out your behavioural patterns and reactions. At some point in the future, you will get into the car tired or sleepy, or even drunk. It will look at your face and it will warn you that you had better let someone else drive.

Honestly, the only thing the S-Class does not have is a real life butler serving drinks. And who is to say, at the rate at which they are going, Mercedes won’t do that in a few years.
So for your money you get luxury, a very powerful car that occasionally drives itself, a masseuse and a psychiatrist. What more could we ask for?