2008 S-Class New Car Test Drive
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the benchmark for luxury sedans. Completely redesigned just a year ago, the Mercedes S550 and S600 are superb automobiles. The S-Class cabins are among the most beautiful interior executions on the market today. These cars are loaded with technology yet the COMAND system is easier to operate than the systems from BMW and Audi. Underway, the S-Class cars are smooth, quiet, and powerful.
The S-Class is made up of the S550 models, which come with a V8 engine, and the S600, which comes with a turbocharged V12. The S550 4MATIC adds the all-weather capability of all-wheel drive. Two AMG versions bring racecar performance to this big luxury sedan.
All of them boast quick acceleration and are comfortable and stable at high speeds. Performance goes up with the more powerful engines, of course. The S600 can accelerate from 0-60 mph in about 4.5 seconds, according to Mercedes, which is very quick indeed.
These cars handle remarkably well for big luxury sedans. They are responsive but not darty. The Airmatic air suspension system is tuned toward the sportier end of the spectrum. The Automatic Body Control active suspension option cuts body roll significantly, and you can really feel it working when you throw the car into a fast, sweeping downhill curve. And we found the Brake Assist Plus brakes spectacular in their stopping power and stopping distance performance.
Completely redesigned for 2007, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is unchanged for the 2008 model year except for the inclusion of satellite radio as a standard feature. This latest generation of S-Class are longer, wider and taller than pre-2007 models, with aggressive fender flares that give the big Benz an exotic look.
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is composed of the S550 ($86,700), the S550 4MATIC ($89,700), the S600 ($144,200), plus the S63 AMG ($127,000) and the S65 AMG ($144,200). The S550 models are powered by a 5.5-liter V8 and come with a seven-speed automatic transmission; the 4MATIC adds all-wheel drive. The S600 is powered by a 6.0-liter 3-valve V12 twin-turbo engine connected to a heavy-duty five-speed auto. The federal Gas Guzzler Tax adds $1,300 to the V8, $3,000 to the V12. The S63 AMG is powered by a 6.2-liter V8, while the S65 AMG features a 6.0-liter V12.
Standard features on the S550 include leather upholstery, a navigation system with voice recognition, heated 14-way power front seats with lumbar, heated power mirrors, Harman/Kardon 14-speaker, six-disc audio system with weatherband, satellite radio, and front/rear illuminated vanity mirrors. Also standard are active bi-xenon headlamps which illuminate around corners, and cornering fog lamps that illuminate the front corner areas of the car, as well as automatic shock-absorber adjustment and a load/height adjustable suspension. Both S550 models ride on 255/45HR18 tires. Options include Active Body Control ($3,900), Parktronic park assist ($650), Distronic Plus cruise control ($2,850).
The S600 adds Active Body Control, Parktronic front and rear parking radar system and Distronic radar-controlled cruise control.
AMG models include upgraded brakes, sport active suspension, 255/35ZR20 front tires, 275/35ZR20 rear tires, heated/ventilated and massaging front seats with automatic side bolsters, power side shades and trunk closing.
Options for S-Class include Night View Assist ($1,775), wood-and-leather steering wheel ($550), heated steering wheel ($450), dynamic multicontour front seats ($1,800), Keyless Go ($950), power rear and side window shades ($700), Panorama glass roof ($1,000), a reverse camera that displays on the COMAND screen ($1,000), 19-inch wheels ($1,200) and an electronic trunk closer ($500). The AMG Sport package features upgraded wheels, exhaust tips and body moldings ($5,600). The P1A package adds heated rear seats ($1,250); also available is the active ventilated rear heated power seat package ($2,900).
Safety features are unequalled in the class, with all the usual brake and airbag technology and Pre-Safe accident-readiness equipment made standard. The Brake Assist feature has been improved to Brake Assist Plus status, and is fully integrated with Parktronic and Distronic, respectively the radar-controlled parking and distance-controlling cruise control systems. The system has two forward-facing radar systems, and can apply the brakes at any speed from zero up to about 125 mph and bring the car to a full stop without driver input.
In addition to closing the sunroof, windows and repositioning the seat in the event of an impending collision, PreSafe also has air chambers in the backs of the multicountour bucket seats that inflate to add support to the upper body in case of a rear-ender.
Night View Assist uses infrared headlamps and a tiny camera to project clear, sharp images of what's ahead of the car at night. The picture is displayed in the space normally occupied by the speedometer and tachometer, which change to bar graphs underneath the night vision display when it's activated. Unlike thermal systems, the Mercedes system uses a sharper display that can operate unaffected by temperature extremes.
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