THE S-CLASS HAS ALWAYS been a beacon for the future of the automobile. Powertrain, chassis tech, safety, luxury, impossibly indulgent bells and whistles — you see it first in an S-Class and 5, 10, 15 years later you experience it in more mass-market vehicles. Except, we all know the future is going to be electric, and in that sense the diesel engine silently rumbling under the hood of this S 400d doesn’t really point the way to the future. And truth be told this new S-Class doesn’t shatter major new ground in the way it drives.
No, what overshadows everything else, what makes it impossible to argue with the self-proclaimed ‘Best Car in the World’ tag line is the cabin. Sure, the likes of Rolls-Royce and Bentley use finer hides and thicker shag piles, and so too will the Maybach but the technology, digitisation, equipment, quality and furnishings — even the re-imagining of the smallest details such as the air-flow control of the air-con vents — makes this the best automotive interior. Period. And so, hanging a hard left for a magazine that is all about The Thrill of Driving, we will be chilling over the next eight pages.
I’ve even dusted off my jacket after two years, the onboard ionisation and perfuming of the S-Class sorting out the musty odour.
WHERE DO I START? THE SCREENS OF COURSE!
Bigger is always better and Mercedes has gone BIG with the infotainment. 12.8-inches in portrait orientation, the central screen dominates the cabin and this is the optional 1920×1728 OLED screen (standard is 11.9 inches) like your mobile phone, not the regular LCDs like in more run-of the-mill cars including the GLS. Not that I’m an expert on this subject but in terms of clarity, this is the best I’ve ever experienced. In terms of response there’s nothing in the automotive world that comes close; there’s no lag, no delay, no repeated jabbing of icons to get it to do what you want. The menus swipe seamlessly. Tap and immediately what you tap opens up. No wait. Zero frustration. The functionality of 27 analogue controls of the old S-Class has been incorporated into the central touchscreen and, while in normal course, that would have been a recipe for disaster, not so in the S-Class. The new S shows the rest of the automotive universe how menus, interfaces and controls should and can be done. The air-con controls have their dedicated section so you don’t have to hunt through menus to set the temperature. The screen has gesture control, not the swirling of the finger to control volume like in BMWs, but hovering your finger in the near vicinity of the controls is good enough to activate it. No need for pin-point precision. Even cooler is the fact that the car notices where you are looking so look at the left-wing mirror and it knows you want to adjust that, no need to punch the left/right mirror buttons! It even claims to turn on the passenger light when you’re hunting for something in there and drop the rear sunblind when you look over your shoulder but we couldn’t figure out how to make that work.
All around the cabin are 250 LEDs and 64 colours to choose for the ambient lighting turning it from a banging nightclub to a boudoir and even calming the whole thing down when you take your parents out for a drive. And I really mean banging, cause the seats thump bass into the your back and bum. The 1750-watt, 31-speaker Burmester sound system incorporates energisers in the seats that physically thump bass into you in sync with the music. 4D music sounds gimmicky but I have experienced it and now nothing else will ever feel the same.
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