When my friends at Mercedes-Benz told me they were sending the 2014 S500 over for a review, the excitement was tantalising—the S-class is unofficially the ‘best car in the world’. But I admit I was a bit worried as well. I live in an apartment complex in East Delhi, and with the rapid rise in car ownership over the last few years, I was worried that I would spend hours parking such a luxury barge and then I would hate myself if I ended up scratching such a beauty. To my surprise, I was proved so wrong.
I do not envy the job of the team at Mercedes tasked with the development of the new flagship S-Class saloon. It is hard work to make the best even better, but one thing is for sure, they can take pride in knowing that they have played a major role in shaping the course of automotive history. Over the last few decades, the S-Class has become the launchpad for the latest safety and luxury features the auto world has to offer, technologies that have trickled down to the rest of the German carmaker’s range over successive generations, and then adopted by mass carmakers. You name it, from anti-lock brakes and seatbelt pretensioners, to electronic stability control, ventilated seats and even airbags, nearly all the features we take for granted today first were popularised by the S-Class. Their challenge is even more daunting, apart from retaining the crown from hungry and capable rivals, the new S-Class also has the burden to carry on the mantle from the Maybach series—Daimler AG’s erstwhile flagship range designed to rival Rolls-Royce and Bentley—which has been discontinued since 2012.
I shall be honest upfront, I drove the S500 across Delhi’s best and worst roads, and to me the S-Class felt more like a luxury yacht. There is little I can fault, the air suspension made the ride so superbly smooth that potholes and speed bumps felt like bouncing over waves out at sea. Then, the handling; for a saloon over five metres in length, the S-Class turned corners with remarkable ease and poise. Unfortunately, Mercedes does not offer the revolutionary ‘Magic Body Control’ in India, a technology launched with the new S-Class that uses cameras to read the road ahead and pre-adjust suspension and brakes. Contrary to my worst fears, parking supported by aids such as eight cameras and 12 sensors