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TCC Preview: 2007 Mercedes-Benz S-Class

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Link: http://www.thecarconnection.com/Vehicle_Re...S183.A9157.html

Preview: 2007 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Reinventing an icon, the more is more way.
by Marty Padgett      (2005-08-29) 


Life's tough even at the top rung of the ladder. The Donald takes potshots for his hair, Martha has to put on an ankle bracelet that clashes with her peasant skirts, and even most favored Canadian Pam Anderson gets her life choices questioned by Courtney Love - Courtney Love - on what's supposed to be her big night out.

In our celeb-addled mind, Mercedes-Benz is suffering the same slings and arrows. Quality's a bit of a thorn in Stuttgart 's side right now, and the whole issue of who's leading the brand into the future has been put on hold. But that doesn't and can't stop the procession of new cars. And this year at the Frankfurt Show, arguably the most important car to the Mercedes franchise is all new and on display - the S-Class.

Like the other stars in its luxosedan galaxy, the S-Class has waxed and waned through yet another life cycle. New in 1998, it now fends off updated versions of the Jaguar XJ and BMW 7er, both of which have tooled around the block seeking to take the S's reserved parking spot in owners' garages. The S-Class also is being squeezed from above by four-doors as disparate as Bentley's Flying Spur and Benz' own Maybach twins, the 57 and the 62.

What's an icon to do to reinvent itself? More style and more gear is a surefire solution. This time around, the S-Class adopts some of the styling intentions of the Maybachs and ladles on more safety technology. Those new versions of Pre-Safe, Distronic, and Brake Assist ensure that Benz retains the image of building the safest cars in the segment, while the radicalized shape ensures that BMW won't be the only artsy German car on certain shopping lists.

Coddled in style

Styling is one of those subjectives best decided by your wallet. Some of you out there may already have checkbooks in hand, now that you've seen the S-Class' interesting new shape. And maybe some of you are ready to start a petition like the one that telegraphed Bimmer fans' displeasure with the Chris Bangle team's 7-Series.

Remember when German sedans were lovingly and favorably compared with bank vaults, and not with the various Guggenheims and Gehry palaces scattered around the world? BMW ushered the ubersedan into art-car territory, and Benz is following to some degree. Hints of Maybach and even VW crop up in its pronounced wheelhouses and sloping tail. Following the outgoing S-Class, a lithe luxury warrior, with the new shape is a bit of a jolt. But, while German cars might never achieve the lyric beauty of Jaguars or even Cadillacs past, in comparison to the BMW debacle the new S-Class seems a tamer and more surefooted step out the mainstream.

While we're talking about the S-Class, we're really talking about the long-wheelbase edition, which is the only version we'll get in the U.S. It's 205.0 inches long, with a 124.6-inch wheelbase, up 1.6 inches from the last version. The body is 0.6 inches wider and 1.1 inches taller than before. (The smaller car is roughly five inches shorter overall.)

What the increase in length does is to boost interior room so the new S-Class' faster windshields and more raked body don't give any less interior room. Shoulder, elbow, and head room are all increased, Benz says, as is the room in the back seat available to passengers in the long-wheelbase edition. Seating space in front and back is quite ample, and owners can choose a bench-type rear seat or multiadjustable buckets for the rears to go along with optional fold-down tables mounted in the front seatbacks and a refrigerated compartment built into the center-seat backrest.

The cockpit's been restyled too, but not along the lines of the exterior. In comparison to previous Ss, it looks at first radically simplified and rectilinear, with a wide binnacle housing the driver controls and a cleanly designed center stack with only a smiling line of identical chromed buttons giving away some of the features baked into the S-Class.

A round controller gives away the fact that the COMAND system is once again in control of much of the vehicle's ancillary controls. (It even has a sort of mousepad now - a padded box that also hides certain cellphones that can be integrated into the S-Class' voice command system.) COMAND takes over the controls for the audio system - radio, CD/DVD changer, navi system, and, if ordered, a seemingly infinitely variable contour pair of front seats with active ventilation. The audio system and climate control can also be directed by steering-wheel-mounted buttons.

Increased power; two U.S. engines

At launch next spring in the U.S. , the S-Class will be available in two distinct flavors: stupendously powerful and very powerful. As a member of the 500-horsepower club in Euro spec, the S600 will be powered by the current V-12 engine and five-speed automatic transmission and should deliver about 500 hp in U.S. spec, according to the new SAE regs.

The S500 will get its motivation from a new eight-cylinder engine of undisclosed displacement will provide 382 hp in European specification and will be available from the time the car goes on sale in Europe this fall. Mercedes promises that with this engine the S500 will accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 5.4 seconds.

In addition to the V-8 and V-12, a version of the 3.5-liter V-6 will be offered to European customers, as will a new CDI V-6 diesel with 228 horsepower. All the V-6 and V-8 engines will be sold with Benz' new seven-speed automatic, already found in the SLK and M-Class.

Also standard on the S-Class are the AIRMATIC air suspension system, anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic brake distribution, stability control, and side and side curtain airbags. Active Body Control will be standard on the S600 and optional on the S500.

Seamless safety - with more to come

In terms of electronic safety gear, Mercedes has pushed the envelope with existing systems already in place on the S-Class, and is setting the stage for even more integration between the car's Brake Assist, PRE-SAFE, and DISTRONIC technologies.

Brake Assist detects when a driver is panic-braking by measuring pedal input against time and other car events like deceleration and cornering. Brake Assist PLUS, Benz says, takes this system to another level of occupant protection by using radar sensors to determine the presence of obstacles in the path ahead of emergency braking. An audible warning sounds when the system perceives the need for emergency braking, and applies full braking power once the driver applies the brake, no matter how much pressure is applied to the brake pedal.

The Brake Assist PLUS system can be combined with the revamped DISTRONIC PLUS radar-based cruise control system. DISTRONIC PLUS' more sensitive detection of obstacles (compared to the previous version) means that the cruise control system can function from a complete stop and all the way up to about 120 mph - meaning that even in stop-and-go traffic, the combination of braking and cruise control can accelerate back to a preset speed with a tap of the cruise stalk. The system also contains a parking-assist function that can sense objects in front or behind the car.

In the future - Benz officials won't say when in the U.S. - the DISTRONIC and Brake Assist PLUS will be mated to the PRE-SAFE system that prepares seat-belt reels, seats, and windows for a collision. Incorporating the braking and radar technology could potentially reduce the energy of an impact, they say.

Lastly, the new S-Class offers as an option a night vision system, similar in concept to those recently deleted from GM's Cadillac lineup and still available on the Lexus LX470. The Benz system is based on infrared sensors, a camera mounted behind the rearview mirror and interface with an exceptionally crisp monitor nestled in the gauges of the new S. Mercedes says that their system allows drivers to see potential hazards much farther down the road, leading to a 125-percent improvement in safety, they note.

Pricing on the new S-Class has not been announced. The new S-Class will be shown for the first time publicly at the Frankfurt auto show, which opens to the media on Sept. 12.



2007 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Base price: $75,000 (est.)
Engine: 386-hp V-8 (S500); 510-hp V-12 (S600)
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive (S500); five-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive (S600)
Length x width x height: 175.6 x 71.2 x 51.6 in
Wheelbase: 92.5 in
Curb weight: 3075 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): N/A
Safety equipment: Dual front, side, and side curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes, stability control, Brake Assist Plus; PRE-SAFE

Major standard equipment: Zoned climate control; leather seating; anti-theft system; AM/FM/CD audio system with Sirius pre-wiring

Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles


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Mercedes: First technology run amuck. Now styling run amuck.
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