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S-Class still absolutely peerless


I can’t help but smirk at the timing of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class’s launch. It comes but a month after Pravin Gordhan announced drastic budget cuts across the board for all government bigwigs.

No more extravagant parties, no government credit cards and car purchases are limited to something along the lines of a BMW 5 Series. I know I shouldn’t feel happy at the various officials’ despair, but how can one not enjoy the irony? What makes it even better is the fact that I’m convinced some of them had already played with the online car configurator to find the S-Class that best suits their own style. The S-Class is the ultimate symbol of wealth and status, after all.

I suppose I could help out a bit and write here that it’s a horribly overpriced bucket of bolts, but that would be the greatest lie ever told. Sorry government bods, but the S-Class remains all the car one could ever want. In other words, it really is the best car in the world. It’s also the last word in refinement and luxury.

As standard, you get all the obligatory features you’d normally find in other cars. It’s all in there - electrically adjustable heated and cooled leather seats with massaging function, DVD player with screens on the back of the front seats, navigation, the best infotainment system currently available in a car, which you operate via the biggest LCD display ever fitted to anything with four wheels. Seriously, the guys from Pimp My Ride would take one glance inside the S-Class and say that it’s perfect. There’s nothing I can think of that’s missing.

Then you start playing with a couple of the non-traditional toys - the technology that will eventually siphon down to all models from all manufacturers in about 20 years. The S-Class does not disappoint. Mercedes has taken safety technology to a new level entirely with something it’s calling Intelligent Drive. Unfortunately, I can’t delve too deep into this, but suffice it to say that Mercedes is now at the forefront of autonomous driving technology and that the S-Class takes the world a few steps closer to building a true accident-impervious vehicle. Read below about some of the feature highlights.

That part of the S-Class makes me want to start a career in tenderpreneuring so I can afford one eventually, but it’s the ride quality and overall refinement that makes me want to rob a bank so I can have one in my driveway tomorrow. Think of the S-Class as a sensory deprivation tank on wheels and you’re about halfway there. Nothing - and I really do mean nothing - is allowed to compromise the interior harmony. Engine noise is kept to the bare minimum and NVH levels are all but non-existent. You really can’t believe that the S-Class runs on the same basic internal combustion technology invented more than 100 year ago.

The ride quality is impeccable. It turns every road in South Africa into a magical stretch of tarmac without potholes or surface irregularities. Even though it’s bigger than the luxury barge it replaces, it seems to shrink around you when driving in an exuberant fashion. One might even call it nimble…

The best seat in the house, however, is in the back. Rear passengers are treated to sumptuous seats and a host of comfort features that do more than take the burden out of commuting. It is a deeply relaxing place to spend time, something I’m sure the government bods will be very sad to hear.

And while you might not mind spending time in the back, it’s nice to know that any one of the four engines are more than powerful enough to get you to your next meeting with time to spare.

The range kicks off with the S350 BlueTEC turbo-diesel, which develops 190kW and 620Nm of torque. It’s also the most frugal car currently available in the range, with a claimed combined figure of 5.5 litres/100km.

Next up is the S400 Hybrid with a 225kW/370Nm petrol engine mated to a 20kW/250Nm electric motor. The brutal S500 follows with a biturbo V8 pushing out 335kW and 700Nm of torque. The hybrid is claimed to consume only 6.3 litres/100km, while the bigger V8 still impresses with a figure of 8.6 litres/100km.

If it’s excess you’re looking for, don’t bother with any of the above. There’s also the beastly S63 AMG with its massive 5.5-litre hand-built V8 that delivers 430kW and 900Nm of torque. That’s enough to get this leviathan from zero to 100km/h in 4.4 seconds.

Mercedes can once again claim victory in the luxury barge contest. The ride quality, comfort and safety levels elevate it to a level that its competitors will only reach once they’ve replaced their current models. Mercedes has played its hand and now the rest will spend a few years catching up. That’s how good this car is.

The new S-Class comes standard with a PremiumDive 6-year/100 000km maintenance plan with no customer contribution.  


S350 BlueTEC R1 214 000
S400 Hybrid  R1 227 100
S400 Hybrid Long R1 248 200
S500 BlueEfficiency R1 564 100
S500 BlueEfficiency Long R1 766 100
S63 AMG R2 174 000

As mentioned, the new S-Class has a list of standard and optional features and innovations that can fill up an encyclopaedia. Here are some of the key features that caught our eye:

Active and passive safety

DISTRONIC PLUS with Steering Assist and Stop&Go Pilot

Adaptive cruise control enhanced by the addition of Steering Assist and Stop&Go Pilot, which helps drivers stay centred in their lane by generating the appropriate steering torque when travelling on a straight road and even on gentle bends. When driving at slow speeds, like in congested traffic, the Stop&Go Pilot can use the vehicle ahead as a means of orientation, even when there are no clear lane markings visible.

BAS PLUS with Cross-Traffic Assist

This system can help avoid not just rear-end collisions with vehicles directly in front, but also imminent crashes with cross traffic at junctions. If the anticipatory system detects a hazardous situation of this, it prompts the driver to start emergency braking. If the driver presses the brake pedal too tentatively, BAS PLUS will step in by automatically boosting brake pressure for effective emergency braking, even applying the brakes at full power if necessary.

Night View Assist Plus

The new Night View Assist Plus system is capable of detecting pedestrians and animals in potentially hazardous positions in front of the vehicle. In particularly relevant situations (in darkness and unlit surroundings at speeds over 60km/h) it automatically switches the instrument cluster display from the speedometer to a crystal-sharp night-view image to alert the driver. The spotlight function is additionally used to repeatedly flash pedestrians in the warning zone in these situations by means of a special module in the front headlamps.

Active Parking Assist with PARKTRONIC

Automatic manoeuvring into and out of parallel and end-on parking spaces. The driver moves the vehicle by manually pressing the accelerator or releasing the brake. What's more, the system is now also able to manoeuvre out of parallel parking spaces again all by itself with automatic steering and brake control, assuming the vehicle was parked there automatically previously.


Occupant protection for an imminent impact from the rear. PRE-SAFE® PLUS offers an extension of the familiar occupant protection measures in situations where traffic behind poses a danger. A radar sensor in the rear bumper monitors the traffic behind the vehicle and can detect the risk of a rear-end collision. If the vehicle is stationary and if the danger of a collision persists, PRE-SAFE® PLUS will keep it firmly braked. Minimising the forward jolt in this way can greatly reduce the strain placed on the occupants, such as the risk of whiplash injuries. Firmly applying the vehicle's brakes can help to prevent secondary accidents too, such as running into a vehicle in front, for example, or colliding with pedestrians or other road users at junctions. Immediately before impact, the PRE-SAFE® anticipatory occupant protection measures, including the reversible belt tensioners, are deployed.


This inflatable seat-belt strap can lower the risk of injury to rear passengers during a frontal impact by reducing the loads acting on the ribcage. Should the crash sensors detect a severe frontal impact, the airbag control unit will trigger deployment and inflation of the belt-bag. A gas generator then inflates the multi-layered belt strap with Velcro seams to nearly three times its normal width. The resulting larger surface area is able to better distribute the force acting on the seat occupant, thereby reducing the risk of injury.


This airbag is located under the seat cushion upholstery, but on top of the plastic seat shell. When the seat is reclined, it prevents the occupant from sliding beneath the seat belt (so-called submarining) in an accident, as it raises the front section of the seat cushion upholstery.

Chassis and suspension

MAGIC BODY CONTROL Innovative suspension system available as an option for the eight-cylinder models, featuring the Active Body Control (which calculates control signals, which are then converted into precisely measured oil flows by servo-hydraulic values at the front and rear axles) and Road Surface Scan (which detect bumps on the road ahead and constantly calculates the best control strategy for overcoming unevenness such as prolonged bumps) sub-functions.

AIRMATIC with continuously adaptive damping system

Full air-suspension system specified as standard for the S-Class. Continuous adjustment of the level allows the spring travel to be maintained, whatever the vehicle load.


Burmester® High-End 3D Surround Sound system

A unique visual and acoustic experience. It offers an outstanding listening experience with the best possible sound settings for every seat and, for the first time, three-dimensional sound as standard in a luxury saloon car. The system provides its unrivalled listening experience by virtue of 24 high-performance speakers and 24 separate amplifier channels with a total output of 1540 watts.

Frontbass system

This is the first time that Mercedes-Benz has used this system in a saloon car. The woofers are installed in the firewall and use the almost 40-litre space in the cross members and side members as a resonance chamber.


This brings the internet into the car. The following functions are supported: WLAN Hot-Spot integrated into the head unit as standard, unrestricted browsing on the internet, read/write SMS, Mercedes-Benz services (including Google search, weather, Facebook and news), Internet radio and Live Traffic Information.


Includes a myriad of features, which include Navitainment (Driveshow, Google Maps and StreetView), map showing the entire globe possible, travel guide and personal POIs, display of satellite images, optimised 3D navigation with topographical model, photorealistic buildings and map rotation, optimised search engine and destination inputs, compilation of four alternative routes download of predefined destinations and routes and Live Traffic Information.


Key features of the radio include song tagging (flagging of played songs and download via iTunes), convenient editing and sorting of the station list and station search by name.


Coverflow display and search by album cover, two USB connectors, Optional Media Interface integrated into the head unit to support mobile devices, Bluetooth audio, optimised media search engine, reproduction of further audio and video formats, display of title information from an internal database and via the internet (Gracenote) and PictureViewer via SD card and USB.


Telephony in the S-Class is also another tech fest, featuring Simple Pairing Assist for easy connection via Bluetooth, display of photos stored in the address book possible when a call comes in, facility for simultaneous connection of two telephones via Bluetooth, operation by COMAND Online and in the rear if only one phone in the car is connected, placing of telephone calls from other applications (like the web browser), control of several telephone calls by call waiting and conference function and the operation of the system via smartphone/WLAN.

Seating comfort

ENERGISING massage function

A unique massage function based on the hot-stone principle. This is based on 14 separately actuated air cushions in the backrest, as well as an integrated warming function. There is a choice of six massage programmes, two of them using the warming function.

Sight and light


Although not visible as a spray jet, this adaptive screen washing system uses conventional washer fluid to ensure a clear view. The innovation lies in the way the fluid is conducted to the windscreen in order to clean it. This is done by means of water guides integrated on both sides along the wiper blade – one on the left and one on the right – with minute laser-cut spraying holes. Via these channels, the innovative system always supplies washing fluid to the windscreen discreetly, precisely where it is needed: just in front of the wiper blade lip, according to the direction of movement of the wiper.

Active multi-contour seats

These seats with a dynamic function continuously adapt to the driving situation. Depending on the steering angle, lateral acceleration and road speed, the air cushions in the side bolsters are pneumatically inflated to ensure maximum lateral support even when the style of driving is extremely dynamic.

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