June 11, 2014
2014 Mercedes-Benz S 550 4Matic. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Peter Bleakney
Bacon-flavoured ice cream. Just when you think your life is somewhat complete – boom! Something comes out of left field to upset the apple cart. Something to make you realize just how pathetically wanting your existence really is.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S 550, the sixth generation of Benz’s defining luxury sedan, has bacon-flavoured ice cream oozing from just about every meticulously crafted seam. It’s here to give notice that, yes, the S-Class can still show those punk upstarts a thing or two when it comes to fashioning the ultimate executive express.
How about heated armrests and door panels? Or an air freshener atomizer with a selection of Mercedes scents? Hot stone style massage seats? And seat ventilation that initially sucks and then blows, because Mercedes says it’s better that way.
No argument here.
Furthermore, if you’re snoozing in the ridiculously comfortable back seats that recline to 43 degrees and you suddenly realize “Jeez, if what’s-his-name up there hits the rhubarb, I’m screwed.” No need to hurl your Patek Philippe at the back of his noggin. Rest easy knowing Mercedes has installed special airbags that rise from beneath your La-Z-Boy that prevent submarining under the seat belt.
The 2014 S 550 also lets us know there a few things we don’t need. Like light bulbs. This is the first car to feature fully LED lighting both outside and within. At night, the ambient lighting with its choice of seven hues is truly impressive.
Mechanical gauges with swinging pointers are passé too. The broad dash features a pair of side-by-side 12.3-inch TFT screens that display crisp, convincing renderings of analogue dials along with all information relevant to navigation, climate, infotainment, night vision and myriad vehicle systems.
This is before we talk about the semi-autonomous driving capabilities courtesy of Distronic Plus Adaptive Cruise Control with Steering Assist.
But it’s time to step back from all this gee-whiz tech and look at the essence of Mercedes’ new flagship. The 2014 S 550 4Matic Long Wheel Base at $115,200 is swift, silent, smooth and shows a level of detail and craftsmanship within the cabin that eclipses its immediate competition and draws comparison to Bentley and Roller.
It’s a big car, and the horizontal theme of the dash emphasizes the sedan’s width. But even in this tester’s all black interior, the usual stoic Benz environs make way for a warmer, softer, more inviting ambience. Every surface is rich to the touch, every control works with silken precision, every seam immaculately stitched and every metallic trim piece a work of art – the highlight being the delicately perforated metallic Burmester speaker grills on the doors.
The two-spoke leather and wood steering wheel is in itself a treasure, although it does grin at you like a demented clown if you let it.
2014 Mercedes-Benz S 550 4Matic seating & trunk. Click image to enlarge
On the road, the S 550 cocoons occupants and insulates from the world outside. The 4.7L twin turbo V8 makes 449 hp and 516 lb-ft at 1,800 rpm. Mated to Mercedes’ seven-speed 7G-tronic transmission, it wafts the 2,070 kg barge with near silent urgency to ultra legal speeds, pronto. The muted rumble from beneath the long hood drops away to… well, nothing when its business is done. Mercedes claims a 0 to 100 km/h dash of 4.8 seconds.
A couple of buttons on the console cycle between Economy and Sport mode (different throttle response and shift points) and Sport and Comfort (adjusts the air suspension). Changes are subtle, never impinging on the Benz’s ultimate mandate as a rolling isolation chamber.
Yes, the car handles, brakes and steers with competence, but if you seek involvement, look elsewhere. Or wait for the S 63 AMG.
The Drive-Dynamic Multicontour front seats are part of the $6,700 Premium Package. They are infinitely adjustable and supremely comfortable. When cornering, the outside side bolsters inflate to keep you snug – they also give the feeling the car handles better than it does.
2014 Mercedes-Benz S 550 4Matic air vents, COMAND dialer panel, Burmester speaker. Click image to enlarge
This package also includes front and rear heated armrests, blinds for rear windows, climate controlled front seats, Passion leather, 360-degree reversing cameras, enhanced heated front seats and comfort headrests.
Improving things for the those in back is the $5,700 Premium Rear Seat Package that bestows rear climate control, Pre-Safe rear package, ventilated seats with memory and power seat backs, enhanced heating, and chauffeur position passenger seat that has the front passenger chair folding and sliding forward so Mr. CEO can stretch out.
Standard kit in the S 550 is a spectacular Burmester audio system – quite possibly the best I‘ve ever experienced in a vehicle. Dieter Burmester worked alongside Mercedes-Benz for two and a half years while this new S-Class was being developed. Woofers are mounted in the longitudinal beams in the footwells of the driver and passenger. Burmester says “This is the best position as these deep tones can really spread out and fill the space”.