By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
We get the opportunity to drive about 150 different new vehicles each year, and from time to time one of them turns out to be a ?WOW? car. In our mind that?s a car that really surprises us with its features, performance or comfort. The 2015 Mercedes-Benz 550 is a WOW car for all those reasons, which some may say it should be, if for no other reason than its high price.
Large luxury sedans, like the S550, certainly rank high in interior room and comfort, but we?ve always preferred something smaller and perhaps more intimate. We figure, why should the backseat passengers get the best seat in the house? However, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 is certainly a charmer across the board placing it at the top of the pack.
Debuting in the 2014 model, the Mercedes S550 adds a distinctive elegance with new variations on the classic Mercedes-Benz family styling along with new levels of performance, comfort, safety and technology.
Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars describes the S-Class cars like this, “Rather than being about safety or aesthetics, power or efficiency, comfort or dynamism, our aspirations were ‘the best or nothing’ in every respect. ” And by what we?ve seen, the S550 backs him up.
The styling of the Mercedes-Benz S550 4Matic sedan we tested is highlighted by a new larger, more upright radiator grille fronting the classic long hood between large headlight pods which are molded into the front fenders. The coupe-like roofline sweeps back to the small gently sloping trunk lid to give the car something of a limousine look. The chrome strip on the lower edge of the trunk and the panel around the dual exhaust outlets help to give the impression of a wider body.
The S-Class is the first car ever not to use a single light bulb ? all lighting is completely LED technology. The result is more than 500 LEDs being used, including about 300 just in the interior. It is beautifully lit with ambient lighting that encircles the interior and that can be changed to seven different colors, maybe even to match your nail polish. It took us a while to find the dimmer for the interior ambient lights which we thought were a little much on the brighter setting.
The exclusive Nappa Leather with a quilted and perforated patterns combined with Myrtle Wood Trim and other upscale trim packages give the cabin the most opulent look we?ve ever seen in a car and that includes some of the biggies like Bentley and Rolls-Royce. We especially liked the dash area which was filled with two high-resolution 12.3-inch TFT color displays. The left screen replaces the previous instrument cluster, but still looks as crisp and clear as an analog display, but with a great deal more information available to the driver. The right hand screen is the readout and control panel for the infotainment and comfort functions of the S-Class. The screen is controlled by a large aluminum rotary dial and series of buttons mounted at an easy arms reach for the driver on the center console. The right hand has access to a library of functions to adjust everything from vehicle functions, to audio, in-car ergonomics plus some wonderful creature comforts like the massage seats.
One of the more unique new features is the world?s first ?active perfuming system? which as part of the Air-Balance package sprays a discrete and mild scent into the cabin. Mercedes says the aroma dissipates rapidly and does not change the normal smell of the cabin, nor does it affect passenger clothing and the amount of scent can be controlled. It?s very elegant.
A feature that gets lost on us but could excite audiophiles is the Burmester? High-End 3D-Surround Sound ($6,400). The system pioneers some new technologies and provides state of the art sounds for those who appreciate the extra fidelity.
To enhance safety, Mercedes-Benz has developed ?IntelligentDrive?. It uses a new stereo camera system together with multistage radar sensors to analyze complex situations and better recognize potential dangers on the road and 360-degrees around the car. It uses the information to provide visual, acoustic and/or tactile warning signals to boost driver?s reactions to potential dangers and to provide input to a variety of applications. In some cases it can even do autonomous braking to prevent accidents or lessen the severity of an accident.
For example, IntelligentDrive works with the Distronic Plus with Steering Assist to help keep the vehicle centered in the lane. Another application uses the information for Brake Assist and BAX Plus with Cross-Traffic Assist to detect crossing traffic and pedestrians plus boost braking power applied by the driver. It helps keep the car in the correct lane and can detect when the adjacent lane is occupied, especially by oncoming traffic and make quick corrections by applying brakes on one side of the car to help it get out of the danger area. Other applications include Adaptive Highbeam Assist, Night View Assist Plus, Attention Assist, Extended Pre-Safe protection, Pre-Safe Brake (pedestrian recognition), Pre-Safe Plus (for rear collisions) and Pre-Safe Impulse (to control seatbelts). These complex systems and several others all help make the S-Class one of the safest cars on the road.
Under the hood of the Mercedes-Benz S550 is a 4.7-liter DOHC direct injection V-8 engine with two turbochargers. The engine produces 455 horsepower and massive 516-lb.ft. of torque to drive it from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds and a top speed limited to 130 mph ? that?s extremely fast for a full-size sedan weighing more than two tons. EPA fuel economy is listed at 16 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined for the all-wheel drive model we tested. We actually averaged 21.8 mpg after a week of mixed driving. The rear-drive model is rated at 17/26/20 mpg.
However, if that?s not fast enough there?s always the S63 AMG with its twin turbo 5.5-liter producing 577 hp and boasting a 0 to 60 mph time of 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 186 mph. The AMG fuel economy is listed at 15/23/18 mpg. For the ultimate, there?s a second AMG model with a 621-hp Biturbo, V-12 engine tucked under the hood.
The one downside of the Mercedes-Benz 550 AWD is the price, which also rates a ?wow.? The base price of the rear drive S550 is $93,925, including the destination charge, and AWD adds an additional $3,000. Our test vehicle also included a high concentration of extras which brought the final price to $128,545, but ?wow? what a car for those who can afford it.
The S63 AMG has a base price of $142,375 and the S65 AMG starts at $222,925.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class models offer amazing, comfort, technology and performance and bring the large sedan to a new level of ?Wowness.?