Auto-pilot, magic carpet, massage-on-the-move, perfumed air-con – welcome to the new S-Class
Sit back and just let this amazing car drive itself, says Motoring Editor Eddie Cunningham
As you read this, tens of thousands of buyers around the world – among them a few dozen Irish – are thinking about ordering a new €100,000 Mercedes S-Class that:
* Can drive itself.
* Gives you a massage on the move.
* Adjusts the air suspension on the car BEFORE you hit a bump just in case your passengers spill a drop of champagne.
* Wafts your favourite perfume through the cabin when you are driving.
* Tucks you in with an airbag on your seatbelt in case all else fails and your car is in a crash as you are reclining in the back (while Jeeves drives you to your next meeting).
* Could cost as little as €200 a year in road tax.
* Has no light bulbs. Instead, there are 500 LEDs (light-emitting diodes) – with the headlamps having up to 35 each and 300 used in the interior lighting.
* Can 'see' in the dark.
* Has leather, internet (for all passengers), a concert sound system, acres of room, an army of safety technologies and as much comfort as a five-star hotel.
* Heats your armrests.
* Has climate control that includes allowing you to pick a perfume (they call it "perfume atomisation") you would like to have circulated as you drive. I love the way they describe it: "The fragrance is discreet and mild and dissipates rapidly."
Yes, I have sat in the new Mercedes S-Class and could just as easily have written these words while behind the wheel (static of course) as I am now at the desk.
I would have been more comfortable. For a start, I don't have a leather seat, or multi-speaker sound system or sub-woofers or massaging chairs. It did. Nor do I have reversing fans in the seat ventilation system. It can have.
Anyway, come in for a minute and take a look around this new S-Class.
It is due here in September, and I expect a huge drive to have it come in under €100,000 – the current one starts at €102,000. Which means some of the items I've mentioned will be optional.
There is no point in me telling you it is bigger, better, safer, faster, greener, cleaner, more 'intelligent ', comfortable and dynamic than the existing one. You'd expect that after eight years of preparation and the lengths to which they have gone to make the words 'luxury' and 'technology' sound old.
And yet, after all that, the very first tactile thing I noticed among the myriad standard and optional paraphernalia was how nice and manageable the steering wheel felt. Not a big daunting flywheel like you'd see on a steamship. Funny how it caught my attention.
The front of the cabin is a lesson in simplicity, masking the complexity of function behind screen and dials. There are two hi-res colour displays: the left-hand one acts instead of the old instrument cluster; the right-hand provides your interface for infotainment and comfort.
As you would expect, there is plenty of room front and back. For those looking for the ultimate stretch limo, order a long-wheelbase version and you can lie down while being driven. I have yet to drive it, but Mercedes insists virtually no exterior noise intrudes, partly as a result of a svelte outline that makes it, they claim, the most aerodynamic luxury saloon in the world, so you should sleep soundly.
It has also shed weight (100kg), but the body is 50pc stiffer.
Engines? Of course, I nearly forgot this is a car for getting around – or being driven – in.
See the accompanying panel for details; there's more to them than meets the eye.
The engines are all substantially more frugal than anything they've made before. Some are in the same zone as large-family diesels, with one boasting emissions (115g/km) that many a small car would be proud of. And just watch out for next year when they bring in an S500 plug-in hybrid with emissions below 75g/km.
Driving it should be a doddle, big and all as it is. It has what they call "intelligent drive".
It has six eyes (cameras) and six ears (radar sensors) that help it 'see' in all directions at the same time. So the car can react and brake earlier than we can.
Go a stage further, with DISTRONIC PLUS, and the car will automatically drive itself. Yes, auto pilot.
At speeds of up to 60kmh it will follow the car in front, will brake, speed up, steer on its own. You just sit there.
I don't know if I'd enjoy that, though it's nice to have.
I just liked the feel of that steering wheel.