Revised S-Class: Mercedes take another step along road to autonomous driving
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class may not seem that relevant to most motorists, but equipment pioneered on this car has a habit of quickly filtering down through the range.
This is just a mid-life refresh so the looks have barely been altered, inside or out. What has been introduced, though, are the latest autonomous driving and safety systems, which, taken together, are deeply impressive.
As well as the expected Active Distance Control and Active Steering Assist, which are more useful on a motorway, there's a new function which uses map and navigation data to calculate an appropriate speed when driving on ordinary roads.
Once you set your cruising speed, the car knows what lies ahead and slows to a suitable speed automatically. It can recognise bends, T-junctions, roundabouts and many other road features.
We tried it extensively. The system works extremely well, although the car still will not drive itself in these conditions. While it may suggest a steering direction, the driver must actively steer.
Our first test car was an AMG 63, a twin turbo V8 with more than 600bhp. As expected, it was very quick while remaining a refined, relaxing drive, although in Sport+ mode the exhausts open up to produce a sporting engine note not entirely in keeping with the S-Class character.
Despite being an AMG, the ride was extremely comfortable, no doubt helped by Magic Body Control, a system that scans the road ahead for bumps and prepares the suspension in advance.
I was surprised by how small the boot was. It doesn't go back all that far as there's room needed to accommodate the aircraft-style reclining rear seats. Some cars also use the boot for speakers and sub woofers, robbing even more space.
That said, the rear seats are probably the best in the house with heating, cooling and a massage function together with optional screens for entertainment. Some versions had an electrically adjustable footrest for the full-on aeroplane experience but I found it robbed a lot of legroom. I preferred the seats without it.
The vast majority of Irish cars will be powered by one of two diesels: the 350d or 400d, both with 4MATIC 4WD. Power outputs are 286bhp and 340bhp respectively and they use 7pc less fuel.
We tried the 400d on the roads around Zurich and it was an effortless drive. The S-Class is a big car but it doesn't really feel it on the road, being so easy to place.
If I wanted to go on a road trip across Europe I can think of few better cars to do it in.
Prices haven't been released yet but we're told to expect moderate increases when the car arrives in October.