I don’t fall asleep easily in moving vehicles, and I have just about taught myself how to sleep on a plane (the process involves a lot of gin). By travelling in a car driven by someone else, there is that usual fear of being mortified by the driving abilities (or non-abilities) of the person behind the wheel. And, given the lack of any driving knowledge whatsoever of the average Uber or Ola driver you hire, you just can’t fall asleep.
When you trust the person behind the wheel, however, and the seat you are sitting in converts into a business-class bed and vigorously massages your back, falling asleep is not as difficult on the move as it might seem. And that, in a nutshell, is my review of the facelifted Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
That’s it? You might rightly ask this very important question, but here’s the thing. Whether you are a dictator, a demagogue or the head of an investment banking company, you will likely choose an S-Class. You will do so not because it has great features, (which it does – the new one has among the most stunning headlights I have seen, as well as advanced driver assistance features, things like radar assisted cruise control that maintains a safe distance from the driver ahead or even the lane-assist function). Both these are very useful indeed, but no, if you have the money to buy an S-Class, you do not drive. You sit back, recline the seat, ensure nobody is sitting in front of you, put on the seat ventilation and then any one of the six different massage functions, and
then put some music on the outstanding Burmeister audio system. After all, you don’t just pay your driver to drive you around, you also pay for his silence.
That said, when I did get behind the wheel, training for the inevitable day that I will have to become a chauffeur
(after Facebook and Google destroy the media industry), it is a rather comfortable car to drive. Yes, the driver doesn’t get ventilated seats, just the heating function (hot seat, get it?) No massage seats either, which is a bummer. But the suspension smothers the worst of roads, and when you get on something like Hyderabad’s brilliant Outer Ring Road, even the diesel driven S350d can get a move on. Honestly, you could be driving at European highway speeds, and the S-Class does not let an iota of external noise inside the cabin. As a driver, you can set the cruise control at a certain speed, activate the radar to maintain a safe distance from the car
in front and, until you need to brake, you pretty much drive this car using your thumb, to manipulate the cruise control functions.
Can it go fast? Sure. Even the diesel 350d can go pretty quickly, which is interesting, because the Mercedes-Benz S350d is the first vehicle in India to have a Bharat Stage VI compatible engine. The way it keeps particulates and
nitrogen oxide emissions down is by keeping a small supplemental tank of a mix of urea and water, called
‘AdBlue’, which is injected into the exhaust and cleans it up, and you do not need to refill this tank, because the amount should suffice between periodic services. What is more is that this is a straight-six engine, instead of the more compact V6 configuration. Well, an S-Class’ engine bay is huge enough to fit almost anything, and this new engine, titled OM656, manages a respectable 286 horsepower, and when mated to the ninespeed gearbox, it just about ticks over idle at speed. This is a very refined and smooth engine indeed.
So yes, if you are a chauffeur, this is an excellent car for your employer to buy – it really is about the person at the back. And on that front, the S-Class has always been the car to have. As good as the BMW 7 Series is, and while I’m really excited about the techno-spaceship that will be the new Audi A8 or even the looks of the Jaguar XJ, an S-Class is it. There is a reason Mercedes-Benz can charge a premium for this car – it costs an impressive Rs 1.33 crore, and the S450 petrol has a V6 engine with 367 horsepower, but Mercedes-Benz India themselves admit that diesel will be 95 per cent of sales.
So should you buy it? If you are an aspiring dictator, definitely. The ‘triple-torch’ headlights are a bit disarming
though, and the current generation S-Class does not have the menace of the Grosser, but that is how you take over democracy nowadays. Not by being Gordon Gekko, but by being Mark Zuckerberg. And I’m pretty sure the ‘Zuckster’ would be driven around in an S-Class.