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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - S-Class - sedan range

Launch Story

17 Feb 2006

THE ninth generation of what’s widely touted as the world’s best motor car has arrived in Australia and the newest Mercedes-Benz flagship has already been seen by about 1000 potential customers in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne over the past week.

On sale now at a $6000 (or 2.2 per cent) premium over its 225kW 5.0-litre predecessor at $269,900, the 285kW/530Nm 5.5-litre V8-powered long-wheelbase S500L is the first of the W221 S-class sedans to arrive Down Under.

While the short-wheelbase S500 will be newly available by special order only (for $10,000 less at $253,900), the entry-level 200kW/350Nm 3.5-litre V6-powered S350 will also be available by the time Australian production models arrive here in April.

It will be priced from $187,900 ($8000 more than its forebear, which was powered by a 180kW/350Nm three-valve 2.7-litre V6), with the S350L now priced at $203,900 (up $9000).

While the current S430 has been discontinued, the shift to a larger and more powerful 5.5-litre V8 is expected to make way for a smaller-capacity V8 variant within two years, possibly dubbed S450, to rival BMW’s upgraded 740i – which undercuts the six-cylinder S350 at $181,000 and $192,800 for the long-wheelbase, and is powered by a 225kW/390Nm 4.0-litre V8.

Similarly, at $211,500 and $230,800 for the long-wheelbase, BMW’s new 750i variant undercuts its direct competitor in the S500 by a significant margin but offers slightly less performance from its 270kW/490Nm 4.8-litre V8.

For now, the new S-class range extends to the 380kW/830Nm 5.5-litre twin-turbo V12-powered S600L, which is priced at $363,900 (up $8000) and becomes available mid-year. This compares to a $340,700 pricetag for the 760Li, powered by a 327kW/600Nm 6.0-litre V12.

Last year’s new Audi A8 is priced even more attractively, at $169,950 for the 3.7 quattro, $202,000 for the 4.2 quattro, $217,100 for the 4.2L quattro and $325,000 for the flagship A8L 6.0-litre W12 quattro.

The W221 range will be extended by the first S-class diesel in the S320 CDI, as well as AMG variants, by early 2007 (see separate story).

As well as being stiffer, heavier and safer than the W220 S-class sedan sold here at heavily reduced prices since March 1999, the new model’s 33mm-longer body (43mm longer for the LWB) is still dwarfed by the W140 "Schwein Klasse" that preceded the W220 in the early 90s.

Compared to the W220, the W221’s 16mm wider and 29mm higher body also rides on a 70mm-longer wheelbase (80mm longer in the LWB’s case), delivering 39mm more shoulder room, 52mm more legroom and 5mm more headroom.

For the extra readies, the latest incarnation of the car that brought us the airbag and the passenger safety cell offers the obligatory host of new technologies, many of which are of course optional.

The entry-level S350 features standard safety items like ESP stability control, ABS anti-lock brakes, brake assist, eight airbags, NECK-PRO front head restraints and PRE-SAFE anticipatory occupant protection.

As standard, there’s also AIRMATIC DC semi-active air suspension with ADS adaptive damping system, active bi-Xenon headlights with washers and cornering lights, 17-inch alloys front/rear foglights, front/rear PARKTRONIC parking sensors, a two-stage rain sensor, tinted glass, power-closing boot, six-DVD/CD/MP3 player, TV tuner, telephone, satellite-navigation, COMAND cockpit management and data system with LINGUATRONIC voice control, sunroof, trip computer, EASY ENTRY access/egress system, fully auto power windows/mirrors, speed-sensitive power steering, a power-adjustable steering wheel with audio/trip controls, full leather trim with powered/memory front seats, automatic central locking, Calyptus wood trim, an electronic park brake with hill-start assist, cruise control, SPPEDTRONIC speed limiter, one-touch indicators, tyre pressure and brake pad wear monitors, full-size spare wheel and a seven-speed 7G-TRONIC automatic transmission with DIRECT SELECT stalk-mounted gear selector and steering wheel shift buttons.

On top of this and an extra 130mm of rear legroom, S350L adds an electric rear blind, power-adjustable outboard rear seats and a rear-mounted front passenger seat adjuster.

Compared with S350, S500 offers different 17-inch alloys, Dark Burr Walnut woodtrim, a door-closing aid, Harman/Kardon LOGIC7 surround sound system, heated and ventilated luxury front seats, infrared-reflecting laminated glass and a wood/leather steering wheel.

The S500L adds the S350L’s extra features, plus an ARTICO imitation leather dashboard, while the S600L delivers 18-inch alloys, a five-speed auto, Active Body Control suspension, anti-theft alarm, Dynamic front seats with massage function, PASSION leather trim, heated windscreen washer, KEYLESS-GO remote starting, luxury head restraints, heated and ventilated luxury rear seats with massage function, Night View Assist infrared night-vision system, rear climate control system, a reversing camera and a remote bootlid closing function – most of which are options on lesser variants.

Mercedes-Benz Australia this year expects to sell 600 examples of what it claims is the quietest and most dynamic S-class ever – the same as in the previous model’s first year, thanks to a stagnant luxury car market – half of which are expected to be six-cylinder variants. The S500 should attract 40 per cent of buyers, with the remainder split between the forthcoming diesel and AMG variants.

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