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First drive: Benz S-class evolves

Spot the change: The latest Mercedes-Benz S-class is an evolutionary improvement.

Mercedes-Benz boosts its flagship with more features – but at a price

20 Oct 2009

MERCEDES-BENZ has released a revised version of its ninth-generation S-class sedan in Australia, featuring small visual titivations and more standard features.

However, prices have leapt about eight per cent, with the base S350 petrol rising $13,090 to $214,900 – the same price as the new S350 CDI diesel.

The company claims that extra equipment amounts to 15 per cent added value, more than compensating for the price rises.

And while there have been no mechanical changes to this W221 series, which has been on sale in Australia since February 2006, minor modifications to airflow and other efficiency drives such as lower-rolling resistance tyres help deliver fuel savings of up to seven per cent.

Safety, too, improves, with the inclusion of a reversing camera and radar-based driver assistance devices in all models, while the V12 versions (optional on V8s) boast better steering capabilities as a result of new anti-crosswind technology.

But it requires a keen eye to spot the physical changes to the range, with the differences between this and the most recent S-class most pronounced at night, thanks to a new LED lighting package front and rear.

The grille is wider and features a more pronounced wedge shape, astride a redesigned bumper that is also wider as well as 20mm longer, and is meant to give the ‘S’ more road presence.

4 center image Your neighbours will realise you have spent the extra $188,000 for the $402,900 V12-powered S600L by its three-bar grille as opposed to the more proletarian models’ four-bar item.

Each headlight has 57 LEDs, and incorporates vertical LED park lights, LED locator lighting, LED indicators, and Mercedes’ optional Intelligent Lighting System that alters the beam as other vehicles approach/are approached.

Mercedes has fitted LED lighting to ‘re-profiled’ exterior mirrors that, along with new A-pillar drain channels, improved joint seals for the headlights and bonnet and a smaller spoiler lip, are now aerodynamically sounder.

From the rear two C-shaped LED formations form each tail-light, replacing the distinctive body-coloured strips found on the previous W221. Each cluster contains 52 LEDs. The bumper out back has also been restyled.

Inside, changes are limited to new trim and materials, a redesigned steering wheel, extended wood inserts on the dashboard, modified seats for improved comfort, the introduction of three ambient lighting colours instead of just one, better functioning seatbelts, and an improved entertainment/media system.

The central screen now features ‘Splitview’ technology that allows the front-seat passenger to view one thing while the driver sees another. As always, the driver cannot view TV or DVD with the car on the move.

New to the standard features list on the base S-class are Bluetooth connectivity, a USB and SD card interface, keyless entry and go, a remote boot lid opening and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Mercedes has also added automatic radar-controlled cruise control to all models, which now employs the ‘Pre-safe’ braking system to maximise stopping power if an unavoidable accident is imminent.

Present too is a drowsiness detection device dubbed ‘Attention Assist’ that monitors a host of parameters continuously to alert drivers to take a break is fitted to all models, as well as Torque Vectoring Brake, which brakes the appropriate wheel for a smoother and safer cornering angle.

New safety options include the aforementioned adaptive headlight high beam system, along with Mercedes’ Night View Assist Plus, which uses infrared technology to spot pedestrians ahead.

Available at extra cost on the S500 but standard on the S600L, S63 AMG and S65 AMG is Active Body Control suspension system that adapts the springs to suit the prevailing road and driving conditions. This also includes an electro-hydraulic Direct Steer variable ratio rack and pinion steering set-up, along with the crosswind stabilisation program mentioned earlier.

Engine choices are as before, which means a V6 petrol or diesel, as well as V8 and a V12 petrol powerplants, and all drive the rear wheels via a 7G-Tronic automatic gearbox except for the V12 engines, which continue with a five-speed auto.

Mercedes predicts that half of all buyers will choose the base S350 petrol.

The 3498cc 3.5-litre V6 unit produces 200kW of power at 6400rpm and 350Nm from 2400 to 5000rpm. It goes from standstill to 100km/h in 7.3 seconds, reaches 210km/h, achieves 9.8 litres per 100 kilometres in the ADR 81/02 average fuel consumption guide, and 234 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions.

Next up is the 2987cc 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel S350 CDI boasting 173kW at 3600rpm/540Nm at 1600-2400rpm, a 0-100km/h-sprint time of 7.8 seconds, a 210km/h top speed, 7.7L/100km and 202g/km of CO2.

Only about 10 per cent of S-class customers are expected to choose the diesel, although Mercedes hopes this will increase dramatically over time as fuel prices rise and word gets out about how efficient this engine is.

For V8 performance, the S500 petrol uses a 5461cc 5.5-litre unit to deliver 285kW at 6000rpm/530Nm at 2800-4800rpm, 5.4 seconds for the 0-100km/h dash, a V-Max of 250km/h and a CO2 rating ranging from 260g/km.

The S600L, meanwhile, is a 5513cc 5.5-litre biturbo V12 petrol with 380kW at 5000rpm/830Nm at 1800-3500rpm, shoving the limousine to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds on its way to a 250km/h top, while being able to achieve 14.3L/100km and 340g/km of CO2 pollution.

Two AMG models are again available.

The S63 AMG leverages a 6208cc 6.2-litre V8 petrol showing 386kW at 6800rpm/630Nm at 5200rpm, a 0-100km/h time of 4.6 seconds, a 250km/h top speed, 14.4L/100km and 344g/km, while the S65 AMG L ups the ante with a 5980cc 6.0-litre V12 petrol pumping out 450kW at 4800rpm and 1000Nm from 2000-4000rpm, to record a 4.4 second sprint time to 100km/h, 14.5L/100km and 346g/km.

Underpinning the S-class is a four-link front suspension system aided by AIRMATIC air suspension, gas shockers and an anti-roll bar at each end, while most models have a speed-sensitive rack and pinion steering system.

Weights range from 1895kg (S350 petrol) to 2270kg (S65 AMG).

Mercedes is counting on about 250 sales for the year, which should be enough to edge the S-class back on top of its class against the newer-generation BMW 7 Series, which currently leads the segment.

So far in 2009 about 190 of the Benz flagship models have been sold in Australia.

2009 Mercedes-Benz W212 sedan pricing:
S350 (a): $214,900
S350 CDI BlueEfficiency (a): $214,900
S350L (a): $232,900
S500 (a): $289,900
S500L (a): $307,900
S63 AMG (a): $380,900
S600L (a): $402,900
S65L AMG: $482,900

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