NEVER HAS THE INSIDE OF AN S-CLASS LOOKED BUSIER. IT IS BURSTING WITH DETAILS, MOST OF THEM NOT PREVIOUSLY ASSOCIATED WITH THIS BIG MERC.
MUCH has been said about the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class' styling and how edgy and sporty it has become. But perhaps it is in the cabin where the new flagship sedan really breaks new ground. The S-Class interior has always had elegant lines and touches. The sixth generation, however, marks the departure from conservative to modern, becoming almost funky.
Never has the inside of an S-Class looked busier. It is bursting with details, most of them not previously associated with this big Merc.
The first thing that catches the eye should be the seats. The cut and pattern would be garish if it wasn't so refreshingly uncharacteristic of the brand with the three-pointed star. More importantly, they are soft but supportive and extremely comfortable with pillowy headrests.
Next, the door panels - they look like they were carved out of the metal and lined with leather. Like the curvaceous dashboard with its contrast stitching and small round chrome air vents, there isn't a straight line anywhere inside the S-Class, unless you count the massive 31.2 cm high-res TFT centre display screen.
Most unusual, perhaps, is the two-spoke steering wheel with its bling metal plaque for the brand name in cursive letters.
Still, this is a cabin that is practical and eminently usable. The lower centre console with its rotary control knob ringed by a few hard keys is easy to use. Everything is also ergonomically positioned. For example, the pair of door lock controls is nestled in the same hollow as the door lever - not in the centre of the dashboard or hidden among the power window controls.
And while ambient lighting is not new for contemporary cars, nor is the choice of a few colour options, the S-Class offers seven - from warm red and orange, to cool white and blue. It casts a soothing glow as it circles the interior, peeking out from under the contours of the rear seatbacks as they gently illuminate the dashboard, lower centre console and doors.
Also thoughtful are the little touches for the cupholders. The pair in front can be covered with an unobtrusive flap for alternative use as a tray, while the two behind in the rear centre armrest "magically" hide their depressions when not required.
The spacious rear bench is actually where the new S-Class leads the competition. For now, there are three variants - the S350 L BlueTec with a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine, the S400 L Hybrid with a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine, and the S500 L V8 with a 4.7-litre petrol unit.
All are long-wheelbase versions, which have an overall length of 5,246 mm with a 3,165 mm wheelbase that is 130 mm longer than the standard sedan.
As expected, rear legroom is more than excellent. With Airmatic air suspension as standard, the experience from each of the electrically adjustable outer back seat is enhanced by the superb ride comfort.
In the "entry-level" S350 L, no aural hint of the diesel unit intrudes into the cabin and the driver detects just a low growl under acceleration. The softly sprung suspension can be set to Sport for a slightly firmer ride, and so can the seven-speed automatic transmission with adjoining buttons on the lower centre console. A simple but effective visual indicator is when both suspension and transmission are set to Comfort, the two buttons indicate green. When in Sport, both turn red.
With healthy torque of 620 Nm, the 1,975 kg S350 L is pretty brisk but still frugal, consuming only 6.0 litres per 100 km under the combined cycle. This big Merc is capable and classy.
Mercedes-Benz S350 L BlueTec
Engine 2,987cc V6 turbodiesel
Transmission 7-speed 7G-Tronic automatic
Max power 258 hp @ 3,600 rpm
Max torque 620 Nm @ 1,600-2,400 rpm
0-100 kmh 6.8 secs
Top speed 250 kmh
Average OMV $92,000
Price $447,888 (with COE)
Distributor Cycle & Carriage
Tel: 6298 1818