A redesigned S-Class arrived in spring 1999 as an early 2000 model, giving Mercedes a new flagship sedan to compete with the likes of the BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS400, Jaguar XJ sedans and others.
The new S-Class sedan is lighter and smaller outside but slightly roomier inside and loaded with safety, comfort and convenience features that boost the starting price to $69,700.
For now, the lineup consists of two V-8-powered sedans. Next year, Mercedes is set to add a V-12 sedan and a station wagon. The S-Class sedan also is the basis for the new CL 500 coupe.
Mercedes describes the new S-Class as having a coupe-like profile, with a low nose and higher rear tail. Larger headlamps and taillamps give it a more dramatic look in the front and rear.
The new sedan is 3 inches shorter at 203 inches (about the same as the BMW 740iL and 6 inches longer than the Lexus LS400) and about 500 pounds lighter at an estimated 4,115 pounds.
With new features such as a laid-back grille and smooth underbody to improve airflow, Mercedes says the drag coefficient of 0.27 is the lowest of any production car.
Despite the smaller exterior dimensions, Mercedes says interior room hasn't suffered, and the new model has a little more rear legroom. The front seats have 14-way power adjustments and new head restraints that can serve as pillows. The standard rear seat is a three-place bench; a split with power adjustments is optional.
New features include the COMAND (Cockpit Management and Data) system, which controls a new satellite-based navigation system, the sound system and optional telephone via voice commands, buttons on the steering wheel or controls around a dashboard display screen.
The dashboard display screen of Mercedes-Benz's COMAND console controls satellite-based navigation, audio and telephone systems.
Also new this year is TeleAid, which operates on its own cellular system to summon local emergency help (automatically if an airbag deploys), call Mercedes' roadside assistance, and track a stolen vehicle.
Under the Hood
Two V-8 engines are available on 2000 models. The S430 comes with a 275-horsepower 4.3-liter and the S500 has a 302-horsepower 5.0-liter. Both come with a five-speed automatic transmission that allows clutchless manual shifting.
Next year, a new V-12 engine will be added. The previous S-Class offered a 6.0-liter V-12 in the top-rung S600 model.
Eight airbags are standard on the S-Class models: two in front, side-impact airbags in each of the four doors, and inflatable curtains along both sides that protect the heads of occupants. The front passenger airbag deploys with lower force in low-speed collisions and with maximum force at higher speeds.
Side-curtain airbags that deploy from above the windows protect the heads of occupants from side impacts.
Among other standard safety features are Electronic Stability Control, which incorporates traction control with anti-skid technology; Brake Assist, which applies maximum braking force when it senses a panic stop; and anti-lock brakes.
The new S-Class offers the latest in safety and technology in a more sensibly sized package. If you can afford this much for a car, it's a great way to go.