New S600 and S55 AMG models expand the S-Class offerings from two to four, and an active suspension system arrives as a new feature. While the S600 is the ultimate luxury sedan, the S55 AMG is equipped for high-speed travel with a sport suspension, larger tires and racy aerodynamic body trim. The S-Class, Mercedes largest, most expensive sedan, was redesigned last year to a smaller, lighter configuration and came as the S430 with a 4.3-liter V-8 engine and the S500 with a 5.0-liter V-8. The new S600 has a 6.0-liter V-12 engine with 362 horsepower, and the S55 AMG uses a 5.5-liter V-8 that generates 349 hp.
Active Body Control, an active suspension system, is standard on the S600 and the S55 AMG. Electronic controls continuously adjust suspension firmness to eliminate body roll and pitch during cornering, acceleration and braking. Distronic Intelligent Cruise Control is a new option for all models. It adjusts the cars speed to maintain a preset distance from the vehicle directly ahead. Mercedes follows intramural rival BMW in offering an armored version of its flagship sedan. The Guard S500 has steel armoring for the passenger compartment and composite security glass, and Mercedes says it is resistant to .44-caliber Magnum bullets. A two-way intercom that allows communication without lowering the windows is optional.
Also available as a new option is InfoServices, which taps into the Internet for news, stock quotes, sports scores, weather and other services.
Mercedes describes the S-Class as a sedan with a coupelike profile, marked by a low nose and higher rear tail. A laid-back grille and smooth underbody improve airflow, lowering the coefficient of drag to a slippery 0.27.
With an overall length of 203 inches, it is about as long as the BMW 740iL and 6 inches longer than the Lexus LS 430.
The front seats have 14-way power adjustments and head restraints that can serve as pillows. The standard rear seat is a three-place bench; a split, rear bench with power adjustments is optional.
Standard features include TeleAid, which operates on its own cellular system to summon emergency help (automatically if an airbag deploys), call Mercedes roadside assistance and track a stolen vehicle.
Under the Hood
Three V-8 engines and a V-12 are available on 2001 models, and the engine sizes match the model designations. Among the V-8s, the S430 comes with a 275-hp 4.3-liter, the S500 has a 302-hp 5.0-liter and the S55 AMG uses a 5.5-liter with 349 hp. The new S600 has a 6.0-liter V-12 engine with 362 hp.
All models have a five-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode.
Eight airbags are standard on the S-Class models: two in front, side-impact airbags in each of the four doors and inflatable curtain-type airbags along both sides that protect occupants heads. The front-passenger airbag deploys with lower force in low-speed collisions and with maximum force at higher speed impacts.
Among other standard safety features are Electronic StabilityControl, which incorporates traction control with lateral-skid control technology; Brake Assist, which applies maximum braking force when it senses a panic stop; and antilock brakes.