There probably is something the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan can't do.
What that may be escapes us at the moment.
The S-Class defines personal luxury -- and in doing so keeps you busy pushing buttons, twisting levers, yanking handles and barking out commands to some gnome hiding behind the dash who makes all the gizmos come to life.
For 2007 the S-Class features a redesign, which thankfully doesn't adhere as rigidly as its sister cars in recent years to the philosophy that though sedans outsell coupes by roughly a million to one, all sedans must have a coupe's low-slung, sloping roof line.
It also adopts what all automakers have done when bringing out the next generation of any model -- larger dimensions. The S-Class grows 1 1/2 inches in length, 1 inch in height and one-half inch in width while the wheelbase adds 3 inches. The S-Class was big and roomy to begin with and no one was complaining they needed more. Consider the expansion size a bonus.
We tested the '07 S-Class with the newly offered 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, which ensures the machine clings to the pavement when wet or dry.
A couple major changes include a new gearshift stalk above and to the right of the steering wheel with only reverse, drive and park settings. Traditionalists will feel shortchanged.
Also new is the very energetic 5.5-liter, 382-horsepower, 32-valve V-8 with 7-speed automatic. It has push-button start and the need to carry a bulky key fob filled with the electronics to activate the system. For the ability to quickly and quietly propel more than two tons from the light, the penalty is a $1,300 federal gas guzzler tax in a vehicle rated at 15 m.p.g. city and 22 m.p.g. highway.
Mercedes boasts that the engine can accelerate from zero to 60 m.p.h. in 5.4 seconds, a second less than its predecessor, while not sacrificing fuel economy.
Muscle aside, the S-Class' strong suit is room and comfort as well as amenities. Lounge seats front and rear heat in the winter and cool in the summer -- part of $2,850 and $2,900 option packages. They're also ventilated to keep your clothes as fresh as when pulled from the closet. A lower dry cleaning bill will offset the $5,750 option cost, don't you think?
The S is a pleasure to pilot. You can adjust the suspension to comfort or sport settings for soft ride or pinpoint handling. In the comfort mode, the ride is so plush you welcome long-distance travel. In the sport mode, the two-ton-plus machine handles in corners and turns as if a much lighter-weight sports sedan. Credit 4Matic as well as traction control and electronic stability control for ballerina-like maneuvers from a middle linebacker.
The rear seat is limo like. Stretch legs as far as they go and chances are they still don't touch the seat ahead. Even if the driver motors the power seat as far back as it goes, Mercedes took steps to ensure ample knee room in back by incorporating large indents on both front seat backs.
Thanks to those option packages, the rear seats are also power-operated to move forward and backward or recline. Huge vents under the front seats and along the back of the center console ensure ample circulation of hot or cold air. An armrest folds down from the seat back and a trio of cupholders slips out. There's also a power rear-window shade with controls in the armrests and dash.
The test car also came with a panoramic sunroof with a power open/close glass upfront and a skylight in back. A single sunroof is standard. There's also pull-down coat hooks above the doors and vanity mirrors that pop out of the roof to serve rear-seat occupants.
Upfront, driver and passenger seats have storage compartments underneath, with a first-aid kit on the passenger side. Many cars have first-aid kits in the trunk, where they are difficult to reach quickly in an emergency without stopping. Under the passenger seat is a much wiser location.
Also of note, the trunk is very spacious and houses two stowage compartments under the floor. And the trunk lid, and all doors, automatically shut tight if you fail to close them with sufficient force. And forget the needles; all gauges are space-age graphics.
Of course, the S-Class has a few aggravations, one being the Comand control dial in the center console that activates features from navigation system to radio stations. Not as mentally challenging as iDrive in a BMW, but it takes some time to master. Of course, you can use voice activation or resort to the old-fashioned method -- pressing a button.
The navigation system uses a global positioning satellite to "make driving less stressful," Mercedes says, by "removing the anxiety of getting lost or worse , having to stop and ask for directions." So getting lost is OK, but having to ask someone for help is worse? Remember, however, that Mercedes is part of the company that thinks it's smart to sell Chrysler and go it alone.
There are a lot of other neat features in the S-Class, such as Distronic, or adaptive cruise control, which uses braking or engine control to keep you from running into a vehicle ahead. Without Distronic, if you have to brake suddenly, the braking system automatically engages full power to lessen the impact.
Other neat features include stowage in all doors, power rear-seat headrests, massaging front seats, a suspension that rises when traveling over rough spots to smooth the ride, and sensors that raise the side windows to provide support for the side-curtain air bags when vehicle spin or roll is detected.
Under study are knee cushions that deploy from under the dash in an impact and retract afterward to be used again, and a seat system in which the height, weight and gender of each occupant is fed into a computer to adjust the position of each seat, the tension of each safety belt and the inflation rate of each air bag. Stay tuned.
Base price is $88,750.
Standard equipment includes anti-lock brakes; 18-inch, all-season radials; AM/FM radio with CD player; leather upholstery; GPS navigation system; power and heated front seats; power windows and locks; power rear-window sun shade; dual-zone climate control; hands-free phone and TeleAid emergency communication system.
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2007 Mercedes-Benz S550Matic
Price as tested: $102,000 *
$2,900 Rear-seat package with eight-way power, heated and ventilated seats and four-zone climate control
$2,850 Distronic plus adaptive cruise control
$2,850 Premium package with Parktronic, ventilated front seats, keyless start and Sirius satellite radio with six months free service
$1,800 Multicontour front seats with massage
$1,300 Savanna/Cashmere leather
$1,000 Panorama sunroof
$550 Wood/leather steering wheel
* Add $1,300 gas-guzzler tax and $775 for freight.
Wheelbase: 124.6 inches
Length: 205 inches
Engine: 5.5-liter, 382-h.p. V-8
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
15 M.P.G. CITY / 22 M.P.G. HIGHWAY
What doesn't it do?
What doesn't it offer?
That and AWD.
Mileage and guzzler tax.
Fiddling with Comand system controls.
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