Vehicle Overview
A totally redesigned top-end S-Class sedan was unveiled in September 2005. It will go on sale as a 2007 model.

Meanwhile, the current S-Class sedan continues into 2006 with several revisions. Foremost is a new S65 AMG edition with a 604-horsepower V-12 engine. Billed as the world's fastest four-door, it's said to accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. Mercedes-Benz has also added a lower-priced model: an S350 sedan with a 3.7-liter V-6 engine.

For 2006, an AMG Sport Package and 4Matic all-wheel drive are no-cost options for S430 and S500 rear-wheel-drive models. The full-time all-wheel-drive system has a front-to-rear 40/60 torque split, but torque distribution to individual wheels varies under slippery conditions.

Keyless Go, a heated steering wheel, an electronic trunk closer and rear side blinds are now standard on the S600 sedan. Mercedes-Benz's available Pre-Safe system can recognize an impending impact before it occurs so it can adjust the seats to the safest position and activate the seat belt pretensioners.

Mercedes-Benz describes the S-Class as a sedan with a coupelike profile that's highlighted by a low nose and taller tail. A laid-back grille and smooth underbody improve airflow, which keeps the sedan's coefficient of drag at a mere 0.27.

The S55 AMG features a sport suspension, racy aerodynamic body trim and 18-inch tires on Monoblock alloy wheels. The S600, S55 AMG and new S65 AMG all have Active Body Control that continuously adjusts suspension firmness to eliminate body roll during cornering, acceleration and braking.

Fitted with a three-place rear bench, the S-Class seats up to five occupants. A split rear bench with power adjustments is optional. The front seats have 14-way power adjustments. Full leather upholstery, a navigation system and a Bose audio system are standard. Befitting its price, the S600 gets four heated power seats and a higher level of wood and leather trim. Adaptive cruise control is optional.

Under the Hood
For 2006, Mercedes-Benz offers five engines. The S430 holds a 275-hp, 4.3-liter V-8, and the S500 gets a 302-hp, 5.0-liter V-8. The high-performance S55 AMG uses a 493-hp, supercharged 5.5-liter V-8. The S600 sedan carries a turbocharged 5.5-liter V-12 that delivers 493 hp and 590 pounds-feet of torque. A 604-hp V-12 that delivers 738 pounds-feet of torque goes into the new S65 AMG, while the S350 sedan gets a 241-hp, 3.7-liter V-6.

A seven-speed-automatic transmission goes into rear-wheel-drive S430 and S500 sedans, while the S55 AMG, S600, and 4Matic-equipped S430 and S500 sedans use a five-speed automatic.

Side-impact airbags are installed in each door. Side curtain-type airbags deploy from the roofline to protect occupants' heads. An Electronic Stability Program combines traction control with lateral skid-control technology.

Driving Impressions
Loaded with technology, the S-Class is a smooth and supremely capable cruiser that may initially be marred by a slight sense of detachment; but that sensation soon eases. Despite its bounty of alluring attributes, the steering seems just a little too light.

Even in the S500, performance is near stunning and automatic-transmission response qualifies as masterful. Although the ride is smooth, the S500 hits a few bumps rather hard. In fast curves, this big sedan stays remarkably upright.