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Top Drawer Flagship

One week is a long time to fall in and out of love with someone or anything. That’s what happened when I had the latest version of the S Class in my care for a week. I loved being in it but I hated driving it. 

‘Sonderklasse’. It’s basically German for ‘Special Class’. The term of course has been phased out of use since Mercedes launched the S-Class early on in the 1970’s, with the first generation W116 mirroring the traits of its older predecessors from the 1950’s too. Here in Malaysia, if you’re seen being driven in one, you’re usually someone important, even if it is just for a day. That is a sentiment that echoes all throughout the world with the S-Class, making it the flagship model series of a brand that is basically an automotive industry giant, let alone a luxury vehicle pioneer.

This S-Class package in particular, has been tailored with some AMG Line bests, giving it an understated yet powerful road presence; its minute exterior lifts come in the form of solid 19-inch alloy AMG rims perched on run-flat tyres that are coupled with two very visible tailpipes at the rear of the limo. If you’re familiar with the S-Class exterior, one will also pick up on the flared wheel arches that complement the larger hoofs this AMG Line S-Class rides on, and they do accentuate the overall, grand look of the limo. Mercedes-Benz calls it “exclusive sportiness” but this writer thinks it looks stylish with a hint of edginess.

Things are brilliantly exquisite in the driver’s seat. The first thing that greets one’s palms is an AMG multi-function sports steering wheel in a combination of wood and leather which kicks things off as part of an AMG Line package. Peer around curiously and you will appreciate the exquisite brown high-gloss sunburst myrtle wood trimmings. Although it’s not the best kind I’ve seen in a car of this cost, but it’s tasteful and I don’t imagine anyone having to complain considering that the S-Class’ competition is quite honestly far behind in this big sedan/limo segment.

It retains much of the current S-Class finishes just with the slightest of accents to liven the cabin experience even more, some a little out of place, like the AMG sports pedals. They let your feet grip well regardless of shoe sole and I appreciated the idea, but I didn’t see the point of having these fitted in a car like this that’s been localized for our Malaysian market. Why? In all honesty, the only reason you should be driving this Merc is if you’re making amends to The Missus for missing her birthday by driving her around in it. If not, you should be tucked comfortably in the rear portion of this S Class where all the fanfare takes place.

It’s from the rear that you notice how the slight tweaks have made the biggest of differences. The full-fledged ambient lighting adds a lot of drama and theatricality to your ride experience. Once tucked into its lusciously comfortable rear seats, with its electric-controlled blinders down and the Burmester sound system at work, you can be forgiven for mistaking the rear section of the car to be a business class cabin on a private jet. Trust me, we’ve seen a few in our days at The Grid, and this S-Class, comes really close. All these, and more, are of course part of an elaborate Mercedes-Benz Chauffeur Package which includes so many little trinkets, that listing it out here would be futile. Head over to Mercedes-Benz Malaysia or to their retailers, Cycle & Carriage, Hap Seng Star or the new boys on the block, NZ Wheels, to get a full look at the impressive options sheet.

Out on the freeway though, this is exactly the kind of limousine you’d want to be in. It gets you commendable amounts of mileage, even in stop-go traffic. In spite of its beefy 3.5-litre V6 combustion mill and heavy structure, it also comes with an electric motor that suits the short bouts of city jogging that alleviates some of the sluggishness. The 27 hp electric motor works beautifully in maximising your trips because the V6 mill can dry up its fuel tank quickly if you have a heavy right foot. It’s not like the unsavory guzzlers you sometimes find out in the pubs, rather, this hybrid limo drinks with class.

We had the S-Class for almost an entire week, and we only needed one refueling in between before we returned it to our friends at Mercedes-Benz Malaysia with some big thanks. The 7G-Tronic tranny facilitates the entire power output quite seamlessly, with torque almost always available in any gear, with power waning only as you hit a cruising speed of 110 km/h. This can give it a bit of a lofty driving feel, but from the passenger’s cabin, it’s eternal comfort. Again, it’s not the sharpest or most agile driving experience behind her wheel, but it’s enough to kick up some dust should you choose to drive her a little spiritedly, as its been tuned to dish out a total of 306 German horses at 6,500 rpm. The hybrid mill grants 6.3-litres per 100 km worth of consumption which is fairly decent for a car of its sheer weight and size of course.

Before being insured, it costs RM 598,888 because of its EEV status here in Malaysia, which is a down-right bargain if you’re in the market for a sturdy yet competent limo that does not lack in luxury. In fact, its luxurious experience is further elevated by a host of safety and intelligent features that make it all the more worth it. There’s an Active Parking Assist, Driving Assistance Package plus Active Blind Spot Assist which really came in handy when maneuvering this massive S-Class. A would-be owner would be able to control most of the function via a COMAND remote control from the executive seat at the back. The S-Class Hybrid also has your futuristic gismos in the form of the touchpads found mounted at the backrest of the front seats, all perfect for a full, chauffeur-driven experience no doubt.

To top it all off, this AMG Line S-Class, is a very handsome stud out on the road. It has a very expressive character in its stylish proportions. Its long side silhouette is unmistakable on the road as well these days and I for one always enjoy looking at its reflections on mirrored windows whenever I chanced upon them at traffic light stops. Discerning eyes would stop to try and peer into the back portion of the S-Class blinders, just to get a glimpse of the so-called ‘VIP’ at the back. Not many luxury vehicles have the S-Class’ power to attract, despite all of its minimalist features.

When you add together the whole kit and caboodle, it seems like an option that is too good to be passed off. It’s EEV pricing definitely seems like a steal, considering the entire suite of goodies that come with it; the AMG exterior and interior styling bits, the efficient powertrain that helps saves on fuel and the commendable tech experience in the cabin. By the end of our time with the S-Class, we were impressed from a passenger’s point of view, simply because of its magnificently comfortable and luxurious cabin. From a driver’s point of view, it needs more ability.  

The only point of contention left to consider is this: The S-Class is still used as a taxi cab in places like London and Munich, which to some people can be a little dent if they’re getting this S-Class to carry their ego around town. That being said, is this car worth all the buzz it receives here locally? I think the fact that it is deployed as a top-tier cab in some cities world-over tells of the build quality and its durability. Does that mean it loses its luxurious appeal? Definitely no, especially when Mercedes-Benz Malaysia has put together this bang-on AMG Line package. If I had a credit card that was up to the task, I’d have bought this very same test model without hesitation. 

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