Published on March 9th, 2016 | by Subhash Nair0
Mercedes-Benz S400h L: The Future of Luxury, Delivered.
There are cars that follow and there’s the undisputed alpha – the S-Class. Mercedes-Benz invented the automobile, and every time they release another one of these flagship limousines, they reinvent it. When talking about the S-Class, one has to remember that there is no real competitor. Even its closest German rivals have to play a ‘wait-and-see’ game in order to keep up with Benz’s redefinition of luxury. Some don’t mind this if it means a marginally better product, but luxury isn’t a game of one-upmanship, it’s a game of confidence.
Step into the new S-Class, and you’ll see what we mean by that. The interior isn’t a mere evolution in design – it’s the shape of cars to come. From its extensive use of high-resolution digital screens to the ambient lighting, the S-Class cabin is one that’s manages to make use of technology while catering to changing tastes. The use of glossier, curvier piano black plastic isn’t quite as tacky as it sounds. In fact, the material has the appearance of glass in certain lighting conditions. It works well with the chrome accents (which have a less reflective quality than normal) and solid leather trim pieces to create an interior worthy of the nameplate.
All this is elevated by the use of wood throughout. It’s not just the steering wheel and front door cards that receive these inlays. No, in the S-Class, Mercedes have placed it even behind the front seats. So there’s wood, chrome, metal, piano-black plastic, 2 shades of leather, and ambient lighting. It may sound busy, but Mercedes-Benz have managed to make it work, no matter what the combination. And given the for the right price, owners can make it their own by configuring the trim pieces.
The highlight of the cabin is of course the ultra wide 12.3” display. It is divided in two – one half acts as a modern day information cluster for speed, RPM, and the night vision camera. The other half is for COMAND’s connected Navigation, media playback and climate control information. You’ll also find that the COMAND infotainment system here is as good as it can possibly get. Input is taken through the COMAND Controller and the sheer size and fluidity of animations definitely makes this feel like a modern infotainment unit.
Being an S-Class, the passengers take priority. There are two screens located behind each headrest which offer a number of controls and media playback options to those lounging at the rear, but the highlight would be the sheer legroom and comfort afforded by the perforated leather seats.
All four seats can be adjusted using door-mounted controls, while front seats get a massaging function. Whether you’re buying one to drive around or to be chauffer driven, the S-Class is certainly as comfortable as it gets.
There’s also all-round AIRMATIC air suspension, which can be adapted to any road or driving condition. It’s pretty much as good as suspension technology can get, except that Mercedes has one more trick up its sleeve. As an option, they will install their latest MAGIC BODY CONTROL system. This uses a number of sensors to scan the road ahead for bumps and holes. Information is then passed to the suspension, allowing it to compensate for the irregularities. This produces buttery smooth ride quality, bringing noise, vibration and harshness levels to near undetectable levels.
But even without this extremely complex system, the S-Class manages to be the benchmark for absolute refinement. And by pairing it up with a hybrid powertrain, there are moments where the 3.5-litre V6 doesn’t even need to be on. You can just glide at low speeds with the electric motor providing 250Nm of torque to push you along. It’s nowhere near as advanced as the dual engine system in the XC90, but it gets the job done satisfactorily. Plus, there’s 306hp and 370Nm of torque from the V6 to get the vehicle to highway speeds and beyond with ease. In ‘Sport’ mode, the S 400hL is extremely well sorted, even with its extended wheelbase.
The fact Mercedes-Benz Malaysia have opted to sell the S-Class with a hybrid powertrain adds value to the customer experience in many ways. Firstly, it gives the environmentally-conscious the ability to do their part without compromising on the S-Class experience. It also allows the customer to benefit from EEV tax incentives set up by the government. As a result, the S-Class sells in Malaysia for RM598,888 – lower than what most flagships models go for.
This also allows Daimler to show their shareholders that there is a profitable business case for hybrid (and later, electric) vehicles, even in Malaysia, where petrol is comparatively cheap. So if you’re in the market for a full-sized sedan, the S400h L is a complete no-brainer. It looks expensive (both inside and out), it’s well-priced, fuel-efficient for its class, extremely comfortable and full of technology. Most of all, it’s the future of luxury – and quite possibly integral to the future of motoring itself.