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The 2007 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is larger, safer, more luxurious and more techno-intensive than last year's model. No surprises there, but it's also more fun to drive. For those desiring a large ultraluxury sedan that has everything and can do everything, the S-Class is the new benchmark.
State-of-the-art luxury features, sport sedan performance and handling, optional all-wheel drive, prestige that comes with S-Class ownership.
Expensive options, turn signal stalks are awkward to use.
Available S-Class Models
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The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been fully redesigned for 2007. For this revamp of the flagship luxury sedan, Mercedes focused on improving performance and handling as well as expanding the luxury envelope with new technology-oriented features such as Distronic Plus cruise control and the Night View Assist infrared night-vision system.
For decades, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been the symbol of success among doctors, bankers, lawyers and other wealthy types seeking the ultimate luxury sedan. Powerful, luxurious and built with the solidity and precision of a bank vault, the S-Class announced prestige, quality and good taste. The outgoing model, produced for the 2000-'06 model years, was especially popular.
For 2007, Mercedes has set out to revamp its flagship sedan. That formidable task required a balancing act worthy of a Cirque du Soleil performer. The company's goal for the full redesign was to re-establish the S-Class as the premier vehicle in the premium luxury sedan segment without losing sight of the car's trademark style and personality. To accomplish this, Mercedes updated the car's exterior styling, added more power, increased the car's handling agility, improved the quality of the interior and went with an infusion of the latest luxury- and safety-oriented technologies.
Compared to the previous model, the 2007 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is visually sleeker and, more controversially, bolder thanks to its engorged wheel arches. Width is increased by 0.6 inch, height is up 1.1 inches, the wheelbase is stretched 3.2 inches and overall length is 1.7 inches greater than before. For occupants, the most significant advantage of the size increase is additional rear-seat room. On the inside, major interior changes include a new control and display layout, higher-quality materials, more comfortable front seats and an easier-to-use COMAND system.
In terms of the driving experience, one will almost certainly notice the new engine in the 2007 S550. It sports a 5.5-liter, four-valves-per-cylinder V8 that pumps out 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. These are hefty increases over the outgoing 5.0-liter V8 -- horsepower is up 82 ponies and there's 52 more lb-ft of torque on tap. Ordinarily, the S550's standard seven-speed automatic transmission sends all this to the rear wheels, but if you opt for the winter-friendly S550 4Matic model, power goes to all four wheels via an electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system. For those wanting more, the twin-turbo V12 in the S600 and the insane 6.0-liter V12 in the S65 AMG continue to be available this year. And later in the '07 run, the S63 AMG, with a 518-hp 6.2-liter V8, will slot into the lineup as a replacement for the old S55. Besides offering a diverse selection of engines, the new S-Class also steers and handles noticeably better than its predecessor.
New and updated features are in plentiful supply on the '07 S550, S600, S63 and S65 AMG. One highlight is the "Distronic Plus" smart cruise control. It has the ability to slow the car down to very low speeds automatically, making it possible to drive for very long distances on the freeway without touching the pedals. Other impressive S-Class items include a Night View Assist infrared night-vision system, a rear parking camera with a dynamic-view display, a 14-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system and a panorama sunroof.
By any measure of performance, luxury, safety and sheer technological prowess, the redesigned M-B flagship sets a new standard. Superior steering feel may still give the BMW 7 Series an edge for the pure driving enthusiast, while the Audi A8 continues to rival the Benz for sumptuous cabin ambience. But all things considered, the 2007 Mercedes-Benz S-Class presents a well-rounded case for luxury sedan buyers in spite of its bracing price tag. Mercedes has successfully pulled off that tricky balancing act between progress and tradition with the new S-Class.
There are currently five trim levels available on the 2007 Mercedes-Benz S-Class luxury sedan: the S550, the all-wheel-drive S550 4Matic, the high-performance S63 AMG, the V12-powered S600 and the über-performance S65 AMG. Notable items on the S550's standard equipment list include 18-inch wheels, an air-spring suspension, bi-xenon headlights, 14-way adjustable front seats, the COMAND all-in-one control interface, a hard-drive-based navigation system, hands-free cell phone communication, a Harman Kardon audio system with a six-disc CD changer and of course, rich leather and wood trim. With the exception of its AWD system and some accompanying chassis modifications, the S550 4Matic is identically equipped. In addition to a larger, more powerful V8 engine, the S63 AMG adds 20-inch lightweight AMG wheels, Mercedes' Active Body Control (ABC) adaptive suspension (optional on the rear-drive S550), larger brakes, specific exterior styling pieces, aluminum interior trim and sport seats.
Major options on the V8-equipped S-Class cars include ventilated front seats with a massage feature, a keyless entry and start system, the Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control and Night View Assist infrared night vision system. One can also order an AMG wheel-and-body trim package. The Rear Seat Package equips the car with power-adjustable, heated and cooled rear seats and four-zone climate control.
The V12-equipped S600 and S65 AMG sedans come with almost all of the above features as standard. Although vastly more powerful, the S65 basically takes the same approach to performance as the S63 and features the same upgraded running gear and cosmetic additions.
The 2007 Mercedes-Benz S550 sports a 5.5-liter V8 that makes 382 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. In testing, we've found that this is enough for a 6.1-second 0-60-mph time. A standard seven-speed automatic transmission routes power to the rear wheels. Opt for the S550 4Matic and this same transmission routes power to all four wheels, transforming the big luxury sedan into a serious snow vehicle. The Mercedes S63 AMG has a 6.2-liter V8 capable of 518 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. The S63 also uses the seven-speed automatic, but it's recalibrated for faster, firmer shifts.
A pair of 12-cylinder engines are found in the two remaining S-Class models. The S600's twin-turbo V12 is of the same displacement as the V8, but provides 510 hp and 612 lb-ft of torque. For the S65 AMG, a twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 develops a Herculean 604 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes says the S65 AMG can hit 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. On the V12s, Mercedes sticks with a five-speed automatic, because the seven-speed unit isn't capable of handling the V12's torque output. The S65 has a sport-tuned version of this automatic that provides quicker shifts.
Since this is an all-new Benz, the latest advances in safety equipment have been incorporated. Stability control, eight airbags (including side window curtain airbags) and brake assist (which automatically applies full power braking if it senses a panic stop situation) are all onboard. So is Mercedes' Pre-Safe system, a useful bit of technology that can sense an impending crash and automatically tighten up the seatbelts and reposition the power seats for maximum airbag protection.
Mercedes' COMAND (Cockpit Management and Data) system is much easier to use than before, as there is a larger screen mounted to the right of the instruments and many controls are redundant. The only ergonomic flaw is the turn signal stalk, which is located somewhat awkwardly down low and away from the driver. Simple elegance marks the cabin decor, with high-quality materials, richly polished woods and soft leather all around. The optional Dynamic Multicontour seats have 11 air chambers that essentially allow you to mold the seat to your body. During aggressive driving the side bolsters automatically pump up and down in response to cornering forces, to better hold you in place. These seats can also provide a soothing back massage. Another interesting feature is the optional Night View Assist system. Unlike thermal (heat-sensing) systems, this one uses infrared beams to provide sharper images and light up inanimate objects that don't give off heat.
The S-Class suspension utilizes Mercedes' Airmatic System wherein four air bellows support the weight of the vehicle. Under lateral weight transfer during cornering, the outside bellows inflate to reduce body lean by as much as 40 percent. Ride and handling are what you'd expect -- and what you wouldn't. The ride is compliant and fitting for a luxury sedan, dispatching bumps and ruts with nary a shake to the cabin, while the tight handling makes the S550 feel two-thirds its size. "Nimble" may be too strong a descriptor, but considering the 2007 S-Class weighs at least 4300 pounds, it feels surprisingly agile. The steering is fairly quick and precise with a decent heft to the wheel, though we'd still give the BMW 7 Series a slight edge in road feel.
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