A royal ride

t2oS drives Mercedes-Benz’s new S-Class — India’s cleanest non-electric cars

  • Published 18.03.18
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A Mercedes-Benz S-Class in front of the Coronation Hall, Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad

Rolling down Hyderabad’s Outer Ring Road, we were checking out the array of buttons and controls around the driver’s seat in the just-launched Mercedes-Benz S350d. Diesels account for over 90 per cent of the S-Class’s sales in India. So that’s what we were trying out when we spotted two smallish, black buttons on the dash between the steering column and the door.

GIVING UP CONTROL

We don’t see the markings they had too often in India. There was a car between two converging lines on one and a steering wheel on the other. We had an idea what they were for, but had to try them out.
The first, Active Lane Keeping Assist, keeps the car in a lane if it can find markings and warns the driver if he’s going out of it. It also uses selective braking to steer the car back into the lane. The second, Active Steering Assist, provides additional steering torque to help the driver keep the vehicle in the centre of its lane. In absence of markings, it starts following the car in front. Neat.

Then we thought of using cruise control too. Now I could relax fully as the car did a fine job without me. But soon it seemed it was slowing down. We weren’t sure why till it fell in behind the lumbering truck up ahead and held a steady distance behind it. This was Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC in action.

All through this, we had to hold the steering wheel firmly. Otherwise, the car would have given a couple of warnings, then thought that the driver was too ill or too sleepy to control it and tried to pull over and park itself. That done, it would have unlocked the doors and made an emergency phone call for help!

This car is loaded to the gills with driver aids. Apart from the ones above, there is Active Braking Assist (it brakes on its own to try to avoid a crash) and Active Blind Spot Assist (it warns of collision risk while changing lanes). The car can also do perfect parallel parking manoeuvres and even change gears!

We sincerely hope some day commuting by any car will be this stress-free!

There’s no scrimping on luxury in the S-Class cabin

GREENER POWER

Come 2020, and all new cars sold in India will have comply with Bharat Stage VI emission norms. But whether you buy the petrol (S450) or the diesel (S350d), the S-Class cars are complying with that emission norm right now, two years ahead of schedule. And they are doing that even though the fuel is still BS IV quality.

The OM656 engine in the S350d is a 3-litre straight six. It makes about 30hp more power at 286hp and, at 600Nm, a shade less torque than the older V6 engine. It’s very refined in regular use, i.e., in the 2,000-3,000rpm rev range. But if you floor it, the motor spins up to about 4,500rpm in Sport mode, but it becomes audible. And the claimed 0-60kmph time of six seconds and top speed of 250kmph is plenty fast for this two-tonner.

The V6 petrol in the S450 is equally clean. It makes 367hp and 500Nm of torque. It’s faster than the diesel with a 
0-100kmph time of 5.1 seconds. The shove is even more palpable in this. If one has a spirited driver, one can feel the thrill of this engine even from the back seat!

BRIGHT BEAMS

The S-Class retains the same body as the car introduced four years ago, but as expected in a midlife refresh, it gets styling changes. The bumpers are new. The front one gets a sleek chrome garnish and the rear a chrome strip joining the two exhaust surrounds. The headlamp cluster is new too. It now has three lines of daylight running lamps (DRLs) instead of the earlier one. 

The headlamp has an ‘ultra range’ of 650m. The 84 individually controlled LEDs create suitable lighting patterns depending on road conditions or when the car is going around bends. And the brightness of the turn signal indicators and brake lights varies with ambient light and speed.

KING-SIZE COMFORT 

The S-Class may be totally loaded up with safety features and its electronic gadgetry could be designed to provide the driver all kinds of assistance, but this car is eventually about the rear seats. And the one on the left is a particularly good place to be. It’s essentially like a recliner wrapped in top-quality leather and equipped with a super-comfortable pillow. With the leg support raised, the seatback fully reclined (up to 43.5 degrees) and front passenger seat pushed far forward with its backrest folded down, there’s just one thing left to do — switch on the massager which can give you a warm massage as well while you stare at the sky through the panoramic sunroof.

If that doesn’t work for you, watch a movie on the 10.2-inch screen and enjoy the audio over the car’s 13-speaker Burmester system; or, if two people are watching different things, use the wireless headphones that come with the car to get a full spatial effect without disturbing the other person or the chauffeur.

On the utility front, now there are wireless chargers for phones in the armrests as well as USB ports.

On the downside, the space saver spare wheel actually eats up a lot of space and there’s not enough for big luggage in the boot. And we wonder why the bootlid doesn’t have an electric closer either.

WHY BUY

Well, because you want an S-Class. It’s the cleanest hydrocarbon-burning car in India. The S350d comes for Rs 1.33 crore, while the S450 costs Rs 1.37 crore, ex showroom, all-India. To mitigate maintenance worries, the company is offering a Rs 80,000 package for the petrol that will cover all costs of service and consumables like wipers for two years. The diesel package costs Rs 1.40 lakh. As for choosing between the petrol and diesel, one could go for either and be a winner.

Text and pictures: Abhijit Mitra

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