2007 Mercedes Benz S550 S-Class

Mercedes-Benz S-Class flagship is all new from the ground up for 2007. With more than 2.7 million sold globally since its introduction some 50 years ago, the world’s best selling premium luxury car over the years has been nipped and tucked (from very boxy and decidedly boring to sleek and aerodynamic) to where it now represents everything the company stands for – panache, performance, safety and technological sophistication.

At present, the S550 model, with its 5.5 litre V8 engine that is good for 382 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque, constitutes the S-Class lineup. Later this year Mercedes-Benz will introduce two new family members: an S600 model powered by a 5.5-litre twin-turbo V12 engine that will be rated for 510 hp and 612 lb.-ft. of torque; and an S65 AMG model, powered by a 6.0 litre V12 bi-turbo engine delivering 612 horses.

2007 Mercedes Benz S-Class sedan

The ninth generation S550 is all about luxury, comfort and the space needed to provide it. The wheelbase grows by 89mm, while the overall length is up by 48mm, the width by 15mm and it is 20mm taller. The increase in size is mostly dedicated to the occupants, and specifically the rear seat riders. Trunk capacity has also increased by 60 litres to 561 litres. Slip through the oversized rear door and there’s a ton of head, leg and toe room. But while the car is wide enough to sit three adults, the middle spot is less than ideal. The combination of the central tunnel intrusion and thin seat padding makes for a less than first class ride.

Like it’s predecessor, all doors and the trunk lid have electrically operated door-closing assists as standard equipment. The S550 interior with its supple leather upholstery, rich wood and chrome trim is one of the most sumptuous in the business. The materials are of unquestionable quality and execution is first rate. Most primary controls are logically placed and easily reached and operated. A minor exception is that the cruise control and turn signal levers are located too close together. On several occasions while driving the car, I accidentally turned on the cruise while attempting to activate the turn signal.

For safety and ease when backing up, an available Dynamic Rearview Monitor displays visual parking lines to guide you into the parking spot. The conventional transmission shifter on the centre console has disappeared and it has been replaced by a small stalk located on the right side of the steering column.

The dash, which projects all of its information onto an attractive screen, is complete. Also located in the centre of the dash is another large colour screen which provides bright, crystal-clear images and data for the innovative Cockpit Management and Data System (COMAND for short).

COMAND, which controls the entertainment, climate, communication and navigation systems, has been redesigned and it is now more intuitive. This is not something that could have been said of the previous system. The reason for the ease of operation is that major functions can now be accessed by controls located on the centre console, rocker switches on the multi-function steering wheel or via the standard voice control system. This design eliminates the need to delve into the COMAND’s programming to make a simple change. And should you manage to get it wrong, a back button instantly rights a minor mistake. It is also quick.

The navigation information is stored on an internal hard drive, which means it does not have to read a CD before spitting out the information. It is the easiest of the now-mandatory, all-encompassing, computer-driven gizmos that are becoming the bane of the car owners’ life.

The fact MB went out and recruited a number of “regular” consumers – those not predisposed to buying high end automobiles – to test the changes obviously worked. Similarly, when S-Class intenders and owners of competing marques tested the revamped system it scored equally well and significantly higher than said competition’s system (think i-Drive).

On the road, the S550 is a pure delight to drive with wind, tire and engine noise almost non existent. However, under full-throttle acceleration there is a subdued growl from the motor. The smoothness and power delivery from the all-new 5.5 litre V8 engine is impressive. For a heavy (4,270 lbs) luxury car that goes from 0-to-100 km in 6.2 seconds (Mercedes time is 5.4 seconds) and sprints from 80 to 120 km in 4.6 seconds is nothing short of outstanding. It suffers no shortage of power for merging with busy highway traffic or passing on two-lane roads. The 7-speed automatic transmission responds appropriately to throttle input, it changes gears smoothly and downshifts quickly for effortless passing or acceleration. The driver can also shift gears manually through buttons on the back of the steering wheel.

The standard Airmatic air suspension provides a comfortable ride on just about any surface along with responsive handling and minimal body roll during hard cornering. The suspension also incorporates an adjustable ride height function that can raise or lower the car manually or automatically. The steering responds with precision and feed back is good when pushing the large car through twisty terrain. The car’s weight does not detract from its excellent braking performance. Surprisingly, one would think that a car demanding $118,500 hard-earned loonies from the trusty wallet, would have a non-existent list of options.

Alas, the S550 list of optional equipment is lengthy and covers everything from the Night Driving Assistance system to the dynamic driving multi-contour front seats. Aside from the usual power adjustments, (14 in all) come movable side and base bolsters (this ensures the proper fit for all builds), adjustable thigh and shoulder supports, power lumbar and an active side that can massage (it feels like you’re sitting on a sack full of pythons!) and reacts to cornering forces. When the driver steers into a left corner, the right side bolster inflates to improve the lateral support. Turning right initiates the opposite reaction. Over the top? Absolutely. Worth it? Two thumbs up.

The Mercedes all new S-Class flagship has the most technical innovations of any car I have ever driven and the pioneering safety features, over the road performance and exemplary comfort continue to be the outstanding attributes of the S550.