The new S 500, unquestionably the best car in the class, and arguably the most complete road car in history, is the perfect riposte to the bleak news that has hounded Daimler Chrysler throughout 2005. Forget pension deficits, healthcare burdens and errant CEOs names after small crustacia, this is Mercedes showing us what it does best. Building big saloon cars to a standard that will leave rival manufacturers contemplating whether they shall ever catch-up. They have been trying –and consistently failing- for thirty years now. This new model, priced at £69,770 perpetuates the situation.
With the S 500, the horseless carriage is finally reaching the point at which little further silence can be expected within the confines of piston-power and radial round rubber. Mercedes has paid obsessive attention to the noble art of tranquility and the result is a driving experience like no other. Never has a driver felt so remote from the outside world, and yet remained connected to the car to such a helpful degree.
This is not a beautiful car. It lacks the grace of its predecessor, but it has enough presence to justify the badge. The cabin is a revolution for Mercedes and should raise a few smirks at BMW because the basic architecture is very 7-series.
But before Munich chuckles too loudly, it should closely scrutinise what Benz has achieved with this interior. It has managed to make a complicated environment far more approachable than ever before. There is a rotary control for just about every aspect of the car's entertainment, navigation and heating systems, but there is also a bank of one-touch switches for the most commonly selected functions, plus a separate keypad for the telephone. This is intuitive multi-function control design.