What defines luxury? Be it a home, fashion, car, or anything else material, luxury invariably involves great expense. Some of these items may not actually cost a million bucks, but they sure do make you feel like a million bucks.
And that is exactly the effect that the new Mercedes-Benz S450L had on me.
The message conveyed by its commanding presence, regal air, and its sleek and elegant proportions is clear. It announces to the world, “I have arrived”.
While a part of me wished that the exterior styling had a bit more drama, I am also reminded that subtlety and class usually go hand in hand. Anything too flamboyant would be unbecoming.
It is what lies beyond those four doors that cements the S-Class’ position as a luxury flagship limousine and its inclusion among elite circles.
If “Clothes make the man” as Mark Twain once wrote, then the S-Class is the equivalent of a Saville Row suit. It is all in the details – the thread count, hand-stitching, tailoring and fit.
Like an impeccably well-cut suit, the S-Class interior exudes flair and finesse. Cocooning and cossetting, the plush interior elevates a mundane commute into an ultra-comfortable and pampering experience, ensuring that you always arrive in style.
Above and beyond the luxury fanfare, it is the multi-sensory aspects that I really savour, served up by the S-Class like courses in a Kaiseki meal.
The palette of materials and colours is a visual spectacle. Particularly memorable is the hypnotic, 64-colour, 10-colour-scheme active ambient light show that makes the dashboard and the panels on the door appear to be “floating”, especially at night.
The craftsmanship of the various finishes expresses a quality touch and feel. Safe for some touch points, such as the buttons on the dashboard, steering wheel and inside the door panels that were just a tad plasticky for my liking.
Acoustic-wise, the well-insulated cabin makes the S-Class feel like your private sanctuary on wheels, away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world.
The electrically-adjustable, climatised, Nappa leather-clad, diamond-stitched seats with massage function, complemented by the faint scent from the Air Balance package atomizer wafting in the cabin takes the chauffeured experience up to the next level.
All these bells and whistles make the S-Class cabin feel more like a first-class lounge than a car cabin. This truly epitomises the concept of a “third place” between home and work, or any other destination.
The S-Class, however, is a car that is as enjoyable in the driver’s seat as it is in the rear. While it is hardly a car that you would be inclined to take flat out, the 500Nm of torque produced by the turbocharged 3-litre inline-6 engine gets the car moving along without the slightest hint of huff and puff.
Neither would you be likely to go diving into corners, but its composure around bends at a relatively quick pace is extremely commendable.
It is exactly the kind of behaviour you would associate with someone who dons a bespoke suit – always cool, calm and collected, never a feather ruffled.
Ride-wise, Sport mode strikes the perfect balance. In Comfort, the air suspension makes the ride feel just a bit yacht-like. It makes for a good analogy in terms of luxury, but not quite where comfort is concerned.
The rear-axle steering makes the S-Class, all 5289mm of it, very manoeuvrable, like a Big Friendly Giant (BFG) who can perform a pirouette.
The turning radius is reduced by up to 2 m, which is extremely useful in the city, especially when making tight U-turns or negotiating older car parks around town.
Mercedes may also have finally gotten the formula right with its 9G-tronic transmission that delivers quick and seamless gearshifts.
TODAY’S QUINTESSENTIAL LIMO
Whether you are an old-school towkay or a Generation T digital native, all that state-of-the-art tech in the new S-Class will leave you suitably impressed.
The intelligent Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) can be accessed through a central OLED touch display that puts everything at your fingertips. Anyone who is familiar with a tablet will feel right at home.
This piece of luxury automotive real estate will set you back by more than half a million dollars.
While two of its closest German rivals come in at just under the $500,000 mark, it really boils down to intangible aspects, including perceived brand prestige, which cannot be measured in dollars and cents.
Like a great suit, a car in this segment must be one that makes you feel confident and put together, like you can conquer the world. And the S450L does exactly that.
Mercedes-Benz S450L 4Matic 3.0 (A)
ENGINE 2999cc, 24-valves, inline-6, turbocharged with hybrid assist (EQ Boost)
MAX POWER 367hp at 5500-6100rpm
MAX TORQUE 500Nm at 1600-4500rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 182.1hp per tonne
GEARBOX 9-speed automatic with manual select
0-100KM/H 5.1 seconds
TOP SPEED 250km/h
CONSUMPTION 11.8km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE From $539,888 (after $25k VES surcharge)
AGENT Cycle & Carriage Industries