This time it was Toronto and we had the pleasure of driving the new S-Class. Our HQ was a beautiful Hotel in the middle of Toronto, an absolutely fabulous location and hotel to get to know the city a little bit and roam the streets for locations to shoot and test the car. Also the fantastic dinner on our first night with some very special entertainment by Matt Dusk just pumped us up to the right level. Matt dusk is a real entertainer. I just wished we had clubs like this still around. You know like in the old days, as in movies like Scarface (the Brian DePalma one) or most recently Gangster Squad. Live music, preferably great Jazz and Swing… great drinks and food. Talk, drink, eat, listen and just enjoy in a nice classy environment. Ah well… We just don’t have these anymore… at least not here in Germany anyway. So if you have a bit of time check out Matts work and let me know what you think. I fell in love with it and especially “Two shots of happy, one shot of sad.” just hit me right in the perfect spot.
Oh and make sure to read to the end as me and Kai Petermann had a very nice project going on in Toronto!
Lets get to the car though. I think its not a question of whether it is a good car or not. That is a given. I think it comes down to details nowadays and especially in that class of car. And we are leaving out the Brand-Fanboys who always buy the same brand of car. There has been a lot written about the new S-Class. From its marketed god-like presence, to all the wonderful new aid systems and its beauty and design. As so often I will spare you the whole technical thing, especially as I am only a automotive enthusiast and not an automotive journalist.
So to start this off I have to say that I like the car and I really enjoyed driving it. As a driver and passenger. We drove the european versions of the S500 in the long wheelbase version. Enough power to do whatever you have to do with a limousine like that, elegant design on the outside with enough grunt not to come over as a wallflower and all the toys and gadgets we are getting accustomed to in modern cars. As much as there is all good on the outside, my problems with the car start on the inside… and it goes deeper and deeper. Lets start with cosmetics.
Our car was a beautiful white S500 with a cream interior. Nice details in the leather resembling classic diamond stitching, nice curves all through the dashboard and nice mix of materials. All of a sudden you get smacked in the face by these cold, busy and totally out of place Burmester Audio speaker covers and tweeters. Brushed aluminium with a very busy, swirly design in the middle of the calm sea of your cream colored leather and brown wood. The doors not being enough someone thought it would be a great idea of hanging a huge piece of aluminium speaker cover on the roof between the front row and back row seats. Like a steampunk inspired chandelier it hangs there and catches your eye every time your look passes its immense presence, which is a bloody shame as the interior of the car would be a wonderful and peaceful place without all that. It doesn’t fit together as much. As if you mixed H.R. Gigers Alien paintings with a Hello Kitty comic strip. It is as disturbing as that ugly IR transceiver thingy in the Land Rover Evoque or what ever that ugly huge black piece of plastic is supposed to be.
Also a company that has worked with some fantastic minds to create stuff like the “Signature Sound” could have come up with something different I am sure, as the sound in the car was great, but didn’t knock my socks of as the “Signature Sound” in the SL back in San Francisco did. And not only with the specific CD, but also my MP3 filled iPhone playlists.
That being said, in one of the other cars with a grey leather interior it fit in much much nice, but that is something that I would maybe try and address. The second thing I wasn’t very fond of in the interior are the back row seat displays. Yes, they are as in, for example the new A-Class, but I was never a big fan of that iPad inspired design and the shiny black plastic bezel. It never looked very high quality, even-though I am sure it is. And for the S-Class, MBs Jesus-Car, I would have hoped for a more elegant solution. Why not wrap it in the beautiful leather of the interior? Even do it another tone. I think that would come over so much more high class and elegant.
The third thing that left a little sour note is not a MB specific issue, but these models we drove where the long wheelbase versions of the new S-Class. And I had enough space to sit in the back with a grown man in front of me, but we had to juggle back and forth to get it right. In a regular wheelbase model that would have been ok for me, not in the long one though. And sure, if no one is in front of you you can even transform the whole right side of the car to a first class style seat/bed hybrid, but even then for a guy as tall as me, or even a bit smaller you touch the front seat 100% and maybe you are not in the mood that day to take off your shoes and you might just ruin the leather. I get that the armada of security features costs space or whatever the reason is, but have any of you ever had the chance to sit in a Skoda Superb for example? I mean c’mon!!! That has the same amount, if not even a tad more, space in the back. As I said, if this was the regular wheelbase version I would not even think about saying a word about it. There is a even longer Version coming for the Chinese market as they announced… but I am not too sure what kind of a strange way of marketing that is. Ah well.
These points I criticised are all very subjective and specific to my taste and feeling, but I guess thats what all this is about. One thing though I didn’t really get to experience well and there our buddies from FünfkommaSechs have a different opinion though, was the Magic Body Control feature. It basically is a system scans the street in front of you and adjusts the ride accordingly. Unfortunately it just seems to work in daylight only and with bumps and not holes in the street… but either way, and I double checked a few times that the system was on and I didn’t feel anything too special about it compared to other high class cars I have driven recently. I still think the new Range Rover has a smother ride over bumps and potholes and so on. On the streets and off road.
Does all this mean I do not like the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class? No, I do like it. I really enjoyed the two days in Toronto with it. Do I think its the best car in the world? Even in that segment? No I don’t.
It has some fantastic features from the finally well done interface with its playful, but still close to understated interface on these finally two enormous displays. Just how the gauges shift and switch from one state and mode to another. For example when the night vision camera activates and gives you the picture right between the speed indicator and the rev counter. To the beautifully machined buttons and wheels with nice tactile feedback. It all quite right after you got to know where what is. Very good they are advancing on these points. Another big plus is the color scheme of the whole interface is finally less yellow. Again a very personal thing. The very funky interior LED light scheme, though I am still wondering why there aren’t more colors to choose from than the seven they have. It really can transform the feeling of the car completely and you can got from really funky very dialled down. The huge sunroof is a wonderful thing that I wouldn’t want to miss in any car form now on, but I guess I am stuck with that small little one in my Disco.
The Bluetooth Integration seemed to work much better than in any other model before, which is a very good thing. Never understood how Bluetooth in cars, and I am again not only talking about MB, but about a lot of manufacturers. Never understood why it was so hard to get a simple thing like Bluetooth integration right. The same as the whole interface jungle out there. Its baffleing how in 2013 it still is a surprise to see a really modern and well working digital interface in a car, as in the S-Class. And the Navigation system was an absolute pleasure to use. Clear to read and understand at any time, beautiful and not leaving any doubt about where to drive and what to do next. I am very excited to see what the near future brings to the Mercedes-Benz family in regards to Interface, usability and all that.
As for Toronto, I was very happy to finally have had the chance to travel to Canada and enjoyed Toronto a lot. Well, as much as you can say that in two fully packed days. It felt like a weird (in a good way) mix of your regular north american city mixed up with a european flair and those mystical extremely polite Canadians. They are real and exists! It always sounded like a stupid cliche, but hey. Another fantastic reason to visit Canada. As always I would have loved a lot more time to explore and get to know Toronto, but I am very certainly coming back. And just that fantastic Sandwich at Lil Baci would be worth it. Great place! Lil Baci, Toronto, Canada.
Cheers for reading and a great weekend for you all,