The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has always been the technological wunderkind. I've had the good fortune of steering a few elder generations of the Sonderklasse long after their release, and have always been amazed that the technology equipped within these 10-15 year old luxury barges hasn't felt out-dated, or in any way surpassed by younger, impudent rivals. This has always been the raison d'etre of Mercedes' 'Special Class', offering as it does a glimpse into the future. But therein lies a problem.
I– like many drivers who are passionate about cars and the thrill of driving – am resistant to automotive change, viewing innovative technology, brilliant though it may be, as an interference (or worse, nannying). I just about accept traction control and anti-lock braking as positive advancements, but flashing warning lights and high-pitched beeps signifying that I've strayed out of lane, exceeded the speed limit or am about to thump into a lamppost I consider just another case of Skynet interference that, as a human being, I abhor. And the single automotive example that champions this more than most is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. "Is this advancement for the sake of advancement?', I ask myself, "and do these technologies have a place in the future automotive world?"
Which brings us to today, and the sixth generation's international launch.
It can't be possible. It feels like we're cruising. There's no sudden shift in lateral G-Forces. And so here I am, reclining slightly on beautiful leather seats, bracing for the upcoming corner, which is totally unnecessary: I'm uncomfortable in possibly the most comfortable car I've ever been in.
Theoretically I understand what is going on. I've read the press release, I've been given the official lowdown by Mercedes' representatives, and I've read our man Bassam's feature of the S-Class saloon. I've done my damned homework, but I've never experienced this before.
It's about 3pm, and we've reached our destination for today. I pocket deep-seated conundrums for Merc's engineers I've stored in-mind during the morning – "if the S-Class is so technologically advanced, why the hell doesn't it have a cup holder?" – to corner a dude who looks like he's the boss, and ask if I can take the S 63 AMG Coupe out for a spin (fortunately he says "yes, but be back in time for dinner"). There are two reasons why I want to do this. Tomorrow's drive in the AMG is much like today's highway-heavy drive, but in reverse. More importantly though, I need time to 'interface' with these new technologies: does more power equate to more driver involvement?