GP Life: Early drive of new S-Class

Given the outstanding ability of the new Mercedes S-Class, it can still be described as good value.

The new S-Class will be arguably the most advanced production car in the world when it reaches the showrooms in March. Mercedes claims the car will incorporate 12 technical innovations, from infrared night vision assistance to a pre-crash safety system that prepares you and the car in the event of an impending accident.

It is more spacious than the current S-Class and has a larger boot. The interior is decked out in leather and wood and you won't find a plastic switch anywhere -they're all metal. The satellite-navigation, stereo, telephone and climate control all work from one central system, which Mercedes calls COMAND (cockpit management and navigation display).

There will be three petrol engines: a 272bhp V6, a 388bhp V8 and the range-topping 517bhp V12. A new 235bhp diesel engine completes the line-up. What Car? has driven the new S-Class on roads in Europe and awarded it five stars. The car rides on air suspension that delivers a truly cosseting ride.

The 320 CDI diesel returns 34mpg and the S350 (below), 25.5mpg. Every S-Class is expensive to buy and run, and the basic price increases dramatically with the gadgets. Yet, given its outstanding ability and quality, the new S-Class can still be described as good value.

- Review published in What Car? February 2006

GP FIRST DRIVE - 'THIS IS THE CLOSEST YOU CAN GET TO A MAGIC CARPET'

GP's car survey last year showed that Mercedes is the most popular make of current and future car for GPs. Justification enough to sneak in an early test drive of the S-Class. I settled in to the supremely comfortable seat of the S350, closed the door with that satisfying Mercedes 'thunk', and started the engine. Well, I think I started it - there was hardly any noise, just a flickering rev counter.

This is no sports car, but it handles really well for a large vehicle. There is minimal roll on cornering because the air suspension compensates brilliantly. And the ride... I have never driven any car that absorbs so many potholes without blinking. This is the closest you can get to a magic carpet.

Gizmos available include the best satellite-navigation system I have seen, radar-assisted cruise control, reversing camera, parking aid and infra-red night view. All the controls are user friendly.

If you are one of those top GP earners to which the Daily Mail keeps referring, it would be a very pleasurable way to spend £57,000 for the standard S350, or £73,500 with all the trimmings. Don't have the cash? All is not lost, because most of the impressive and innovative features of the S-Class will soon find their way down to the humble C-Class and E-Class models that we mere mortals buy.

- Dr Tony Rimmer is a GP in Surrey

MERCEDES-BENZ S 350
Price for standard model £56,720
Engine size 3.5 V6
Acceleration 0-62mph 7.2 seconds
Top speed 155mph
Insurance group 19E
MPG Urban 19.5/Ex-urban 36.7/
Combined 28
What Car? rating *****
What Car? verdict All new Mercedes S-Class
represents luxury motoring at its very
best

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