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I’ll never forget the first time I drove a Mercedes S-Class. A group of us were testing for the 2015 Autoblog Technology of the Year awards in Northern Michigan. After spending three days running around with a camera, the last thing I wanted to do was endure a five-hour drive home by myself, but that’s what I had to do. Thankfully, I was handed the keys to the S-Class we had been testing. Those next five hours were incredible, thanks to open roads and heated massaging seats, and I became an S-Class fan for life. You can too, if you win this one from Omaze.
Here’s what we thought of the S-Class when we drove it earlier this year:
“The car’s styling is more evolutionary. The new S-Class is longer by 1.3 inches, wider by 2 inches and rides on a 2-inch longer wheelbase. It’s also fractionally taller than the outgoing model but appears lower. That’s thanks to the single primary bodyside crease that runs in a gentle arc from the top of the 'Multibeam LED' headlights, through the doors just below the window line, back to the taillights. The rounded-off bodywork also makes the car appear smaller.
“Up front, there is as usual a massive grille, but its impact is dulled due to its rounded corners and because some of what should be intricate metal work is instead black plastic panels with silver lines applied. They shield the various radar sensors that, along with the cameras behind the windshield, enable the advanced assisted-driving functions. Surprisingly perhaps, the three-pointed star hood ornament returns, even as Mercedes has dropped it from its other models, including most recently the E-Class. The profile shows new flush door handles, which pop out as the driver approaches with the key fob. At the rear are new inverted-triangle taillights.
“Typical for Mercedes, one can toggle through the usual Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ modes. Their variations are barely discernible, notable more so in the action of the standard Airmatic air suspension than anything else. Even there, at any given moment it’s hard to guess which mode you’re in. Comfort allows for a bit more of the nodding body motions that have long characterized the S-Class ride and which many returning owners likely expect. The chassis gets more stiff-legged in Sport and Sport+, but doesn’t appreciably diminish the ride quality.
“What does diminish the ride, though, are the ultra-short sidewalls on the AMG Line’s optional 21-inch wheels with 255/35 tires at the front and 285/30 tires at the rear. The latter provide so little cushioning that we blew a tire on a pothole. We’d chalk that up to bad luck except that five other S580s on our drive, all with the same wheel-and-tire package, suffered the same fate. Clearly, this tire fitment is not suitable on anything other than glass-smooth pavement and should be avoided. Stick with the 19s or the 20s.
“The suspension allows a bit of body roll but not much more, and the creamy steering is pleasantly weighted and direct. What’s new is that rear-wheel steering comes to the S-Class for the first time. Above 37 mph, the rear wheels steer in the same direction as the fronts; below that speed, they turn in the opposite direction. There are two versions of the system, one with 4.5 degrees of rear steering (available on the AMG Line) and one with 10 degrees (available on the Executive Line), the latter reducing the turning radius by up to 7 feet. Why two versions? Because with the ultra-wide tires on the AMG Line there isn’t room inside the wheel wells to have them turn more.”
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