For today’s spa service, would you prefer the hot-stone treatment or deep-tissue massage? How about a little aromatherapy? We have a choice of four designer fragrances; the Nightlife Mood aroma is very popular.
If it’s a little bright, you have the choice of seven ambient light colors, with five levels of brightness.
And would you care for a few soothing tunes? We have a great selection of Enya, and we’ve just installed a top-of-the-line Burmester sound system—it’s German, you know—with 24 speakers and surround sound. Just amazing.
So kick back, relax and sink your head into our puffy suede-covered pillows. In case your elbows get a little chilled, we have lovely heated armrests.
If all this sounds like a day at Canyon Ranch or the Ritz-Carlton, you’re right—and wrong. It’s actually what you can experience inside the hedonistic, pleasure-centric cabin of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550.
The strategy arm at Mercedes quite smartly deduced that while buyers at this lofty end of the luxury sedan market might say they want sexy styling and lots of neck-snapping performance, what they really want is luxury.
Which is why this new S-Class doesn’t look much different from its predecessor and even carries over its twin-turbo, 4.7-liter V-8 engine and transmission. But what has changed is the car’s focus on cosseting, comforting and downright spoiling those inside.
This new S550 is fitted with the wonderfully titled First Class Rear Suite package. At the touch of a button, its twin, leather-lined Barcaloungers will recline and footrests will pop up. If you want the full chaise longue comfort, the front passenger seat folds origami-style so at least one rear seat rider can stretch out and snooze.
As for the hot-rocks massage, it’s awesome. It’s like having toasty-warm golf balls rolled up and down your spine. A built-in heating element combines with air bladders that slowly inflate and deflate. While it may not quite match the finger-work of Helga and her smooth, heated river rocks, it’s a good substitute.
And you really can change the interior aroma courtesy of a built-in atomizer that Mercedes marketeers call Air-Balance.
But comfort isn’t just about plush leather, massagers and nice scents. One amazing technical innovation with the new “S” is its cheesily titled Magic Body Control. While it sounds like something you’d buy on QVC for three easy payments of $19.99, it takes driving comfort to a new level.
Two tiny stereoscopic cameras mounted in the rear-view mirror read the road surface about 100 feet ahead of the car. They send the data to the car’s hydraulic active dampers, which can relax or stiffen the suspension to absorb the bump.
The system is at its most otherworldly when encountering those six-inch-tall, speed-reducing road humps—something Brits call “sleeping policemen.” Normally, colliding with one at 30 mph would have your head ricocheting off the roof.
With Magic Body Control, the suspension turns to marshmallow the millisecond it hits the bump, and the car glides over. This is quite remarkable and, in my book, earns this new S-Class the title of World’s Best-Riding Car.
Yet all this doesn’t mean this new Mercedes flagship has gone all fat and flabby. The new lightweight aluminum body is stiffer than before and now has near-perfect front/rear-weight balance for sharper handling.
While the big twin-turbo V-8 remains—it was only introduced last year—it gets an extra 26 horses, raising output to an impressive 455 hp. If that isn’t enough, wait a few months and there’ll be a thundering S63 AMG on offer.
Talking of upcoming models, no fewer than six very different S-Class versions are in the works, including a two-door CL coupe, a possible four-door convertible and a Maybach-replacing Pullman über-luxury model. Add to those the usual AMG, V-12, hybrid and diesels.
All this, plus that perfume-radiating atomizer. Why am I sensing the sweet smell of success?
- Price: From $95,000
- Engine: 4.7-liter twin-turbo V-8
- Power: 455 hp
- Torque: 516 pound-feet
- Transmission: 7-speed auto
- 0-60: 4.7 seconds
- Top Speed: 155 mph
- Length/width: 2206.5/74.8 inches
- Weight: 4,500 pounds
- Why We Love It: This new S-Class simply leapfrogs the competition, setting a towering new standard for luxury and technology. It smells nice, too.