The 2007 Mercedes-Benz S550 is an all-new luxury sedan presenting the best the iconic German car manufacturer has to offer. Like previous generations of the S-Class line, the S550 coddles driver and passengers alike in luxurious surroundings, while taking electronic control over interior systems and driving aids to a new level.
The extensive list of technological features starts with an infrared night-vision-assist system, which neatly combines a high wow factor with real safety benefits. Distronic radar-based cruise control and brake assist also incorporate safety and convenience by automatically maintaining distance from vehicles up ahead. Features include full stops and starts in traffic (an option on the cruise-control stalk enables the car to resume speed from rest in tandem with traffic flow; no pedals needed), as well as preparation for heavy braking when cars in the S550's path are slowing rapidly.
Front multicontour seats contain electronically adjustable air bladders and offer numerous massage settings in addition to heating and cooling controls and 14-way power positioning. The front seats also automatically adjust the side bolsters to grip the more zealous driver in heavy cornering.
From the outside, the 2007 Mercedes-Benz S550 is slightly longer than its ancestors, with an extra 3 inches in the wheelbase. It also sports muscular wheel-arch bulges. Despite this nod to current car couture, the styling is still generally restrained, in keeping with the understated confidence the S-Class has long represented. Inside, soft leather and rich wood are complemented by indirect ambient lighting and quality switch gear.
Our test car was loaded with options, such as active body control, a panorama sunroof, Sirius Satellite Radio, electronic trunk closure, power rear seats, and four-zone climate control, in addition to those already mentioned. The total retail price was a whopping $105,000, including $775 for destination and delivery and a $1,000 gas-guzzler tariff.
The 2007 Mercedes-Benz S550 makes the kind of seductive first impression that only a real luxury vehicle can. The familiar Mercedes door-closing thud gives way to the soft whirring of electric door-closing motors (as on the previous-generation S-Class), and once inside, there's no doubt you're in the executive suite of the auto world. Interior materials are all high quality, and the breadth of electronic features is immediately apparent.
Keyless Go, an $1,100 option, allows the driver to keep the key fob pocketed while entering, then fire up the Mercedes-Benz S550 with a touch of an engine start/stop push button.
The main instrument panel contains the tachometer, as well as fuel and temperature gauges on either side of an 8-inch LCD, which shows a convincingly high-resolution image of an analog speedometer. This virtual setup allows info from other vehicle systems to be overlaid on the speedometer image so that audio, Distronic, navigation, trip computing, and telephone functions are all visible on the speedometer display and controllable by buttons mounted on the steering wheel.
The 2007 Mercedes-Benz S550's Distronic display features a two-car image indicating the distance to the car ahead, while shading the speedometer's (virtual) rim to show how far below the intended cruise speed the target car is moving.
Most impressively, this screen also doubles as the forward night-vision-assist monitor, with a very crisp image of the road replacing the speedometer. The system uses two infrared projectors and an infrared camera to detect objects--and potential hazards--up to 500 feet ahead. When in night-vision mode, the speedometer is displayed horizontally across the bottom of the screen.
A second LCD in the center of the dashboard serves as the COMAND display. This screen can rotate a few degrees to skew slightly toward the driver or the front passenger, the kind of nice-to-have detail not seen in lesser cars. With a 16:9 aspect ratio and the same crisp resolution as the speedometer screen, it displays menus and images to control most interior systems. We found the single-knob COMAND system more intuitive and pleasing to use than BMW's iDrive solution, which we've panned liberally in reviews of the 750Li and the 550i, but that gets less annoying each time we encounter it. COMAND makes effective use of various S550 diagrams to depict what the user is changing, especially handy when programming the endlessly adjustable front multicontour seats (an $1,800 option).
COMAND extends to features such as the power rear sunshade, interior ambient lighting, and exterior lighting delays, but frequently used features such as the sunshade mostly offer their own dedicated controls. Climate control is operated via a row of center-console buttons up front and a small screen and button group in back, although true to its name, COMAND can allow or disallow separate rear-seat control.
The audio setup features a six-CD in-dash changer playing through an impressive 14-speaker, 600-watt Harman Kardon Logic 7 surround-sound system. Sound is predictably full at all ranges, and you can fine-tune the system through COMAND. A PC Card slot below the CD aperture lets the system play MP3 files from other media, and a specialized iPod adapter will be available as a dealer option.
Mercedes-Benz's GPS navigation system is standard on the S550 and includes its own 20GB hard drive. Along with the stereo and telephone systems, navigation is controllable by voice, as well as via COMAND or two five-way pads on the steering wheel. We found the nav system commendably quick and accurate, no doubt helped by the dedicated storage, but street names were displayed on only maximum map zoom.