For the time being, the S-Class rolls with just a single drivetrain. None of the niche offerings in the S-Class family carry over into 2014, at least at launch--not the V-12s, not the turbodiesel six, and not the hybrid. The sole engine and transmission combination is the twin-turbocharged 4.6-liter V-8 engine that was new last year, teamed to a seven-speed automatic with paddle shift controls and a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive.
It's an effortless performer, in tandem with the standard air suspension. But the real tour de force in the S-Class is an available stereo camera that predicts the road surface ahead. It's a brilliant way to deliver active suspension control, even in the dark (the LED headlights cast plenty of light), and it works superbly well, as long as the S550 is in comfort mode.
There's no crash data yet, but with Mercedes' long-standing reputation for occupant protection and advanced safety features, the S-Class should be a standout for safety, especially in light of its newest technology. There are cameras and sensors for everything, it seems, from blind spots to surround-views. The adaptive cruise control can steer its way along in stop-and-go traffic, and the car can stop itself from a brisk pace when it senses a pedestrian or an animal in the road.
Is it over the top? In the race to be the best car in the world, there may be no such thing.
The 2014 S550 goes on sale in September, as a rear-driver. All-wheel-drive models arrive in November, alongside an AMG edition, with a plug-in hybrid model due to be unveiled at this fall's auto shows. The V-12s and turbodiesels shouldn't be far behind--and we've heard the CL-Class coupes will make way for S-Class coupes and convertibles before long.
For more, read The Car Connection's full review of the 2014 Mercedes S-Class.