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Mercedes-Benz S320CDI

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      18.11.2009 15:41
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      Reserved for lottery winners

      You have just won a few million pounds in the lottery, you have bought a new house, had your luxury holiday, opened up a savings account for the grandchildren & now you have decided to spend around £60.000 on a new luxury car. Would you consider a Mercedes S Class saloon? It would take a brave person to spend that sum of their own money on a luxury car, would they get value for money, would it live up to expectations & would you get satisfaction from it?

      My experience of the new Mercedes S class came quite recently, a 60 mile drive in one & a 60 mile return trip as a passenger, if you want to find out how the 'other half' live & drive, read on.

      THE MERCEDES S CLASS

      Arguably the most respected luxury car in the world the S class Mercedes is the company's flag ship model that costs between £55.595 for the 'basic' model & £148.290 for the top of the range one. For that sum of money you get a choice of petrol or diesel models with various levels of luxuries although I do find it hard to believe there is a £92.695 price difference between the basic & top of the range models. However, lets get too over excited here, even as lottery winners you want value for money so we'll slum it & go for the basic diesel model which I drove at a mere £55.595!!

      At this price range there is fair amount of competition, the main contenders being BMW, Audi, Jaguar & Lexus, I have omitted Bentley, Rolls Royce & Maybach as they all cost considerably more.

      The car I tested was a S320 V-6 diesel which came with a seven speed automatic gearbox. From outside the S class is a big car, it is 5076mm in length (16.65ft in old money!), 1871mm wide & weighs 2000kg (2 tonnes). For all its size it will hold five people in relative luxury & comes with a decent sized boot.

      It's not the most elegant big car on the road, its rear bulging arches look out of place & from the front it doesn't look much different from the smaller Mercedes models. This particular example had only the Mercedes badges, nothing else, so no one would know which model you are driving. None the less it still quite a distinctive car with the traditional Mercedes grille & three pointed star badge on the top of the grille.
      From outside there is no denying that it is beautifully finished with perfect slim gaps between the body panels, I hear you saying 'well it should be at that price!
      The key is usually shaped with a chrome effect look about it, it has three buttons, one for unlocking the doors, one for locking them & one for releasing the boot lid.

      Open up the big heavy doors to step inside & they close like a bank vault door with a reassuring clunk. Once inside you can't help but notice how spacious & luxurious it is in here.
      The first thing you notice about the S class is the absence of a gear lever & handbrake form the traditional central position. No radio or CD player to be seen & no heater controls, what is going on here then?

      In fact for such a well appointed car the interior has a very minimalistic look about it, however everything listed above (plus some more) are all here just cunningly disguised.

      The gear lever protrudes from the steering column on the right hand side where you would normally have the wiper switch in a modern car. The handbrake is a simple electronic switch on the right hand side of the dash, this leaves the central area freed up for the main control function knob (named Comand) which sits where the gear lever would normally be placed.
      It controls many functions including the radio settings, heating & air conditioning (although there are some basic switches for that on the dash), sat nav & the lumber function of the front seats (more about that later). It's quite smart having a mouse style control that performs so many functions leaving the dash free from fiddly switches & other controls. I dare say if it was to fail you would be stuck, but hey don't think like that, this is an S class Mercedes!

      As you play about with it the functions are clearly displayed on a central screen in the upper dash. Your left wrist rests on a padded area above the control which makes performing any changes very user friendly. It's a bit like a wrist pad on a mouse pad when you are working your computer at home.
      Lift the pad up & below is a phone control which can be linked to your own phone which can be located in a special holder in the centre console. All commands can be controlled from this phone pad & sent through the speakers. Just a pity the wrist pad is hinged towards the driver, suits left hand drive rather than right hand drive.

      In the centre of the dash is a small panel which opens up too reveal the CD player & controls. Close the panel when you park up & most people wouldn't realise its there. There are many rubber lined cubby holes that have lids linked to small dampers that open & close with such precision.
      The main centre console is in two halves, top half can be hinged to either side to house small objects or lifted towards the rear to house larger items. All these panels are fitted with tasteful wood veneer which is also fitted along the entire width of the dash.

      With wood on the doors, centre console & dash plus the gorgeous leather seats the S Class Mercedes reeks luxury. There are even four vanity mirrors with lights so you have no excuse for your mascara being smudged.

      The main instrument housing is blank until you switch on the ignition, once on the display is white on black & looks like a piece of quality engineering. Between the central air vents is a handsome square white faced clock with hands, so much classier than a digital readout.

      From the front seats the electronic adjustment can be made via smart looking controls on the doors. The backrest, cushion & even the headrests are all electronically adjusted by the touch of a button. For the driver, via the central command unit, you can activate the front seat lumber support & for a mere £1243.00 extra you can have a seat massager (yes really!). Imagine driving a long distance & your back starts to ache, instead of stopping in a lay by to stretch your legs you just switch on the massager & the seat starts to massage your back, you can control how much or how little the effect has on your back via the central control which displays the function on the information screen.

      Some other useful extras, a fridge (£822.00), heated steering wheel £202.00), comfort ventilated front seat (£646), 20" AMG alloy wheels (£2623.00) & a digital TV (£803.00). There are many other options & before you know it your S Class will cost around £75.000!
      This is lottery cash............why worry! For such a big car Mercedes don't fit parking sensors as standard.

      This S class had other tricks up its sleeve though, an accident avoidance systems can be fitted, through a series of clever sensors on board it can sense if an accident is about to happen & take control of the situation.
      Such as a night-vision camera, and the Distronic Plus active cruise control will brake the car to a standstill from 125mph without your foot touching the pedal. (Scary or what!!)
      Brake Assist Plus looks up the road and will not only warn you if you're too close to the car in front, it will also prime the brake hydraulics for an emergency stop even if you don't use maximum pedal pressure.
      You pay extra for these features but Mercedes reckons that these entire systems combine will create such a sense of well-being and security in the car that, on average, you will actually have a lower heartbeat, anything up to five beats a minute compared to a normal car fitted without these safety features.

      DRIVING THE MERCEDES S CLASS

      Well it's easy to get a comfortable driving position & once comfortable you can help but notice how big the S Class is. The key slots into a small square hole on the dash & you turn the key as normal to start the car. Modern diesels like this don't need a five second wait until the glow plug lights extinguish, they just start as per normal. Once started the instrument display lights up you engage gear via the right hand gear lever stalk. The choice is limited, neutral, park, reverse & drive, that is it. Move the lever to the top for reverse, down one to neutral, press the button in the neutral position to engage park or push down for drive.

      You can change gear manually via two paddle switches mounted on the steering wheel, one up changes & one down changes but after the novelty wears off I preferred to do it automatically.

      It engages gear so smoothly, you release the handbrake via a small switch on the right hand side of the dash & you move off. Gear changes are so smooth you lose track of which of the seven gears you are in, the steering feels light but tightens up at speed.
      This is a car to enjoy driving, you don't want to drive it like a hooligan, the three pointed star badge on the bonnet gives you a nice guide up front, a bit of a regal presences on the road perhaps. The is large car is surprisingly easy to manoeuvre around & progress through the gears is incredibly smooth.

      There is ample performance, even on the motorway any drastic kick down changes are so smooth & effective. Brakes are outstanding & very assuring considering you are driving a 2 ton vehicle.
      I only drove it on dual carriage ways but even with four people on board at speed the S Class feels completely stable & I would think handling on tighter country roads would be excellent despite the car's bulk.

      Engine noise despite it being a V-6 diesel is surprisingly smooth & quiet & the smooth ride from the suspension gives the S Class a real comfortable drive for the driver & passengers. It was all the more surprising how it crashed over nasty pot holes & you were well aware of it, I would have thought it would have handled them much better than it did.

      MERCEDES & THE ENVIRONMENT

      If you care for the environment then chances are you wouldn't consider a car like this which must be gutsy & bad for pollution. Well here is a surprise, the S Class Mercedes is no worse than many smaller engine cars costing considerably less.
      The official fuel consumption figures run into the mid 40's mpg although I only managed 29 mpg at best & 20 mpg at worst. The emissions figures are 201kg/km, a similar sized engine in a Range Rover will surpass 300kg/km & many 'run of the mill' cars with much smaller engines have higher figures than this.
      Praise indeed for the Mercedes Benz engineers who managed to get the S Class this efficient.

      ADVANTAGES & DISADVANTAGES OF S CLASS OWNERSHIP

      The advantages are numerous; the badge would send a message to others that you are successful person. Your friends & neighbours may be impressed & you can wallow in the luxury every time you drive it.

      However, there are a number of disadvantages, the cost of ownership wouldn't come cheap, depreciation would be horrendous, a tank of fuel would set you back nearly £100.00 & be prepared to pay around £100.00 an hour for dealership charges when the warranty runs out.

      CONCLUSION

      Would I buy one? No, it's simply too big & impractical for me, lottery cash to spend or not. I couldn't park it outside my house without worrying about some jealous anti social low life dragging a key along the paintwork.
      This is a car best for directors where a company pays the bills, rock stars, football stars & lottery winners where you wouldn't worry how much its going cost to run.

      For a few hours I enjoyed my drive in this impressive luxury car & as a passenger grateful that someone else was paying the fuel bills.

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