- The Washington Times - Friday, June 2, 2000

MODEL: Mercedes-Benz S-Class
VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door sedan
PRICE-AS-TESTED: $81,065
MILEAGE: 16 city, 23 highway

Mercedes-Benz hasn't lost its penchant for keeping its S-Class equipped with the largest number and the latest innovations to make both driver and passenger comfortable. The result of adhering to this tradition is the wizardry found on the Mercedes-Benz for the next century, the new 2000 S-Class.
Beyond the fact that this is an entirely new automobile, the new S-Class has more attractions than your average video arcade. It isn't enough to have a normal navigation system installed in the dash of this vehicle, Mercedes-Benz engineers had to take it many steps farther. Not only will the system show you your location on the video screen, it will guide you to wherever you chose to go.
The system is integrated with an assistance feature, which, through the built-in cell phone allows you to talk to a real person located at a central control room, somewhere not in outer space I presume, to get a myriad of information. These folks are ready to help you find the closest fuel station or the location of the best Italian restaurant in the area.
The new S-Class isn't just for the techie in you; this automobile fulfills the basic of needs, like the enthusiast in you. In fact, that is evident by one of the tag lines Mercedes marketers want us to remember when thinking of the new S-Class. The 2000 S-Class is built for the affluent enthusiast. This is a vehicle that not only wants to coddle you in elegance, but produces gobs of emotion along the way.
Part of the emotion is produced by the power emitting from the new 5-liter V-8 engine. It is also produced by the wonderful growl emanating from the tailpipe. Mercedes-Benz engineers have worked diligently to keep the emotional exuberance of the exhaust tone to a level that reverberates from your soul. At first I didn't think much of this phenomenon until I drove both V-8-equipped S-Class vehicles back to back.
The base, if you can call it a base vehicle, is equipped with a capable 4.3-liter V-8. This is the engine that has made both the E-Class and M-Class such rewarding vehicles in their categories. In the S-Class this engine does quite well, and if you are not aware of the 5-liter performance, you would go happily down the road. The key here is don't, under any circumstances, drive the up-level vehicle. You may be in danger of lusting after something other than your present vehicle.
The larger engine thrusts this lighter S-Class to its top speed of 130 mph (electronically regulated because of the speed-rated tires, it can go faster) easily and rapidly. Two elements besides the engine contribute to this ability; engineers have saved about 500 pounds of energy-absorbing weight over the previous S-Class. They have also lowered the drag coefficient to .027, the lowest for any of today's production vehicles.
The ability to lower the drag was helped by the return of the air suspension. However, this isn't reminiscent of the previous versions of the air suspension even the ones found on early M-B vehicle. This is an all-new system and one that will make you forget about those earlier entries.
The air-suspension system on the 2000 S-Class is more sophisticated, yet much more simple in its operation. The driver can participate or not, it is your pleasure. If you chose to flip the rocker switch on the dash you can raise the vehicle 20 mm. If you care not to enter your own input, do nothing and the car will lower itself when it senses it should and raise itself accordingly. Once at 50 mph the car lowers to the original height. The system also lowers the vehicle 15 mm at speeds over 68 mph, increasing fuel economy while reducing wind noise.
As one would expect from Mercedes-Benz, the new S-Class offers up a classically designed and spacious passenger compartment. Built on a long-wheelbase platform increases interior room. I was able to set the driving position exactly where I like it and still be able to sit in the rear seat with more than ample legroom. Of course, legroom isn't the only area of spaciousness offered by the new S-Class. Opt for the individual rear-seating configuration and you get adjustable bucket seats that place your comfort at your fingertips.
Safety is also a major feature in the S-Class. As you would expect, the S-Class offers more air bags then an assembly of politicians. Not only do you get dual front supplemental restraints, you get side-impact bags and a full-length side curtain that helps protect the neck and head during a side impact. If this keeps up we will find ourselves surrounded in air bags in any type of collision.
Continuing the charge to improving automobile lighting, the new S-Class is equipped with xenon headlights as well as advancing the coverage of using light-emitting diodes as light sources for brake lights. The center brake light began the use of LEDs, but now, we see their use expanding as engineers have shown that they are quicker to react to the electrical impulse and brighter to the human eye. Faster to energize, more visible when they are on, all translates to fewer accidents in the long run. The pursuit of which we are all in agreement.
With all the electronic gadgets it may take you some time to feel thoroughly comfortable with their operation. However, the new S-Class will make your drive safer, more comfortable and certainly instill assurance that no matter what the world might dish out you will remain in control. If this is what the new millennium has in store for us, hold on. It is going to be an exhilarating ride.

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