- The Washington Times - Friday, August 16, 2002

THE HAGUE Four years ago the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class made its public debut at the auto show in Paris. In the life cycle of the S, seven to eight years, it was time for modifications and introducing innovations.

The 2003 S-Class has a more aggressive front with new-look lower air intakes, a higher and more pronounced slant radiator grille, and headlights of clear glass and bright reflectors. Also, the housings of the rearview mirrors have been redesigned.

Inside, more than 40 features have been either redesigned, or new materials have been used. Chrome strips adorn the wood trim, seat upholstery has been improved and control switches have been more elegantly designed. There are new, more comfortable seats, and the "dynamic multicontour seat" is available as an option. This seat has integrated air chambers that are inflated and deflated according to the desired comfort level. A built-in computer measures data such as lateral acceleration, vehicle speed and steering angle to vary inflation pressure and volume of air in the chambers.

In the future, the Comand control system will be standard on the S-Class. Compared with the current system, it has a larger and clearer color 6.5-inch display. In the S600, Comand is linked to the navigation system.

Mercedes-Benz introduces a new safety system, Pre-Safe. It can recognize the threat of a collision in advance and initiates measures to prepare the occupants for the impact. It does so by tensioning the seat belts to ensure that driver and front passenger are in the best possible sitting position before a crash occurs. That way the air bags are able to optimally deploy upon impact.

At the same time, Pre-Safe moves the front passenger seats and the electrically adjustable individual rear seats into their optimum positions and closes the sunroof automatically when the vehicle begins to skid. This new system is based on the findings of Mercedes accident research that show that in most accidents there is a relatively long period of time between the moment a collision is detected and the moment it occurs.

New for the S-Class is the 4Matic electronically controlled permanent four-wheel-drive system. It will be available as an option for the six- and eight-cylinder gasoline models.

Mercedes-Benz developed the new 5.5-liter, V-12 twin turbo for the superluxury Maybach, but the S-Class can also be equipped with this power plant. With its output of 500 horsepower, it is one of the most powerful engines in its class. Outstanding torque enables the 12-cylinder car to accelerate to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds.

The six-cylinder engines have been revised. For the S 350 the displacement of the gasoline engine was increased to 3.7 liters, enabling the output to be boosted to 245 horsepower. The power output of the six-cylinder common-rail diesel engine rose to 204 horsepower.

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