- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2002

Buyers of luxury cars naturally equate first-rate materials, fine workmanship and unique design with the image of luxury. But the formula for luxury just isn't complete without a healthy dose of performance. And buyers of ultraluxury cars such as the Mercedes-Benz S 600 and CL 600 not only expect superb ride and handling, they demand refined power and lots of it.

With two six-cylinder engines, three V-8s and a V-12, the S-Class offers a range of powerplants to match most buyers' tastes, as well as the size of their bank accounts. Power output ranges from about 200 to almost 500 horsepower in the ultraluxury S 600 model.

At the top of the new powertrain lineup is a newly developed 12-cylinder twin-turbo engine with water-cooled intercooler and other high-tech innovations. Made of advanced lightweight materials, this 5.5-liter V-12 develops a stunning 493 horsepower. The torque curve of the V-12 in the S 600 shows how effectively the fast-acting twin turbochargers do their job. Peak torque of 590 foot pounds comes onstream at 1,800 rpm and remains constant up to 3,500 rpm. Maximum power output of 493 horsepower is developed at 5,000 rpm.

The enormous power of the V-12 comes from the use of the twin turbochargers. Their cast-steel turbines are located in the exhaust manifold for maximum efficiency. Wastegates integrated into each turbocharger are activated electronically by the engine management microprocessor. The air compressed by the turbochargers flows through two water-cooled intercoolers to optimize its temperature and density prior to combustion.

On the highway, the new V-12 delivers a magnificent driving experience. Pushing the pedal to the floor provides the first sensation of power as your body is compressed into the seat back. Passing and merging take a remarkably short distance. It's easy to forget how much power you're dealing with because even under full power, drivetrain performance is smooth and quiet.

But there's more to the new S 600 than just raw power. Mercedes engineers haven't slowed down in their quest for improved vehicle safety, and one of their latest developments is showcased in their top-of-the-line sedan.

Called PRE-SAFE, it was developed to detect an imminent collision before it occurs and prepares to go into action immediately to prepare both the vehicle and its occupants.

PRE-SAFE is based on the findings of the Mercedes accident researchers. The results show that more than two-thirds of all crashes are preceded by critical dynamic situations such as skidding, emergency braking or a sudden evasive maneuver which provide advance warning that a collision is imminent. In the past, no use was made of this valuable information, which may last for several seconds. The familiar protection systems such as the seat belt, air bag, or belt tensioners are triggered only when the impact actually occurs.

PRE-SAFE, on the other hand, reads the danger signals in advance and uses the remaining time prior to the potential accident to activate precautionary safety measures. For example, if emergency braking is sensed, PRE-SAFE activates reversible belt tensioners to prevent the driver's and front passenger's bodies from moving too far forward during braking. At the same time, the position of the front passenger seat is corrected. If the seat is positioned too far forward, it is automatically moved farther back. If the backrest is angled too far back, it is adjusted to an upright position. Then the angle of the seat cushion is also adjusted if necessary.

PRE-SAFE also uses data from the stability control system to identify dangerous skidding movements of the vehicle. If such a situation is detected, the system automatically intervenes by activating the belt tensioners and repositioning the passenger seat but this time, it closes the sunroof to reduce the risk of injury to occupants during a roll-over.

The new twin turbo engine and the advanced concept of PRE-SAFE are just two of many interesting features in the 2003 S 600. For those who can afford it, there's nothing like the ultimate feeling of power, luxury and safety.

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