- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 10, 2006

The car of the future is available now. It’s the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, an attractive sedan with amazing technological advancements in protection, safety, sound, design and comfort.

Outwardly, the 2007 S550 appears very muscular with circular wheel wells that seem to wrap into the headlamps. Fog lamps are enclosed in the bumper.

Lighting is just one of its many safety features. At night, Infrared Night View Assist allows the driver to see something not visible with low beams. This system is activated with a switch on the dashboard and what’s on the road is shown on a screen just in front of the steering wheel. Taillamps are another area of safety. In emergency braking, the taillamps display an extra-bright glow so a driver behind the S-Class will notice.

Both front passenger seats are designed to protect the occupants in the event of a crash. Side bolsters wrap the person into the center of the seat while the safety belt pulls the occupant inward. Both seats also use the side bolsters to hug the rider as the car makes turns. When going through a left-hand curve, for example, the right bolster gently pushed my left side. These seats also massaged my back during my 300-mile test-drive. In addition, these exceptionally comfortable seats contain a fan to cool the body.

The interior of the Mercedes S550 not only has great eye-appeal, but has the quietest interior of any car I’ve ever driven. The ride is smooth, solid, and quite responsive to its 5.5-liter V-8 all-aluminum engine that produces 382 horsepower and is linked to a seven-speed automatic transmission.

However, the main focus of this $86,175 Mercedes-Benz is on safety.

It features a new version of PRE-SAFE. Should the system determine that the driver is not applying sufficient braking to avoid a collision, PRE-SAFE takes over and applies more braking power.

Or if the sensors detect the car is about to spin out of control, it closes the side windows and sunroof to allow the occupants the full protection of the side impact air bags.

Best of all, the brake assist system enables the vehicle to stop in a shorter distance, which in many cases eliminates any collision.

But the braking advantage doesn’t stop there. While on a crowded slow-moving highway, my tester would automatically slow down or stop according to the flow of traffic.

When traffic started moving, I gently nudged the accelerator pedal and my car picked up speed to follow at a safe distance.

When parallel parking I simply pulled up to an open space, put the car in reverse, and on the screen on the dash panel I could clearly see the area I intended to back into outlined with blue, yellow and red lines where I could safely back up. Audible tones assisted me.

The Harman/Kardon sound system is the best I’ve heard. During my journey, music from Sirius Satellite was clear and centrally balanced when I was in the driver’s seat.Yet when I rode in the back seat, the central balance still remained.

Incidentally, the rear seats can be adjusted and reclined to various comfort positions. And the trunk is enormous.

The screen on the dash panel is very informative and even contains the proper names of gas stations throughout the country.

This screen blends in with the dash panel, making it easy for the driver to see and use while driving.

I’ve driven just about every car on the road and have never seen anything like this S-Class. Now it’s a question of how long it will take other manufacturers to catch up.

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