2011 Mercedes Benz S500 AMG | road test
The S-Class is a Titan in all respects and regardless of what the competition throws at it, the flagship Merc remains the obvious option for the wealthy entrepreneur. A 4 day stint with the S500 AMG variant of the benchmark allowed us, the AutoMiddleEast.com team to get up-close and personal with the German and with a little non-German skepticism we proceeded.
The W221 S-Class first appeared in 2006 and we thought “No!!! Doesn’t cut it”. Fast forward 5 years and the face-lifted Merc is like that decked up parlour-frequenting girl next door, once we used to ignore. We picked up a Diamond White metallic S500 AMG from the Daimler AG office in JAFZA. The LED accents embedded in the headlamp and the tail lamp clusters are jeweled constellations that spare no sparkle, that and the beautifully crafted 19” AMG wheels are the definite style highlights. I do have to admit to having the slightest of tingles before stepping into what is possibly considered the best car in the world. Open doors and The EASY-ENTRY system moves the wheel and seats making it easy to climb in and out. The cabin insides are chic but not as contemporary as perhaps the Audi A8L we drove recently. The Cashmere beige leather seats offer primo comfort while the leather on the bolstered 4-spoke steering wheel feels like some select calf was sacrificed just so our palms grope better. The ambient lighting can be switched between 3 shades namely Solar, Neutral & Polar; a fascination for first timers. A jazzy bit was the flip open number pad for dialing in your telephone number.
ENGINE & PERFORMANCE
You may think any Merc that wears an AMG badge goes like stink, you may not be wrong. Nestled in the engine bay of this unsuspecting limo-mimicking 4 door saloon, is not an AMG sourced but an AMG worthy 4.7-litre V8 engine and for a bit of extra schnell Mercedes force-fed the motor using twin turbos. It churns out a 90’s supercar rivaling 435bhp and enough torque to give Jupiter a spin. Put your foot down and there is a moment’s hesitation after which its all German Blitzkrieg. 0 to 100km/h comes in a 5.3 seconds that is as close to a claim as any car would get. Passing acceleration is bit of a time warp and you better watch out for the quick sweeping speedo needle else you end up exceeding speeds limits. Braking figures were not particularly short but the 3.8 seconds it took to come to a halt from 100kmph was void of a shimmying tail end; the S500 keeps its line.
RIDE & HANDLING
The fabled magic carpet ride has been brought to life by Mercedes. One journo described its ride quality as wafting. It was the 1st time I heard the word so I ran a check on the good old dic’.
Waft – intransitive verb: to move or go lightly on or as if on a buoyant medium
Steering feel is like a hot knife to butter. Smooth with an apt lightness and feedback.
The 4 lines above make trivial gestures of the S500’s 2 favourite selling points. We say drive it to feel it. Quick turn-ins are not the term associated with this gargantuan vehicle; body and chassis feel like two separate entities. Be informed of this cars power before taking it out for a spin, the unassuming driver just might have asked for too much. Fortunately the electronic nannies step in and sorts things out for you. The large proportions mean the car fills in the whole of the parking slot so make sure you have one that accommodates well.
FEATURES & PRACTICALITY
The crowded feature listing would pamper even Richie rich and friends. Starting with the seats, they have a Dymanic seat function that holds you in place, countering cornering forces. They also have the option to cool/heat the seat back and bottom, they don’t work as well as they should but we appreciate its presence. Then the massage function, not the sort that rivals the exotic Thai variety but it keeps the Missus domesticated temporarily. Habitual for some not to close doors properly, worry not the Closing aid for doors will do it for you. We lend large ears to Harman Kardon Logic 7 Surround sound. The clarity is crystal-like and output is borderline deafening. You also get USB and iPod connectivity ports in the glove box. Rear passengers can keep themselves entertained with the DVD player and TV screens. As large a trunk it may be the coolbox takes up an unusual amount of space, even so 2 suitcases should fit with ease. If we were to mention anything mention quirky it would have to be the annoying ticking sound from the turn lamps, also they were small and unnoticeable. The spec sheet mentions an electrical inflator for your tyre. Now that’s a first.
Forgotten are the days of the S-Class launch when one MB personnel while demonstrating Distronic in fog, ended up kissing someone else’s bumper. Safety is of little concern in the S500, it is a legalized armoured vehicle for the road. MI6 should get 007 one of these. Besides the humdrum, you get Brake Assist that boosts brake pressure, Active Blind Spot Assist that alerts the driver of a vehicle on the lane beside by illuminating a yellow warning triangle in the corresponding side mirror, Active lane keeping Assist that simulates rumble strip vibrations in the steering wheel and Night view assist PLUS that recognizes and illuminates pedestrians on a screen in the instrument panel. Yes the car comes with Pedestrian protection; it raises the hood by 50mm enlarging the deformation zone and there by reducing severity of impact, but that is no excuse to exercise the feature. The Reversing camera is a commoner in the spec-sheets these days and is the most utilitarian feature here.
The BlueEFFICIENCY technology Mercedes trumpets about is all good but the force fed 4.7-litre V8 engine and the massive 2 tonne weight it hauls is not helping anything. Let’s just say the fuel efficiency figures complement its performance credentials well. Claimed fuel economy figures and CO2 emissions are 9.4-9.6l/100km and 219-224g/100km respectively.
It tops half a million Dirham but if you were to pay any lesser for a flagship it simply wouldn’t feel as special. Like how purchasing Louis Vuitton accessories at a bargain store never feels as good as buying it full price and that’s our justification.
Mercedes have taken 3 of the most important aspects of the driving experience and perched in each of the departments. If the desire is to be chauffeured, ride quality matters and it is sublime and if you wish to take the driver’s seat the steering feel and the relentless power appeal large. Perhaps its Achilles heel is that, although the S-Class as the flagship, represents peaking character of the Mercedes brand, the sultanic G-Class and the CL-Class diminish its snob value. In anycase, there is a sense of accomplishment you embrace when you buy and drive this car. Until the 2011 Mercedes S500 AMG locks horns with a similarly spec-ed specimen from Beemer, it remains the Big Daddy of Luxury.
Engine: 4.7-litre V8 twin turbo
Max power (bhp @ rpm): 435bhp @ 5250 rpm
Max torque (Nm @ rpm): 700Nm @ 1800-3500 rpm
Transmission: 7G-TRONIC automatic transmission
Drivetrain layout: Front engine / Rear wheel drive
Weight: 2070 kg
0 to 100km/h: 5.0 seconds (claimed)
0 to 60km/h: 2.8 seconds (tested)
0 to 100km/h: 5.3 seconds (tested)
80 to 120km/h: 3.1 seconds (tested)
60 to 120km/h: 4.3 seconds (tested)
100 to 0km/h: 3.8 seconds (tested)
Base price: Dhs. 399,000
Price as tested: Dhs. 553,000
Photography courtesy of Philip Cherian