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Mercedes S550


The last word in luxury limos hasn’t been spoken until Mercedes-Benz has had the floor. Herr Dr. Benz’s firm was making the preferred shipping containers for the mostly unelected elite when Audi was merely a business plan, when BMW was in the bubble-car business, and when the word “lexus” was just badly butchered Latin. No company in this market has more experience catering to finicky buyers.

Thus does Mercedes now deliver its latest take on the executive-level sedan after just about everybody else, from Hyundai to Hongqi, has taken a shot. Over the years, Benz and its closest competitors have reduced power, handling, and comfort to commodities. Supplying them in overabundance is the table ante now, so the strategy with the new S, code-named W222 and initially available in the U.S. as the S550 and S550 4MATIC, has been to think of what else the rich desire even before the rich think of it themselves.

For example, absolutely nobody knows he needs two reverse gear ratios or stereo-speaker mood lights in seven driver-selectable colors. At least, not yet. Or seat coolers that suck (air) for four minutes before they blow, which does indeed chill your sweaty backside more quickly. The “hot-stone massage” feature, also optional, feels as if somebody were poking you with warm snooker balls. And the softer pillows on the headrests of the two optional, electrically reclining “executive” rear chairs are like dunking your head into clotted cream. Americans even get special maxi air conditioning that can channel a nor’easter at your chest, something Europeans hate, apparently.


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