The New Mercedes S-Class: Now Just a Regular Car
May 15 will go down in history as the day when the W222 S-Class generation was officially unveiled. Heralded as “the best car in the world”, it’s without a doubt nice to look at, well engineered and filled with the latest technology. It got me plenty-excited, but in the same way I got excited when the Toyota GT 86 came out… maybe even less.
The S-Class is far from being an amazing, intangible creature that people dream about. It’s just a really big sedan that’s available at about the same money as a top-spec E-Class and with 200 horsepower diesel engines. It’s what people who take Viagra and don’t know how to use their iPhone drive.
I think there’s nothing wrong with Mercedes as a brand, it’s just the way things are done these days. The problem is the consumer market, which doesn’t like originality that much. How many cows are killed to make an interior? How many buttons are inside? How much horsepower does the engine make? How much this?… How many that?… With that kind of mentality, you can have yourself a Hyundai and think it’s luxury, but it’s not.
Luxury is when you can afford to use real chrome, 20 pounds of brass for the ashtrays, real crystal for the champagne glasses and 20 layers of lacquered wood to make a single button. Mercedes has a very good idea of what “ultimate” means, since they make the G-Class. That thing is the epitome of being a badass rockstar on the road and off it. It’s why the G-Monster exists after all these years. The S-Class has’t been like that for decades. It’s just one of those “amazing right now” cars that is very good at everything and brilliant at nothing and I’m not sure three or four years from now people will still think it’s cool when they see one on the road.
Does the S-Class need a range of small diesel, hybrid and petrol engines to be cool? Arguably not. Choice is good, but the one thing the really wealthy people of the world don’t have enough of is not money or power, it’s time. That’s where I think the S-Class reveals itself as being just another car. Because they’ve made such a big deal about fuel economy, they’ve revealed that the S is in reality the best company car and nothing more.
What? Think about it! Why else would you combine luxury with a small displacement diesel engine and force yourself into the lowest emissions levels possible? Everybody makes cool hybrids for rich executives, BMW, Audi, Porsche and especially Lexus, but Mercedes is the only company to make one that doesn’t go really fast, which just screams “I just want to pay low taxes and have legroom”.
It’s the same story with the 2014 model’s design. Everything is nice and simple, like a minimalist sculpture. If you wanted fictional, not functional, look at a Bentley. If they hadn’t told us what size it is, I would have believed it’s a C-Class with LEDs. There are no fintails, no exagerations and nothing to make you feel like a celebrity on the red carpet, nothing to say “oh, the queen has one of these”.
For all the niggles I have with the S-Class, it’s a nice car and will remain the standard in the “luxury” car world. But “standard” is never the way to make a flagship.