Is This New Mercedes the Best Car in the World?

When you think of Daimler's (NASDAQOTH: DDAIF  ) Mercedes-Benz, there are a lot of things that come to mind: beautiful, technologically advanced, precision handling, luxury, expensive. But when you think of Mercedes' flagship S-Class, these words often fall short. The reason is the S-class is a car unlike any other, and for Mercedes' 2014 S-class, the only words it wants describing it are "best automobile in the world." 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons. 

All hail the S-class
Car enthusiasts around the world know that when Mercedes releases a new S-class, it's time to take notice. The reason is simple: Mercedes is known for using the S-class to showcase new technology, which often trickles down to not only other Mercedes, but also to vehicles across the industry.

For example, on its 1978 S-class, Mercedes, along with its partner Bosch, unveiled its second-generation four-wheel anti-lock braking system. For its 1981 S-class debut, Mercedes introduced the world's first fully operational driver airbag in a production vehicle. That was followed by the 1987 S-class debut with front passenger airbags. And in 1996, Mercedes released brake assist, or BAS. Following each of these S-class debuts, Mercedes' new innovations became standard for all Mercedes models and had a trickle-down effect in the automotive industry. 

The 2014 S-class is no different. It's the first car to be able to drive itself in heavy traffic. As Forbes states:

The 2014 S-Class brings us one step closer to automated driving. It has cameras that act as eyes and radar sensors that act as ears, for a 360-degree view of the road. It knows when cars are approaching too quickly in adjacent lanes and can warn the driver. It knows when a rear-end collision is imminent and can hit the brakes and activate hazard lights to mitigate injury. It can drive itself in gridlock. It can steer out of danger if the driver is too drowsy to stay in the lane. Much of the technology is standard, and although it seems out of reach for the masses now, it will trickle down to every vehicle, eventually. 

Misplaced arrogance or justified confidence?
Also, for the first time ever, Mercedes is indedd declaring that this is the "best automobile in the world." While that might seem typical of a manufacturer trying to market its car, keep in mind that Mercedes has never declared such as thing before. It is, as The Sun put it, "either misplaced arrogance or justified confidence." The Sun concluded that it's the latter.

In addition to being able to drive itself, the S550, set to launch this fall, has a number of impressive features, including a twin-turbo V8 that produces 455 horsepower and 516 pounds of torque -- more than similar BMW, Audi, and Toyota Lexus models. It also has a top speed of 130 mph and can go from 0 to 60 in 4.8 seconds. For aerodynamic efficiency, the S-class has a low drag coefficient of 0.24 -- the same as Tesla Motors' Model S. It's the first car to use "Magic Body Control," or cameras, to automatically adjust the suspension for road conditions such as potholes. It uses a greater amount of aluminum, which makes the car 200 pounds lighter, even though it's wider than its predecessor. And, for the fuel-conscious, in some markets Mercedes will offer the BlueTEC Hybrid -- a diesel hybrid that gets 64 mpg, according to Mercedes. Clearly, this is an impressive car.

The S-class is back for revenge
Consumer Reports called Tesla's Model S the "Best car they've ever tested," and reports indicate that during the first quarter, the Model S outsold Mercedes' S-class. However, other reports such as U.S. News Best Cars -- which based its rankings on 105 published reviews and test-drives -- rated the Mercedes 2013 S-class higher than Tesla's Model S. In fact, the 2013 S-class scored 9.1 overall, while the Model S scored 8.9, in the Super Luxury Cars list. Considering the 2014 S-class is even better than the 2013 model, competition for "best car" should start to heat up -- although to be fair, the Model S and S-class are two very different cars, with different target consumers.

Best car in the world?
The S-class won't be released until fall, but it's already garnering praise. According to AutoWeek, the 2014 S-class is "quite possibly the most advanced road car ever," and "a genuine leap over its predecessor." More importantly, after test-driving it, Greg Kable stated that the new S-class "could just be the best Mercedes-Benz ever built." Motor Trend, meanwhile, stated, "The S-Class is back in the front of its class with plenty of wow factor." And as someone who's personally owned a Mercedes, I can say there's nothing quite like it.

Is the S-class the best car in the world? Maybe. What we do know is that Mercedes doesn't release a redesigned S-class every year, so when it does, it's worth paying attention.

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Read/Post Comments (15) | Recommend This Article (14)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2013, at 10:51 AM, 2fools4nun wrote:

    "Best car in the world"... For who? This is purely a subjective term. This car doesn't come close to meeting my needs in an automobile. Mercedes should state what it is "A really nice car and status symbol for the rich" because that's exactly what it is

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2013, at 11:16 AM, nuguy36 wrote:

    One has to wonder how reliable this new s class will be when you consider all the latest/greatest electronic wizardry going in to it. The previous s class MB's was a complete nightmare with reliability issues, mostly electronic. Lexus puts out a better product in my honest opinion. I say this from the viewpoint of a family who has been owned Mercedes Benz's since the late 1950's. What ever happened to the Mercedes Benz slogan: Engineered like no other car in the world".

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2013, at 11:24 AM, Petronilus wrote:

    When judging a car as "best car" it's relative to some priority of different parameters. Tesla Model S is providing an excellent efficiency around 90MPGe with better than Mercedes S acceleration. Such combination of "green performance" is not available in any ICE (gas) car.

    However, Mercedes has their SLS AMG Electric in development that will provide some 750hp through a quad motor drivetrain with individual per wheel precision torque defining an entire new level of driving performance never heard of in any traditional ICE car.

    Thus, soon, even Mercedes will start to have EV as top of the line.

    In today's world, going green is becoming cool and Model S is starting to lose it's coolness, but Mercedes wont be sleeping.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2013, at 11:27 AM, billingshc wrote:

    I'm sure the new Benz will be able to exceed 130 mph.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2013, at 11:28 AM, fangzamillion wrote:

    "S" Class? exactly what does that mean? Like all the Mercedes "letter" class, I always wonder about this sort of thing. Whatever it means, I do like the Freightliner grill and headlight styling. It gives the machine a rugged, heavy-duty look.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2013, at 11:28 AM, jimatmad wrote:

    Is this the best car in the world?

    No.

    Mercedes reliability is in the crapper. It's unaffordable. MPGs suck in standard trim (the high-mileage version I'm sure is REALLY unaffordable).

    And if that's a picture of it, it looks like a stodgy old-people car.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2013, at 11:40 AM, rav55 wrote:

    Looks like a GM product.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2013, at 11:45 AM, daviscw1117 wrote:

    fanqzamillion The s-Benz S-Class is a series of luxury sedans. S-Class" is an anglicisation of ""S-Klasse," a German abbreviation of "Sonderklasse," which means "special class" (in the sense of "a class of its own"). In automotive terms thus refers to "a specially outfitted car. One things about these cars they never die. I drive one of the grandfathers of this car. 1985 500SEL. 28 years old still looks and drives like it came right off the show room floor. My Brother in law has worked on just about 35 years and says its the best car he has ever driven. buy a Mercedes S class and drive it for life.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2013, at 12:04 PM, Gunnyphillips wrote:

    I don't see any angle where "best car in the world" could be fairly applied to a Mercedes vehicle. Anyone who has ever owned on knows the maintenance costs are astronomical, and unlike Japanese rivals such as Lexus, you will be spending a lot of time at your local dealers service shop. If they wanted to call the new S550 the most technologically advanced car I might have gone along with that. But to call it the overall best car is an arrogant and ridiculous statement in my opinion.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2013, at 12:06 PM, jimatmad wrote:

    An overpriced, oversized, over-trinketed over the highway cruiser doesn't even meet the criteria of being a 'good' car for me, let alone the best.

    Couple that with M-B's legendary reliability (and not in a good way), and this becomes a nonsense question.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2013, at 12:06 PM, karron0624 wrote:

    jimatmad,

    Mercedes reliabilty has been great. It was ranked number five this year. Your thinking of the 1996-2003 models when they merged with Chrysler. Also, what the point of commenting if you can't afford the car. It is only a 100k car. Similar price to everything in the class.

    nuguy36

    Same thing. The S-class you're talking about is the w220. The w221 was at the top of reliability (in the Luxury Sedan department, it was right behind Lexus.) Overall, when you reach the flagship Sedans, the best is highly subjective. If you want comfort you'll go with the Lexus, Mercedes, or whatever GM will deliver in 2015. If you want sport you go with Maserati, BMW, Audi, or AMG.

    Personally, I own the 2009 s550, and with my lease ending this fall, I'll probably lease a 7-series for two years then come back to the S-class. No matter what car, even Lexus, I would stay away for the first model year. That is when the car is truly tested. They do need to redesign the rear and the steering wheel. Those two things throw off the whole car.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2013, at 1:03 PM, cityperson wrote:

    The MB S-class may be considered the best car in the world, but the afordabilty is the problem for most.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2013, at 3:44 PM, emjayay wrote:

    Best? I'm sure it is, if you have the cost of a lot of new houses for one. It's big, it's comfortable, it's luxurious, it's super safe. Nothing certainly is as loaded with all the latest technology.

    There's a lot of talk about reliability. Mercedes hasn't been the best always, but also each repair costs twice as much for labor and three times as much for the part and there's ten times more things to go wrong. For the guy with the 100plusK and it's new, who cares. For the guy who buys it in ten years for 20K, watch out.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2013, at 4:27 PM, southernshark wrote:

    Looks very similar to a dozen other cars on the road. I wouldn't buy one.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 2:38 AM, imissgermany wrote:

    I drove a 1972 280CE and 1984 280SE during the 30 years I lived & worked in Germany, and the 280SE is still on the road! Boy, I loved that car. Had 5 speeds & was FAST! We would have shipped it back with us, but it had German specs. The recent S-class models leave me cold, I'm afraid. In Germany, one can still buy the S-class with standard transmission, but not here.

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