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."
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.
Fool contributor Katie Spence has no position in any stocks mentioned. Follow her on Twitter: @TMFKSpence. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Tesla Motors . Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.