Mercedes-Benz S 600 L

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Keywords: Mercedes-Benz S 600 L

Description: Price as tested: $367,800 (Distronic cruise control — $3900; nine-spoke 18-inch alloys — no cost option) Dear reader, a technophobe I’m not. In recent memory, Chez Sinclair has

Price as tested: $367,800 (Distronic cruise control — $3900; nine-spoke 18-inch alloys — no cost option)

Dear reader, a technophobe I’m not. In recent memory, Chez Sinclair has been equipped with surround sound, a big flash telly, wifi internet, a washer that beeps when it’s finished and one of them PlayStation hand-job thingies. Yep, the writer is a fair dinkum up-with-the-times electronic wiz. That said, the level of computerization and electrification of home base took a quantum leap the other day — just by parking a car in the driveway.

To say the S 600 L, Mercedes-Benz’s top-of-the-line non-AMG four-door, is packed with technology, is a little like saying eating fairy floss involves the consumption of a couple of kilojoules. Just one look at the owner’s tome should be enough to convince you. It’s so big it lives behind the power-operated boot lid!

Standard inclusions in the twin-turbocharged V12-engined S 600 L comprise things like keyless entry and starting, multi-adjustable, heated and cooled active front seats and rear seats with individual adjustment and massage facilities. Then there’s the self-closing doors. Normal S-Class luxury inclusions like a zoned climate control system and multi-function multi-speaker COMAND navigation and Harmon Kardon audio system are givens… There’s sumptuous leather upholstery and plenty of highly polished wood and real alloy switchgear and highlights. Then there are the layer upon layer of driver safety aids — ABS, ESP, Pre-Safe, EBA, EBD and so on, all requiring a veritable LAN of wires, sensors and ECUs.

‘Our’ near-$370,000 (plus ORCs!) test car was also equipped with Mercedes’ infra-red Night View Assist (standard on the 600). Displayed in a ‘monitor’ that replaces the analog-style but digitally projected ‘speedo’, NVA provides daylight-style images that until now only special forces troops and 007 wannabes were accustomed. It’s probably a safety boon on deserted country roads — around town it provided novelty value only.

There was also ‘smart’ cruise control, a $3900 option. Though not the latest radar-guided Distronic Plus (shortly to debut Down Under as this is written) it was a boon nonetheless, especially when freeway bound.

Rather than continue ad nauseum, take it from me, if ‘it’ has been fitted to a car, chances are the S 600 lists ‘it’ on the standard equipment or options manifest. The 600’s one with the lot… Indeed, so overwhelming was the level of equipment that after a very short period, yours truly gave up trying to work, understand or use it all. And wondered if owners would not do the same…

You have to have attained a level of status and, dare I say, maturity to opt for an S-Class — especially the 600. Typically more mature buyers tend to be more conservative and less technologically inclined. Is the level of complexity delivered in the S 600 L, lesser S-Class models (to read our international and local launch reviews see links below) and the rest of the uber-limos really what these buyers want?

Like me, you probably tend to set your driving position once and leave it there (I stopped growing in my teens). There’s only a couple of radio stations I can abide for any more than a few minutes and you too probably can’t be bothered carting CDs in and out of the car. About 20 degrees C keeps me happy year round — you? I like to see the edges of the car in the rear-vision mirrors — one adjustment, also set and forget. And if Mercedes’ boffins have equipped the car with an automatic suspension system and smart six-speed auto gearbox that senses what ‘driving’ mood I’m in, I’m happy to let it do its stuff.

Thus, the S 600 L has convinced me it won’t be long before super luxury cars will eschew myriad settings and variables and involve a fitting not unlike that which a Beau Brummell tailor would undertake. Sir’s inside leg might not be measured but his driving position and taste climatic, transmission and suspension modes damn well will — as will his musical selection. Then along with the same choices of his/her significant other and a generic setting (for the garage man) all will be downloaded into the car.

Enough of the sermon… Myriad ‘adjustables’ and ‘tunables’ aside, the saving grace of the S 600 L is that as limos go, it’s a damn fine drive. The 380kW/830Nm twin-turbo 5.5-litre V12 engine is near-silent on push button start-up but Mercedes has allowed just a hint of its muscular offbeat rumble to infuse the cabin when the throttle is mashed.

It’s super smooth and sportscar fast — the 0-100km/h sprint takes a claimed 4.6sec. It seems like it takes longer to floor the l-o-n-g travel throttle than to dispatch the sprint itself.

On the freeway 110km/h seems laughably easy and barely a tickle of the throttle unleashes all those Newton-metres (max torque is available from 1900-3500rpm) and has you at a much more autobahn-like 140 or thereabouts. Take our advice and engage the cruise the minute you hint the multi-lane stuff.

If we practiced what we preached we may have been able to better the 20.8lt/100km fuel consumption we registered. With cars like the 600 it’s not the price of fuel that’s a concern, rather the restricted range prodigious consumption can cause — not much more than 400km in this case.

Ride on the L’s 3165mm wheelbase (135mm longer than the standard S) is voluptuous. Ne’er a ripple or a pothole made it through to the cabin despite optional lower-profile 18-inch rubber. Yet the ABC (Active Body Control) suspension seemed to able control both fore and aft pitch and body roll, even at silly speeds. As my anti-complexity diatribe might suggest, I left everything on auto — white-coated engineers have spent man-years sorting it all out after all.

The S’s steering is too light for my taste, but with some familiarization you’re able to place the car accurately. The drive’s never sporty, but even on the curvy stuff the pace can be brisk. Parking aids and a rear-vision camera help when manoeuvring in tight spaces, but the sheer size of the 600 always demands a modicum of delicacy.

Finished in private enterprise silver rather than the black of rulers and villains, ‘our’ 600 was a undeniably handsome beast. The muscular arches give it more than a hint of attitude — we’re fans as it seemed were most kerbside pundits. Expect aspects of the new look to transfer to the all-new C-Class medium car when it arrives next year.

In the end, it’s almost pointless ‘testing’ a $370K automobile: the buyers in this rarified world are not going to be swayed by my opinion or yours. Will they use CarPoint’s clever New Car Comparator (here) to weigh up the standard inclusions of the S 600 L against BMW’s 760iL or Audi A8 W12? I think not.

The S-Class has long been the default choice for the privileged few. The S 600 L can only reinforce that reputation. After all, 99 per cent of the world’s plutocrats can’t be wrong.

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