Rating: 9.0
Bottom Line:
Some aspects of the new Mercedes S-Class are wonders to behold, while a few seem oddly misguided. As remarkable as it is, is Mercedes is preaching to a very loyal choir, or beating the world’s best?
Pros:
  • Smooth ride with torque for days
  • Magic Body Control more than just a gimmick
  • One of the best car stereos ever
Cons:
  • No diesel hybrid for U.S., of course
  • Some design elements seem borrowed or dated
  • Some tech elements seem unnecessarily finicky

Mercedes-Benz has kept ambitions for its new S-Class modest: It merely wants its redesigned flagship to be "the best car in the world." Whether or not you feel it hits that mark, it can't be said that Mercedes-Benz hasn't made the full effort; the refinement of the driving and safety technology in the 2014 S-Class is stunning. However, some tech quirks in the interior, along with an odd design choice, might leave some potential S-Class converts cold.

View Pictures:  2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Model lineup
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is available as a 4-door sedan with a panorama sunroof. Seventeen-inch wheels are standard, but drivers can order 19-inch twin 5-spoke or 20-inch 5-spoke wheels. Various option packages include 19-inch (Sport Package, Edition 1 Package) or 20-inch wheels (Sport Package Plus One).

Under the hood
Both the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 and S550 4Matic come with a 4.6-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine producing 455 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque from 1800 to 3500 rpm. The Mercedes 7G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission appears in both 550 variants. The S550 is rear-wheel drive, while the S550 4Matic is all-wheel drive.

Inner space
With Maybach no longer in the Mercedes family lineup, it's full-tilt luxury or bust for the new 2014 S-Class. Before even taking the time to consider the driver's position, it's worth noting that the rear seats in the new S-Class may be the very definition of "the lap of luxury." With options including folding tables, four-place seating and a refrigeration box, the rear cabin of the S-Class can be tailored to the exact level of "flaunt" that each customer requires.

In addition, the optional Burmester High-End 3-D Surround Sound system ranks with the best car stereo systems we've ever heard. And although we initially scoffed at the $350 Air Balance package that filters, ionizes and perfumes the air in the cabin as a classic "look what I have that you don't" option, in practice it's actually very pleasant — nonintrusive and momentary.

Not everything about the 2014 S-Class interior is as wonderful as the stereo, though. The rear video screens really should be touch screens; using the phone app or the remote is a pain while on the move, and while that may seem like nitpicking, every issue at this level of excellence is a major one. It's annoying that one has to access many of the car's seat adjustments through the menu screen rather than through a tactile setup on the seat itself. Again, it seems like a minor annoyance, but making what should be simple tasks unnecessarily difficult and time-consuming is no small matter. Then there's the interior's Metalized Ash Wood trim, which is simply tacky; it would look out of place even in the most tricked-out aftermarket whip.

Strangely enough, we were never able to get the temperature quite right in the 2014 S-Class. The constant temperature adjustments left us wondering if the sensor may be overly sensitive to sunlight. Overall, however, the 2014 S-Class has an impressive interior, though it may be more so for the passengers in the back rather than for the driver busily managing controls up front.

On the road
It's safe to assume that the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is fast: an estimated 4.8-second zero-to-60-mph run from a luxury sedan weighing approximately 4,500 pounds tells you everything you need to know about the power this new S-Class is packing. More impressive than the power is how it's delivered; torque is a constant presence, making the 2014 S-Class feel as if it's never lacking for pull. The throttle response is smooth, as is the overall ride.

The S-Class' "smoothness" is due in no small part to the near Jetsons-level of high-tech involved in its suspension and safety systems. Using integrated radar sensor and stereoscopic camera technology, Mercedes-Benz has advanced its brake-assist technology with what it calls Cross Traffic Assist -- the system can spot crossing traffic and pedestrians and enhance the driver's brake input accordingly. This carries over into Mercedes' Night View Assist Plus, which alerts the S-Class driver to crossing animals or pedestrians in dark conditions via a night-vision image displayed on the instrument panel.

The most impressive advance in the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class may be the new Magic Body Control feature, and not just for its delightfully over-the-top name. Pulling together the Adaptive Dampening system and the Airmatic suspension, Magic Body Control is put into play when the Road Surface Scan detects bumps or potholes in the road ahead. The boast from Mercedes is that in mere milliseconds, Magic Body Control can adjust the suspension so that you never even feel rough spots in the road, and the truth is that it works miraculously well — as long as you've got the right size bumps. As jaded as we may be after years of hype over new features, we can't help but be wowed by how good this system is. The Driver Assistance Package, Night View Assist and Magic Body Control will add about another $10,000 to your 2014 S-Class, but frankly, you're not getting the full experience of the car without them.

Right for you?
No details on a base price for the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class have been released, but as you can tell from some of the packages and options, "a lot" is a fairly safe bet. Expect to see the 2014 S-Class hit U.S. dealers in fall 2013, with the rear-wheel-drive S550 arriving in September or October and the S550 4Matic coming soon after. An AMG S63 will follow.

As an example of the contemporary executive sedan, the 2014 S550 sets the bar extremely high, especially when fully optioned out. We wish some of the exterior notes were a little more refined and original; its taillights remind us of those found on the Oldsmobile Aurora or Acura RL. The overall shape is a little Bentley-ish as well, but the realities of today's auto industry seem to include a growing homologation of design. But the loyalty rate of the S-Class is an amazing 62 percent, and if you're driving one now, chances are the 2014 S-Class will be right for you. Those seeking top-of-the-line comfort, safety and luxury will find a lot to love in the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

(As part of a sponsored press event, the automaker provided MSN with travel and accommodations to facilitate this report.)

James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side as Senior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.