2011 Mercedes-Benz S550 4matic

Oh, it’s always nice to get back into a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. It’s also nice to have one with all-wheel drive when it’s December and we just got our first big snowfall. Yes, I know that the S-class is the oldest member of its competitive set (BMW 7-Series, Jaguar XJ, Audi A8, Porsche Panamera), but I’d say that it’s aging quite well. There’s just a lovely creaminess to this car, underlaid by solidity. Every sensory interaction with the S-class is fluid and rewarding and comforting, but if you’re in a hurry and you flog it, it more than rises to the occasion. The powertrain is as smooth as egg nog, the Bluetooth phone interface is easy to operate and uses large type fonts, and the car just has an undeniable presence. Can you tell I like it?
– Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

While my personal choice for a large executive sedan is the agile, value-priced Jaguar XJ, the Mercedes-Benz S-class might just be my second choice for entirely different reasons. The S-class is the epitome of comfort. From the seats to the almost-silent cabin to the ride, there is no other car that I’d rather drive around the circumference of the Earth. Add in the heated and massaging seats and Mercedes has created the closest thing to an automotive spa treatment.

BMW is known for more athletic cars, but the 7-series often leaves me cold with its unpredictable throttle tip-in and a transmission that occasionally swaps gears with a small jolt. The S-class may be less sporting, but it can gallop when called upon with fluid power delivery from the 382-hp V-8 and the seven-speed automatic always picks the correct gear and shifts with smooth authority. Personally, I’d prefer to drive the more manageable and nimble standard-wheelbase car that isn’t sold in the United States, but the long-wheelbase is true to the S-class’s mission: comfort.
– Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor

2011 Mercedes-Benz S550 4matic

Base price (with destination and guzzler tax): $97,875
Price as tested: $109,515

Standard Equipment:
5.5-liter V-8 engine
7-speed automatic transmission
Airmatic air suspension with adaptive damping
Torque vectoring brake system
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
18-inch alloy wheels
Tire pressure monitoring system
Comand system with 40GB hard drive
GPS navigation with voice control
Bluetooth connectivity
15-speaker Harman/kardon Logic7 surround sound system
HD digital radio
In-dash 6-disc DVD/CD changer
Sirius satellite radio
Power tilt/slide sunroof
Power rear window shade
Active bi-xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights
Electronic trunk closer
Dual-zone automatic climate control system

Options on this vehicle:
Premium package — $3630
Drive-dynamic multicontour front seats with massage
Rearview camera
Driver assistance package — $2950
Adaptive cruise control
Active blind spot assist
Active lane keeping assist
Black premium leather — $2290
19-inch five-spoke wheels — $1270
Splitview — $710
Heated steering wheel — $490
Contrast stitching for premium leather — $300

Key options not on vehicle:
Sport package — $5900
Sport body styling
19-inch AMG wheels
Rear seat package — $3040
Four-zone automatic climate control
Heated and ventilated seats
8-way power adjustable seats
Rear seat entertainment system — $2450

Fuel economy: 14/21/17 mpg (city/hwy/combined)

Size: 5.5L V-8
Horsepower: 382 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 391 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
Drive: Four-wheel
Transmission: 7-speed automatic

Curb weight: 4455 lb

Wheels/tires: 19-inch alloy wheels; 255/40R19 Continental ContiProContact all-season tires

Competitors: BMW 7-series, Jaguar XJ, Porsche Panamera, Audi A8

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Buying Guide
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19 City / 25 Hwy

Horse Power:

295 @ 6000


284 @ 2400