2009 Mercedes-Benz S550

I used to think I couldn't sing enough praise for the S-class, but having been blessed with two S550s over the past month, I'm starting to run out of fresh commendations. Still, extra seat time has only affirmed my feelings--if you're looking for a sedan that rewards both passengers and the driver with acres of luxury and a flawless drive, you're going to be hard-pressed to trump the S550.

In a car like this, you can expect designers to reap lavish appointments upon rear passengers, but Mercedes-Benz does the same for those in front. The premium leather package is nothing short of supple, and the infinitely adjustable bucket seats contort every which way in order to comfortably hold your frame. Ergonomics are also top-rate; the leather pad above the Comand dial on the center console supports the wrist oh-so-nicely, and buttons for other features (i.e. volume, seating positions, navigation, etc) are logically placed a finger's length away from the knob. I like Audi's MMI and can get through BMW's iDrive, but I think Benz has perfected the rotary infotainment control with this setup.

Apart from a few missing options (this tester didn't have the rear side-window screens, for instance), the biggest difference between this car and the last S550 we tested is the lack of Mercedes-Benz's 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. In most instances, you won't notice it's missing, a sign of Benz's supreme stability and traction control systems or the invisibility of the 4Motion driveline. Living without powered front wheels saves you $3000 and approximately 200 pounds, but I'd still suggest that those who regularly traipse through lake-effect snow or other treacherous conditions spring for the option.

Evan McCausland, Web Producer

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