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

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