Another technology aimed at reducing rear-end collisions is the so-called adaptive brake light. Basically, it strobes when you brake hard. Mercedes claims that its research shows a marked reduction in rear-end collisions when cars have the blinky brake lights, but the U.S. government stands unmoved; the system will be offered on all S-classes everywhere else in the world, but in the U.S., only a limited number of S600s with the technology will be sold because it isn't approved for widespread use.
The western shores of the Atlantic will see the second generation of Pre-Safe, an accident anticipation system originally introduced in the 2003 S-class. Like the original Pre-Safe, if the system foresees a crash, it will move the passenger seat into a lower and more erect position, yank the seatbelts tight, and close the windows and sunroof. The second-generation system also clenches the side bolsters to keep you better planted in the event of a side impact. Aggressive drivers get an added bonus: the seat gooses you every time you hit the brakes hard.
Another new technology that combines safety with comfort is the new Distronic Plus radar-guided cruise control system. Like the original Distronic system, it can vary your speed on the highway to maintain a safe following distance. Also like the original system, it's far too conservative for urban U.S. conditions, so if you leave the system to its own devices (even set to follow as closely as possible), a steady stream of cars will file into the too-large space in front of you. The new Plus system adds the ability to brake the car to a halt and inch along in stop-and-go traffic. While we haven't tried this out yet, we fear the system will once again lack the cutthroat maneuvering tactics of our fellow countrymen and leave users accelerating too little, too late to maintain the required two-micron following distance necessary to avoid getting cut off. Distronic Plus's low-speed operation is made possible by the same short-range radar used in the Brake Assist Plus system, so the two systems are optionally available only in conjunction with one another. With all the plusses featured, Mercedes could make a call to Lane Bryant about doing a launch edition of the car instead of defaulting to the predictable Neiman Marcus pairing. While we aren't holding our breath for that to happen, we can guarantee a full test of the S-class closer to its arrival on U.S. shores in January of 2006.