2007 Mercedes-Benz S-Class S550

Mike Dushane
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Full Front Dashboard View

As in large BMWs, an LCD screen sits high to the right of the instrument binnacle creating a wall of displays in front of the driver. Shorter pilots will feel like they're peeking over the edge of a tall bathtub as they try to see down the road. Perhaps they'll just watch the optional night vision display that, when activated, appears directly in front of the driver in place of the analog speedometer, which is actually a picture of an analog speedometer generated on a computer screen. It's just as well to turn the speedo off, as the color and intensity of the faux needles don't exactly match their honest counterparts immediately adjacent to the display.

Overhead Front View

If you ever want a chuckle, ask a Mercedes engineer how Lexus manages to use a touch-screen interface that neither dominates the view forward nor requires the use of Satan's joystick. After a lot of hemming and hawing, the answer is that Mercedes offers more functions in its system, so a touch screen allegedly wouldn't work. Mercedes engineers confided in us that, in focus group testing, Americans had a far lower aptitude for mastering complex control systems than European and Japanese testers. Even though the U.S. is the S-class's largest market, the new Comand system was designed primarily for German tastes. To placate Americans, certain functions were removed in cars coming stateside. Thanks.

Other than the dominant Comand system, there isn't much revolutionary in the cabin. An attractive plunging line of wood and chrome trim on the dash is accentuated by indirect LED accent lighting and metallic switches using a similar material to the seat controls in new Porsches, something Mercedes calls galvanized composite. It looks shiny, but it feels no more substantial than plastic. The interior is more spacious in every dimension, especially in the long-wheelbase model slated for the U.S. An available panorama roof includes a fixed rear panel and a sliding front section that rests atop the rear section when open.

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