Mercedes Benz S350
Mercedes Benz S-Class

Settle down with a cup of coffee, this is going to be a long one.

Lesson one: Learn the layout and controls of your vehicle. This is easier said than done, in the luxurious new S-Class. I spent the first twenty minutes or so of acclimatisation grinning and chuckling as I pressed, pushed and generally played with buttons and levers. And, I still didn’t get through all of the functions. A friend of mine took delivery of his new S-Class, two months ago and he tells me that he still hasn’t figured it all out.

Mastering the vast array of electronic gadgetry is clearly a concern to Mercedes Benz as every page in the short-form handbook (the main one is the size of a small bible) contains a message at the bottom, warning of death and injury if you don’t read it thoroughly before driving - well, words to that effect.

After getting into the car using the optional (£820) Keyless-go system, that lives up to its name, the huge expanse of soft leather welcomes you into the multi-contoured front seats. These are also optional at a cost of £880, as are the comfort headrests at £200. The seats have a 12-way adjustment via a series of buttons on the door panel, which are set out and shaped to mimic the seat.

The extra money, however, also buys a clever internal system that inflates the seat’s side bolsters and backrests for extra cornering support, activated depending on information received, regarding the car’s speed and steering angle. This takes milliseconds and has another advantage - the chambers can be inflated and deflated to provide a massaging effect with fast/slow, gentle and vigorous settings. It is supposed to help weary drivers but, to be honest, all I got was a strange tingling in my feet.

Pressing the engine stop/start button prompts the multi-functional (heated £220) steering wheel to sedately move out towards the driver and the blank screen behind comes to life with a colour display of the speedometer with moving needle. The 8-inch screen also has overlays for information from the Trip, Navigation, Audio and Source menus, which are activated via controls on the steering wheel. It has yet another function - the screen is used for the extremely effective Night View Assist (£1,320)

Published : 08/08/06 Author : Melanie Carter

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