Driven! 2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class (S550)

    Up: The comfort, the performance, the style, the bragging rights.

    Down: In typical Mercedes fashion, options are pricey. The steering wheel is kind of goofy looking.

    Neutral: Mercedes-Benz continues to one-up itself with the new generation of S-Class. 

    Every once in a while a car comes around that makes you feel truly special. One that can almost turn you into a different person just by sitting in it. Sports cars could fall under this category, but they tend to make you decline into adolescence, not advance into maturity. I’m talking about something that makes you want to put on a suit and tackle the day. I’m talking about an S-Class.

    When I first sat down in this modern marvel of engineering it was clear that I was looking at something special. Where I would have expected a cluster of gauges, I was greeted by two 12.3″ high resolution screens, and where I would have expected a standard arm rest, I found a small tack-pad similar to that on a laptop. In every direction that I turned my head there were crafted Burmester speakers; even between the sunroofs. Oh yeah, there are two sunroofs! The 2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is unlike any other luxury vehicle… heck, it’s unlike any other Mercedes.

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    From the outside, although beautiful, the S-Class resembles a stretched out C-Class. Mercedes fanboys will undoubtedly scoff at me for saying that, but it does. However, I also think that’s part of the magic. Mercedes has ditched those gigantic wheel arches in the previous generation for smoother body lines and more defined styling. On top of that, the grille is larger, the headlights have a mesmerizing LED outline, and, if I may be so bold, the S-Classes might have the coolest taillights on the market. Of course, in typical Mercedes fashion, you can customize the crap out of it, but I think our black paint on 19″ AMG twin 5-spoke wheels was as close to S-Class perfection as you can get.

    2015 Mercedes Benz S Class S550-29

    So back to the interior. Because S-Class owners can’t be bothered with turning a key, there is a nice push-to-start button that brings the car to life when pressed. The whole cabin becomes illuminated, which, by the way, is 100% LED, and the gigantic screens in front of me ran through their animations and eventually displayed a more familiar dashboard. Before I set off I had to take advantage of the completely adjustable everything in the car. I got my seat set to be more comfortable than any seat should be, tuned in the climate control to be an exact 72 degrees, activated the 360 degree exterior cameras, and set the ambient lighting to red… because it looked cool. Then, because S-Class owners also can’t be bothered to shift gears, I engaged the car into drive, and set off.

    The first thing I really noticed was how much more comfortable it was than my own car. Of course Mercs are supposed to be comfortable, but I would have to drive the S550 off of a cliff to feel a bump. In comfort mode, the S-Class is already working out the bumps in the road before you even reach them. With the help of their “AIRMATIC” air suspension and Active Body Control, the chassis did all of the work while I sat in comfort and enjoyed my hot stone massage. Yes, it has a hot stone massage mode.

    While I was driving around on what felt like a freshly paved road, I started to take note of all the engineering feats topside as well. For starters, the burl walnut wood trim is all real but there is an aluminum lining inside of each panel to defer sharp splinters in the event of an accident. The seat bolsters will adjust to keep you upright during the tightest of turns. The heads up display shows the GPS, your next turn, the mph, and it resembles the inside of Iron Man’s helmet. One of the most see-it-to-believe-it pieces, as Jeff Driver, my Mercedes-Benz expert, explains, are the side mirrors. Apparently I can drive at speed in the rain with the windows down and not a drop of water will get inside.

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    2015 Mercedes Benz S Class S550-14

    Now enough fooling around. This thing had two turbos and a V8 and I wanted to see what it could do. I put the S550 in sport mode via the center console, down shifted with the paddles on the steering wheel, and planted my foot firmly to the ground. This car instantly got the 450 horses to the ground and off it went. The acceleration wasn’t neck-breaking, but for a car this size it was very sudden; and it didn’t let up. And though the twin exhaust was silent for most of the drive, it definitely had to clear its throat when I got on the gas. The S-Class had just proved to me that it wasn’t all bark.

    So the car drives well, but does it answer the question that all S-Classes have to answer; how is it to be the passenger? Well I’ll give you an example. I reclined the rear seat (just as you can with the front seats) and Jeff made a comment on how an option is to get pillow-top headrests. I looked up at him and told him that they felt fantastic and he corrected me saying that the ones I had my head against weren’t it. I can’t imagine a need for an even more comfortable headrest than I already had but Mercedes has it covered.

    In fact, Mercedes has everything covered. From the rear passenger seat alone, I could move the front seat all the way forward, raise and lower the rear windows and shades, fully recline my heated seat, and set the climate control on the handy digital display. This model didn’t have the monitors or the fridge behind the armrest but those would be on my short list for essential options during long road trips.

    2015 Mercedes Benz S Class S550-20

    Speaking of options, what does something like this even cost? It’s hard to say. You can get the bare-bones yet not-so-bare-bones S550 for $94,400. Once you start adding options, however, you will need a second checkbook. The 19″ AMG wheel option on ours cost $5,900 alone so you can see how you would want to budget for what you can afford. There’s also an S600 which gives you a 523 hp V12 engine and some different badges that starts at $166,000. From there you can go all the way up to a 621 hp S65 AMG model that starts at something like a zillion dollars. However, in my professional opinion, you can never be sad in any S-Class.

    Now what does a twenty something that makes a third of an S-Class a year think of it? It’s a car that you have to go see to believe. In this article I feel like I’ve only covered about a quarter of the features in the S550, and no amount of words or pictures can do it justice. Jeff and I both agree that for all of the stuff crammed into that metal shell, the car is actually pretty cheap. The 2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is like nothing else on the road, and, if you drove by, you wouldn’t even know it.

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    Chris Berke
    Chris Berke
    I am the founder and editor of Short Shift. My obsession with wanting to drive every car ever made me build a website so I could share my experiences with the world. I love cars, traveling, and my cats, Henry and Winston.


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