- Maneuvers like a smaller car
- Wonderful dynamic multicontour seats
- Vast interior, with plenty of back-seat space
- Impressively hushed interior
- AMG models are stealth exotics
- S600 doesn’t handle as well
- COMAND isn’t always intuitive
Hark! The 2008 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is loaded with top safety and comfort-oriented technologies and is one of the best luxury sedans in the world.
The flagship S-Class was redesigned for 2007, with a more formal exterior design and an intriguing interior design; it also picked up a longer wheelbase for a roomier cabin. The 2008 Mercedes-Benz S-Class lineup adds one more model; the V-8-powered S550 with 382 horsepower, the 510-hp V-12 S600, and the 604-hp V-12 S65 AMG models are joined by a new V-8 AMG model, the 518-hp S63 AMG.
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz S-Class V-12 models come with a five-speed automatic transmission, while V-8 models get a seven-speed automatic; both have Touch Shift manual control. The S550 is also offered in an all-wheel-drive model.
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz S63 and S65 AMG models bring a host of additional performance and appearance upgrades, including the Active Body Control suspension, a SpeedShift transmission system, high-performance tires, a sport exhaust, aerodynamic lower bodywork, Drive-Dynamic ventilated multicontour seats with exclusive leather upholstery, and special gauges.
The standard S550's powertrain provides plenty of power to move the 2008 Mercedes-Benz S-Class with authority, but the S600's V-12 kicks in an extra measure of omnipresent torque and is especially quiet and refined. The added weight of the engine in the S600 is felt, though it doesn't handle with quite as much agility. The S550 can get to 60 mph in less than 5.5 seconds, but the S600 can make it in a mere 4.5 seconds.
The S-Class's interior is very spacious and well designed. The shift control is located along the steering column, which frees up the center console area compared to other vehicles, and the instrument panel has a simple but very elegant design, with a broad, sweeping horizontal theme and impressive-looking wood veneers. The latest version of Mercedes-Benz's COMAND screen-based interface replaces the clutter of smaller controls in the 2008 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but it's not always as intuitive as it could be.
All of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz S-Class models have a very absorbent, well-settled ride that manages to soak up small potholes with little jarring inside the cabin and remain remarkably quiet. Yet thanks to a host of electronics, the S-Class also handles quite well. The standard Airmatic suspension has adaptive damping to adjust quickly to rough roads or fast driving on switchbacks.
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz S-Class offers a panorama-style roof, Active Body Control (ABC) suspension, and heated/ventilated front seats with built-in massager. Other standout features of the S-Class include "smart" cruise control, called Distronic Plus, which can slow the car as traffic dictates, making it possible for the driver to "set and forget" the cruise control over a wider variety of operating conditions. There's also a new Night View system, which allows the gauge area to turn into an infrared camera view of the road ahead, and concert-hall-quality 14-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound stereo.
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz S-Class has not been crash-tested in the United States, but it enjoys a longstanding reputation as one of the safest vehicles in the world; safety features include front and rear side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, active head restraints, adaptive brake lights, and the Pre-Safe system, which prepares safety equipment for an anticipated collision. Anti-lock brakes and stability control are also standard, along with a hill-start assist system to keep you from rolling backward when facing uphill.