- Impressively hushed interior
- Abundant backseat space
- Maneuvers like a smaller car
- High-speed road-holding
- Dynamic multicontour seats are a road-tripper’s dream
- AMG models are stealth exotics
- COMAND interface is still balky
- Heavier S600 doesn’t handle as well
- Prohibitive price
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is one of the best vehicles in the world—but you’ll pay for it.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has a long-held reputation for being a sort of standard-bearer for high-class luxury sedans; the S-Class doesn’t so much compete with prestige luxury cars such as those from Bentley and Rolls-Royce, but it holds the high-water mark for high-tech safety features and electronics-laden conveniences. Mercedes-Benz last gave the S-Class a major redesign in 2007; at that time, the big luxury sedan became a little more curvaceous and fun to drive, and of course stepped up the number of leading-edge features.
Powertrains on the U.S.-spec S-Class include a 382-horsepower, 5.5-liter V-8 in the S550, a 510-hp, twin-turbo V-12 in the S600, and a 604-hp version of the V-12 in the S65 AMG models, as well as a V-8 AMG model, the 518-hp S63 AMG. 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 S550 is also offered in a 4Matic all-wheel-drive model, which TheCarConnection.com recommends for those who drive frequently in winter conditions. The 2009 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 standard S550's powertrain provides plenty of muscle to move the 2009 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. However, you can feel the added weight of the engine in the S600, and it doesn't handle with quite as much agility.
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz S63 and S65 AMG up the ante with spiffy add-ons like 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.
Thanks to a host of electronics, the S-Class handles quite well. The standard Airmatic suspension has adaptive damping to adjust quickly to rough roads or fast driving on switchbacks. All 2009 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.
The latest version of Mercedes-Benz's COMAND screen-based interface replaces the clutter of smaller controls in the 2009 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but it's not always as intuitive as it could be. 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.
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. For 2009, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class gets new steering-wheel shift paddles, redesigned power window switches, and a "Hold" braking feature. 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 2009 Mercedes-Benz S-Class offers a panorama-style roof, Active Body Control (ABC) suspension, and heated/ventilated front seats with built-in massager. Even the base S550 has a wood and leather steering wheel, active ventilated and heated front seats, new wheels, and a power trunk lid.
Anti-lock brakes and stability control are standard on the S550, along with a hill-start assist system to keep you from rolling backward when facing uphill. The 2009 Mercedes-Benz S-Class has not been crash-tested in the United States, but it enjoys a long-standing 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.