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SAFETY | 9 out of 10
Neither the the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has crash-tested the 2012 Mercedes S-Class, but it scores highly with our editors for a long history of crash safety and pioneering technology, including some new features bundled into the current generation.
With a reputation globally as one of the safest cars on the road, with one of the lowest fatality rates, the S-Class enjoys a long list of standard equipment. All versions sold in the U.S. come with dual front, front side and rear side airbags, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control; active head restraints; adaptive brake lights; and PRE-SAFE, which prepares the car when an accident is imminent, by locking doors and tightening seatbelts, and preparing the brakes for full application.
Newer features that have been added include Attention Assist, an alert that senses drowsy drivers and blinks a coffee-cup icon to suggest a rest stop. It's standard on all but the S400 Hybrid. Other available features include Nightview Assist PLUS, a night-vision system that uses infrared sensors to call out unseen obstacles on dark roads; Lane Keeping Assist, which uses electric power steering to nudge the car back into the driving lane when it senses a slip over the lines; blind-spot monitors; automatic headlights; and adaptive cruise control. The S-Class can also be fitting with parking assist, which judges parallel-parking spots and suggests ones in which the car will fit.
Advances to the S-Class' stability control now include torque-vector braking, which applies braking to the inside rear wheel to tighten cornering; it's standard on all models except the S400 Hybrid. On cars with the ABC suspension, new programming helps the S-Class compensate for heavy crosswinds by adjusting suspension stiffness.
Even though the exterior of the current S-Class is a step curvier than before, we've found visibility to be excellent. Front and rear parking sensors, as well as an available rearview camera further improve parking safety.
No crash-test scores are in, but the S-Class' safety technology is pervasive.