It takes a real cynic to find fault with the Mercedes-Benz S Class' passenger comforts. The 2014 S550 has spacious accommodations, superb front seats, easy access for those in back, and a fillip of first-class accoutrements to go with occasionally fiddly ergonomics. And if anything, its finishes are more beautifully crafted than ever.
The S-Class is built in two distinct lengths, but for the 2014 model year, U.S. dealers will sell only the long-wheelbase version--dubbed the "standard" wheelbase here, as much for the existence of a shorter car elsewhere, as for the possibility that an even longer car is in the works.
The long-wheelbase S-Class body now has a slightly wider track and more shoulder, head, and elbow room, which guarantees plenty of front and rear-seat leg room, even with the front seats powered all the way back. The rear doors are cut widely, for easy access and limousine-like space.
The seats themselves are sculpted for good comfort. In front, the 16-way power seats can be controlled via COMAND or door-mounted switches. There's an active multi-contour function that inflates air pockets in response to cornering forces; if it sounds gimmicky, it feels useful and comfortable when the S Class hustles up to higher speeds. The seats are well-padded, heated, and ventilated--and that last feature might be responsible for the one flaw, a hard surface at the back of the bottom cushion.
The back seats can be configured in a few ways, from a basic bench seat to a pair of buckets, to the S-Class' most lounge-like seating option ever, its First Class Rear Suite. A pair of reclining chairs with fold-out footrests and a separating console fitted with laptop trays, the suite also has app-enabled seat adjustments and a massaging function that's inspired by hot-stone treatments at a spa. The armrests are heated, even. For utmost comfort, the front passenger seat can be lowered and its headrest removed, so the right-rear passenger can nap on a chaise-style recliner.
With the S-Class' larger cabin, you'll rarely find space at a premium, even for the smaller items. There's a large glovebox, and a console large enough for big electronic gadgets. Two cupholders have built-in cooling. And in most versions, the S-Class' rear seat has a fold-down portion and a pass-through to the moderately sized trunk.
Fit and finish has few peers in the car world, and the S-Class surely has never looked better. A wide range of leather and wood trim is on the order sheet, everything from silver-hued trim or quilted leather on the dash to sueded leather on the recliner-seat pillows. The S-Class also has a fair amount of "metallized" surfaces--plastic clad with metal paint. It can glint and luster like metal, but to the touch it's not as substantial as real metal, particularly at the climate vents, where the S-Class' tiny knobs miss out on the high ritual of, say, Bentley's chromed vent pulls.