The S-Class has rarely been the high-water mark of Mercedes design. It's passed through its past three generations from leaden, to graceful, to highly surfaced, but it's never been the definitive statement of style and theme.
It's finally ready for a close-up, divorced from the overly busy intersection of lines and swells at the rear quarters, endowed with the kind of cabin that rewards the eyes and fingertips along with the brain.
Like the latest E-Class, the S-Class no longer looks like a composite of competing design theories. The grille's bracketed by new banks of LEDs that frame out the headlamps--LEDs also, since there's no incandescent lighting on the new S-Class whatsoever. The clarified look continues down the side, with the profusion of surfaces toned down to a shoulder line that tapers down toward the rear wheel, and a sill line that draws up and in toward the same. The taillamps are composed from fiber-optic LEDs and wrap more finely around the rear quarters. One pan across its panels, and it's clear the CLS-Class has had an enduring effect on all Mercedes cars.
Inside, the cool and clinical air of the stereotypical German sedan couldn't be farther away. The S-Class' phenomenal new interior flips the breaker on every one of those notions. A horizontal bow line wraps the cabin in a continuous flow of stitched leather, while two 12.3-inch high-resolution displays glow from under the dash hood. COMAND and other ancillary buttons are integrated smoothly ahead of the center console. Ambient lighting bathes the cabin in a spectrum of color from discreet locations under the dash's wood trim, from its speaker housings, and from the center stack.
It's in the smaller details where the S-Class is more exquisite, more finely observed than ever. The air vents are round now--a spec formerly held in reserve for Mercedes sports cars, now being faired in all vehicles. Not everyone will be pleased by the gaping grin of the two-spoke steering wheel, but it's lovingly appliqued with a signature plate. On designo-trimmed cars, a tiny sliver of contrasting leather is sewn in between dash caps--and the dash itself can be faced in quilted leather. Without a doubt the finest details are the achingly gorgeous Burmester sound grilles--the landau bars incised in their perforated panels deserve a golf clap.