The mpg might be good enough for McBrue......
By Warren Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 26, 2006; Page G01
I told the women to beware of the seats. It was a necessary warning.
The front seats in the 2007 Mercedes-Benz S550 sedan can be awfully
familiar. They grab, caress and hold you tight about the waist. They
sometimes massage your shoulders quite affectionately. They like to
touch . . .
"Hey," said my longtime friend Anne Veigle. "These seats are feeling me
2007 Mercedes-Benz S550
2007 Mercedes-Benz S550
Nuts & Bolts
2007 Mercedes-Benz S550
Downside: The S550 has an overabundance of electronic wizardry. It
makes me worry about what would happen, or what the car might cost to
repair, if anything went wrong. This is the computer as luxury car,
right down to the Cockpit Management and Data (COMAND) system that
controls many of the S550's functions.
Ride, acceleration and handling: The ride is super-smooth in both the
S550's "Comfort" and "Sport" settings. The car is remarkably fast,
especially considering its size and weight. It simply drives and
handles much smaller than it looks -- a totally enjoyable road trip.
Head-turning quotient: Stunning! I like what Mercedes-Benz has done to
the S550's wheel wells, giving them better definition and giving the
car an overall sexy muscularity in the process. This is not some
stuffed shirt's S-Class. This one is hip!
Body style/layout: The car is a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive,
full-size luxury sedan.
Engine/transmission: The 2007 S-550 comes with a 5.5-liter, 32-valve
V-8 engine that develops 382 horsepower at 6,000 revolutions per minute
and 391 foot-pounds of torque at 2,800 rpm. The engine is linked to a
seven-speed -- that's right, a seven-speed -- automatic transmission
that also can be shifted manually.
Capacities: There is seating for five people. Maximum cargo capacity is
20 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 23.8 gallons of required premium
Mileage: I averaged 24 miles per gallon mostly in highway driving.
Safety: I've often said there is no such thing as the "safest" car, but
I have to amend that statement for the S550. It has four safety
parameters: performance, including advanced brake assistance and
radar-controlled monitoring of distance from the car ahead; pre-safety
(the Drive-Dynamic Multi-contour Seats are major components, also
designed to give the driver more vehicle control in panic maneuvers);
passive-safety (the usual air bags and automatic restraints that come
into play in a crash); and post-safety (automatic electronic
notification of an emergency assistance center). Again, you can die or
be injured in any vehicle. It's just more difficult to do either of
those things in the S550.
Price: The base price of the 2007 Mercedes-Benz S550 is $85,400.
Dealer's invoice price on the base model is $79,422. Price as tested is
$106,450, including $20,275 in options, such as the Drive-Dynamic
Multi-contour seats, which cost $1,800, and a $775 destination charge.
Dealer's price as tested is $99,056. Prices sourced from Mercedes-Benz
and http://www.edmunds.com .
Purse-strings note: What do you expect? Some hugs will cost you more
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I know. I tried to tell her. I tried to tell my wife, Mary Anne. I
tried telling all of the women who sat in the driver's seat, or in the
front passenger's seat of the S550.
"Watch those seats," I said. "They are not politically correct. In
fact, they're downright rude. They could be sued."
But none of the women believed me.
"Stop it, Warren!" Mary Anne demanded on a drive from Northern Virginia
to New York.
"Stop what?" I asked.
"Keep your hands on the wheel!" she said.
"My hands are on the wheel," I said. "I'm not doing anything. It's your
seat. It's programmed to squeeze you around the waist in tight curves .
But that explanation was coming out all wrong. Mary Anne moved away
from me toward the front passenger's door. I shut up.
I write this hoping that the rest of you will understand. The seats in
the tested S550 are unlike those installed in any other car. They are
what Mercedes-Benz calls Drive-Dynamic Multi-contour Seats -- optional
computerized seats that "anticipate" how the bodies of the driver and
front-seat passenger will shift in turns and other driving maneuvers.
If you are making a sharp right-hand turn, for example, the contour of
the driver's seat automatically changes, bolstering and hugging the
right side of your torso, thus mitigating the shift of your body's
weight. The idea is to keep you firmly planted in the seat. It's
disconcerting at first. But you get accustomed to it. You start loving
it. You start hunting for curves.
The car's rear seats can get personal, too. That is, they can be
personalized inasmuch as they are individually adjustable. Still, over
time, I noticed that few people wanted to sit in the back cabin. They
all wanted to sit up front.
Mary Anne admitted nothing. But I knew she was seduced. She abandoned
her Mini Cooper and asked me to drive her to places she'd normally
drive herself. She smiled in the curves.
What is it they say about sex? Ah, yes: "Sex sells." If that's true,
Mercedes-Benz should have no trouble selling the S550. All the company
has to do is get prospective customers to sit in the front seats on a
drive along a winding road. Those seats will close the deal.
Of course, there is much more to the S550 than its grabby front
buckets. This latest edition of Mercedes-Benz's flagship S-Class sedan,
the ninth iteration, is larger, faster (zero to 60 miles per hour in
5.4 seconds), more powerful and, yet, more fuel-efficient than previous
On the round-trip run from Northern Virginia to New York, I averaged 24
miles per gallon -- not bad for a full-size rear-wheel-drive luxury
sedan weighing 4,270 pounds and propelled by a 382-horsepower V-8
The car was loaded with everything you would expect in a premium luxury
automobile -- an interior of supple leather and rich wood veneer, a
beautiful sound system, theater lighting. And there were many things
that went beyond expectation, including an optional infrared
night-vision system designed to extend the driver's forward view 500
feet, a wondrous thing for those of us with aging eyes.
But, with all of that, it's the front seats that impressed me most. I
mean, hey, when was the last time your car hugged you?
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