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Mercedes-Benz S500 2006 review

Would you put a price of, say, $790 on it?

If I had enough money lying around to buy an average three-bedroom Brisbane home, I think I'd be tempted to buy a new Mercedes-Benz S500 instead.

And then I'd splash out further with an extra $790 for the luxury head restraints for the front seats.

Like the headrests on a business class seat on a jet, they are pillow-soft and can be pushed into a cup shape to nurse your head.

They almost make driving too comfortable.

Careful, you don't want to go to sleep at the wheel.

And that is one of the biggest draw-backs with this vehicle.

It's so darned comfortable, you could easily fall asleep in it.

My eldest daughter suggested we could sell our house and buy one. "I'd gladly sleep in it," she said.

At the national launch in Victoria in February, I actually fell asleep in the back seat while a fellow motoring journalist punted it around Mt Bright.

The comfort is thanks to the soft leather seats with heating and cooling vents, the ultra-quiet cabin, the plush carpet, the home interior decore and the smooth air suspension ride.

The fact that the Airmatic suspension makes it sit flat in corners means you can stab the throttle hard and enjoy the pace of the lively V8 engine, without disturbing dozey daughters or motoring journalists in the back seat.

A spirited drive up Mt Mee for a Sunday lunch served to whet my appetite, while a more sedate drive home on a full tummy had everyone, including me, nodding off to sleep.

I had to keep myself alert by playing with the Comand centre which operates the many gadgets and gizmos in the top-of-the-line Benz.

The Comand "mouse" is situated where the gearshift used to be. The gearshift is now a stalk on the steering wheel.

My first encounter with this phenomenon was in the ML. I didn't like it, knocking the vehicle into neutral on several occasions because I mistook it for the indicators.

However, I didn't have any troubles with the S-Class — although I did have to think a couple of seconds whenever I switched it off. Not that it matters as it naturally goes into park and engages the parking brake.

Above the Comand mouse is a comfortable hand-rest that opens up to reveal the mobile phone keypad. Everything seems to be oriented towards being both comfortable and functional in the S-Class.

This large limo barely fits in my garage, it's that long. That means there is ample leg room for rear-seat passengers and plenty of boot space.

And despite the large proportions, Benz has done a fine job of the styling: they made it look smaller than it really is. It's no CLS, but still quite charming.

But is such a large and luxurious car fun to drive?

Frankly, no. It just does everything so well, you are almost divorced from the driving experience.

Apart from straight-line acceleration forces, there is little involvement. And even then you are divorced from the wind, engine and exhaust noise of swift movement.

It sits flat in corners, so there is none of the usual G-force feeling.

And the steering is so smooth, linear and well-weighted, it almost has no character. It simply points and turns.

I was overjoyed when I ran hard through a corrugated corner and heard suspension components struggling to keep pace with the rapid changes in the surface. However, there was no associated sidestepping or rack rattle.

This Teutonic techno-whizz has so many standard features and expensive extras it takes abrochure to list them all.

Just make sure you get the pillow headrests.

Pricing Guides

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Range and Specs

S350 3.7L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $22,990 – 24,950 2006 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2006 S350 Pricing and Specs
S55 K 5.4L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $43,780 – 50,930 2006 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2006 S55 K Pricing and Specs
S600 L 5.5L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $44,770 – 52,030 2006 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2006 S600 L Pricing and Specs
S65 L AMG 6.0L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $55,990 – 64,350 2006 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2006 S65 L AMG Pricing and Specs