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Mercedes S500 2006 Review

When a customer forks out this sort of money, they expect the best.

The new S-Class, with more than a passing resemblance to the stratospherically luxurious Maybach, breaks new ground with a dozen technological innovations available for the first time on a series production car.

These include dynamic contour seats with moving side bolsters for cornering, "Brake Assist" that optimises braking function ac- cording to driving conditions and demands, "Pre-Safe" that optimises various safety systems if a collision is imminent and active air suspension that adjusts according to the road, load and driving style.

But the trump card is night view assist, an infrared camera ($4000) that gives the driver a clear night view beyond even bi-xenon headlights on a monochromatic in-dash screen.

The safety implications of night view assist are awesome particularly if mass manufacturing makes it accessible further down the car food chain.

The new S-Class is bigger in every dimension than the previous model and is available in short and long wheelbase with the latter being 130mm longer at 5206 metres.

The extra size correlates to additional interior room and more comfort.

Accepting that the S500, the only V8 in the lineup, has almost every imaginable luxury, what is it like to drive?

The $270,000 test vehicle was a long wheelbase model and that means copious rear seat legroom.

The car has huge visual impact commanding attention wherever it goes. Large wheel arch flares add a distinctive touch as does the "pancake" bootlid.

Power comes from a 5.5-litre petrol V8 kicking out an impressive 285kW/530Nm, sufficient to propel the big S500 from 0-100kmh in a scant 5.4 seconds.

It does this while being capable of using as little as only 10.5 litres of petrol/ 100km in mixed driving.

Drive is to the rear wheels via a seven speed auto with sequential shift on steering wheel mounted buttons.

There is never a point when the S500 can't provide blistering acceleration. It can be cruising almost silently and move away like a sports saloon car with a moderate push on the throttle.

When sound is audible, it's a bass exhaust burble - totally in keeping with the big Benz.

Ride is superb thanks to the adaptive air suspension which delivers a supple controlled ride no matter what the conditions.

The interior is finely crafted and stylishly modern offering easy to use controls and high levels of comfort.

Possibly the only complaint I have with this car is the Benz version of that annoying BMW I-Drive controller in the centre console.

When you're driving, you need to be looking at the road and concentrating, not fiddling with a electronic controller and looking at the readout screen to find out which function you have.

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