Getting the VVIP treatment in the Mercedes S450L
Thembekile Vokwana experiences the Mercedes S450L
Bucket list: Being driven by a chauffeur in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class; Ticked.
I recently had the privilege of being driven by a gentleman from AMG Driving Academy, Muhammad Hoosain. I call it a privilege because this R1.6m S-Class, in “entry-level” trim, is a byword for luxury.
As I sat there with my legs comfortably stretched out in the back of the car, I imagined myself doing multibillion-rand deals hidden behind completely blacked-out windows with retractable blinds that made it impossible for anyone outside to see me.
The S-Class has always been seen as a jewel in the Mercedes-Benz crown, and with the S450L the company hasn’t done too badly either. My late dad used to own a silver-grey Mercedes Benz 380SE (W126), with beige interior and a sunroof, model in the 80s. He swore by the brand as he saw it as the epitome of luxury and excellence. I wonder what he would say now if he were sitting with me at the back of this “limousine” from Stuttgart.
This car has been a favourite of business executives, presidents (elected or despots), VIPs of any sort and more recently oligarchs, probably in bullet-proof versions. The S-Class is refined, exuding success and money without being blingy. The silhouette is one of understated luxury, of a high achievers who don’t want to shout about their achievements.
The model I drove came with a 3.0l V6 twin-turbocharged engine, which produces 286kW at 500Nm. As it covers 0-100km in 5.1 seconds and tops out at a governed 250km/h, the 450L is no slouch despite weighing two tons.
The car is long (5.2m), which proved to be a bit of a challenge when parked in my standard garage of 6m with little room to manoeuvre around the car. That length makes for a generous interior, and it is a dream sitting t the back while someone has the “difficult” job of driving.
The air suspension easily absorbed bumps on uneven tarmac while I worked uninterruptedly. The almost 2m width also provided enough space to seat three adults at the back without elbows getting in the way.
Electric blinds for total privacy, a sky roof at the back and vanity mirrors with lights are among the features that make it so enjoyable to be a passenger.
I love driving cars and absolutely enjoyed the S-Class, but for once it was great to be driven around quietly and in total comfort.
One of the things I like that shows attention to detail is the soft fabric inside the door storage space. Few people pay attention to this as most people just throw in keys, cellphones and even water bottles in there, but Mercedes lined it with soft fabric so that it doesn’t feel like horrible plastic. Nice touch Mercedes!
When it was my turn to drive the car, I got a lot of stares, gasps and downright acknowledgement. It felt great and made me wonder what it must be like to really own this R1.6m German behemoth.
I got to experience the glide mode in which the car coasts when in comfort mode. The engine and transmission disengage allowing the car to “glide” silently.
The nine-gear transmission is smooth as would be expected in this class.
I especially love the generous infotainment that has all the electronic gizmos at the touch of the centrally located rotating knob, touchpad or the small steering-located touchpads.
The S-Class cockpit made it feel as if I was sitting in the control centre of the Starship Enterprise, with giant LED screens and an array of almost overwhelming technology at my disposal. The screens are crisp and easy to navigate.
Standard features include ABS, EBD, brake assist, hill-start, traction control, stability control, air suspension, multiple airbags, a multifunction steering wheel, digital instrument cluster, fatigue detect, head-up display, cruise control, voice control, massage in front seats, and wireless charging .
There are aluminium and leather everywhere and the interiors are plush and seats very comfortable.
Competition will continue to nibble at the heels of this venerable car from Stuttgart and I am sure in some cases will be regarded as being ahead depending on the preference of the owner of the car.
I seriously enjoyed this model of the S-Class. This car remains classic and timeless in terms of design and refinement but is moving with the times as is evident in the gadgetry.
My dad would have been happy that he had chosen the precursor to the S450L as a mode of transportation when he had to attend what he called “important meetings”. He always said it made him feel like a VVIP, and, yeah dad, after driving the S450L, I shared your sentiment. The Sonderklasse (German for special class) really is a special car.