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2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 Sedan Road Test

Standing out in an unexciting segment.

What It Is
An large executive car that is redesigned for 2014.
Best Thing
World class interior design, extremely comfortable.
Worst Thing
A few key convenience features were missing from our model.
Snap Judgment
A top pick in its class.


Automotive journalists are hard to please, always eager to look for flaws and emphasize the negative. Whether it's a poorly-positioned button on the dashboard or not enough padding on the ceiling, we'll be the first to point it out. But surprisingly, I found myself going against my own nature with the Mercedes-Benz S550 luxury saloon. With a smooth ride, powerful engine, and an interior to rival a Bentley, the S550 left me thoroughly impressed. It is definitely a notch above most luxury cars on the road, and it could easily be considered a top choice in its segment.

That is, for those who can afford it. As expected, all this luxury begs a high price. And while it may be the real deal, it may not be perfect for everyone. I also had gripes with the features list and a few other things. Read on to learn what Automotive.com thought of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 Sedan.

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What We Drove

The S-Class is the top luxury sedan in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, starting at $94,400. But our model also added $27,000 worth of options. A Premium Package ($4,500) adds Keyless Go smart key, park assist, and more while a Sport Package ($5,900) tacks on special wheels, tires, and bumpers. A Driver Assistance Package ($2,800) brings lane keep assist, blind spot monitor, cross traffic assist, pedestrian detection, and rear-impact protection. Other packages add extras such as heated steering wheel/armrests, headrest pillows, a cabin purification system, and more.

All in all, the cost of the model we drove came to a whopping $121,725. But this price is nothing special compared to some of the other models in the S-Class lineup, including the high-powered S63 AMG and S65 AMG.

But just how safe is the S-Class? Unfortunately, neither the government nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash tested the lineup of S-Class cars. Standard safety features on all models include collision avoidance technology, LED headlights, adaptive braking, rearview camera, and advanced airbag protection.

The Commute

Behind the wheel, the first thing you notice is the immediate power delivery from the car's 449-horsepower V-8 engine. Thanks to a seven-speed automatic transmission, drivers also feel smooth acceleration merging onto the highway. Passing other cars during busy traffic is not a problem with this car. On top of this, potholes and rough road surfaces won't disturb your driving experience, as the cabin always remains quiet and stable. Braking is crisp and confident, and while the steering feel isn't as tight as in your Mercedes sports car, I had little problem maneuvering on the highway or on city streets.

For long commutes, what is even more important than a comfortable ride is an easy-to-use infotainment system. The radio is easy to operate thanks to steering wheel controls and a larger-than-life screen. There may be a few too many menus, as we found the system a bit distracting to operate during traffic stops on our morning commutes. Overall, however, we found it easy to switch from the radio to navigation and functions. But hooking up our phones? That took some time.

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The Grocery Run

Not surprisingly, the Mercedes S-Class provides plenty of room for drivers, passengers, and lots of cargo. The Mercedes is rated at 16.3 cubic feet of trunk space, which is more than the BMW 7 Series and Audi A8 L. But in the real world tests, we would have liked it to be a bit larger. Most families, but not all, will be able to fit enough groceries for a week in the back. If you're looking for a family hauler, consider an SUV.

During my weekly run to Target, I noticed it was pretty easy to maneuver this large car in the parking lot. A rearview camera helps while pulling into spaces. However, we expected our $120,000 model to provide surround monitor, which gives you a bird's eye view of the space around your car, showing you exactly where the parking lines are. This is particularly helpful with larger cars like this one.

The Weekend Fun

With a panoramic sunroof, massaging front seats, and a cabin fragrance enhancer, the S550 is not a bad place to spend your weekend during long drives. Even passengers in the back seat have plenty of accommodations, including full power functions, climate control, and a storage center console if the middle seat is not in use.

Operating the navigation system revolves around the use of a knob by the driver's seat. We found it easy to use, and the maps were exceptionally clear on the screen. Those who like a navigation system that is not cluttered with tons of information will enjoy this technology. We were surprised our model didn't have head-up display, which would have made it easier to know when a turn is coming up.

Fuel economy comes in at 17/26 mpg, and although that sounds bad, it is around the same as other cars in its class. According to the EPA, you will spend $2,500 more in fuel costs over five years compared to the average new car on the market.

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Summary

An executive sedan like the S550 is not for every luxury buyer; it is not sporty nor does it offer the best value proposition. This car lacks some key convenience features that we see on luxury cars half its price, (The Audi A6 Prestige and Kia K900 have head-up display and a number of other extras). But for those looking for extreme comfort, interior opulence, and smooth acceleration, the S550 fits the bill without question.

Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $121,725
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 17
EPA Highway: 26
EPA Combined: 20
Estimated Combined Range: 438 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Not available

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