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Mercedes’ Definition of Class.

If you watched last weekend’s NFL playoffs, you may have seen the newest TV commercials from Mercedes-Benz where British actor Matthew Macfadyen asserts that the automaker has been “Defining Class since 1886”. That boast reminded me of Cadillac’s legendary slogan “The Standard of the World”. It’s obvious that self-deprecation is not part of the message but I thought that perhaps the S-Class in my driveway might deliver the admiration of most all beholders during my week’s travels.

While I didn’t witness the jaw-dropping approval from the public that I might encounter in a Koenigsegg or similar exotic conveyances, I felt reasonably refined in the Mercedes S580. And isn’t that what one might expect from the marvelous machine that posted a window sticker with a $160,740 MSRP? It certainly is and the big Benz sedan continues to deliver that assurance.

Not long ago, before SUVs and trucks became our most popular vehicles, big, powerful, posh sedans were the flagships of luxury automotive brands. Today, German luxury rivals Audi’s A8 and BMW’s 7-Series match the S580’s size and stature and they’re joined by South Korea’s Genesis G90. All the other mainstream luxury automakers offer sedans that are a bit smaller, or just posh SUV models. And while big sport utilities have their charm, they just can’t deliver the elegance of a proper flagship sedan in my view.

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Our S580 was finished in Signature China Blue outside with Sienna Brown Nappa Leather within. Piano Black accents replaced the traditional wood appliques for an elegant, contemporary touch. They also coordinated nicely with the two big displays, a 12.3-inch behind the steering wheel for driving instruments and a 12.8-inch vertical screen in the center stack presenting infotainment and other controls. And to help keep eyes focused on the road where they belong, beckoning “Hey Mercedes” would summon the automaker’s very competent voice-activation system.

Years ago, I recall driving a big S-Class sedan in a wicked storm where I witnessed more than a few lesser vehicles immobile and off the highway. I thought at the time that only a direct tornado strike or Armageddon would keep me from reaching my destination safely. That assurance was based not only on the poise and stability of the vehicle, but if somehow stricken, the wealth of passive and active safety attributes would come to my rescue. That security is very much alive and well in the newest S-Class.

Our weather during my week’s drive was delightful and so was this big car’s ride and handling. The twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 produces 496-horsepower and 516 lb. ft. of torque and that’s plenty to move this big fella with alacrity. It just takes 4.3-seconds to launch from naught to 60 MPH, just what you may need to merge safely into Interstate traffic. The fuel economy is not an unreasonable 18-city, 27-highway, but if you want to improve those numbers, the S580e plug-in hybrid offers 46-mile electric range for most errands and no worries about searching for plugs on a longer journey.

The Mercedes-Benz advertising assertion about class may be a bit boastful, but its flagship S-Class does deliver driving substance. And if that’s not enough, an ultra-luxury Maybach edition is a great way to arrive at your next class reunion.

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