The trouble with looking for a $100,000-plus luxury sedan is a fairly limited selection. Seek only luxury and eschew sporty, and the field narrows. Luckily Mercedes-Benz is there. So is Bentley. Widen to sporty and in come Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Maseratti.
Include coupes and there are plenty of expensive two-door vehicles. But for four-door sedans and those right around the 100-grand figure – well, there's Mercedes.
The newest one of those is the S550, the flagship of the top-of-the-line S Class. Coming from a long line of techno-luxo platforms, the S550 is the best one so far.
So while the choice may be limited, the S550 is not. Its all-new aluminum 5.5L V-8 delivers 382 horsepower and a 0-60 mph time of 5.4 seconds.
Top speed is electronically tethered at 130 mph. All this is handled by a super slick 7-speed automatic transmission.
Yet all this performance is subdued in favor of luxurious handling and ride. The S550 ignores bumps and handles curves like a bank vault – competently but not eagerly. For swanning around turns, try a BMW or Jaguar.
Contributing to the nice handling manners are things like active body control that stiffens the suspension under duress, Airmatic that handles the ride and speed sensitive rack-and-pinion steering. Add an electronic stability control system as well.
There are disc brakes on all four wheels along with anti-locking and brake assist. Inside are eight airbags.
•Engines: 5.5L V-8
•Dimensions: 124.6" wheelbase; 205" length
•Base price: $85,750; As tested $103,200
•Fuel economy: 16/24 mpg
An infrared Night View Assist projects a large image of the road ahead in the instrument panel. The system cuts through vision-robbing rain, snow and fog. Headlights have heated washers and track around curves.
The S550 driving position is perfection. There's so much front-seat room that even the terminally tall will have to haul in the 14-way powerseat. There's just as much room in the back.
All perch on savanna/cashmere premium leather. The (hand-polished) burl walnut interior trim comes with bluish-gray lighting. There's also a sunroof.
As usual, the excessively technical radio and navigation displays are overly complicated. In contrast, there is a fine analog clock that requires only a glance.
Exterior appearance retains the traditional Mercedes grille but adds a more athletic look with pronounced fender flares and a streamlined roof.
For those wishing to watch their pennies, the S550 base price starts out at a more modest $85,750. Our tested car came to $103,200 aided by a host of extras.
A premium package added heated and ventilated front seats that give massages and a satellite radio among other things. We still like the Mercedes habit of including a weather radio as standard.