It was one of the most spectacular car launches ever.
A new model billed the Best Car In The World, a singing superstar and the planet’s most advanced aeroplane.
The Mercedes S-Class lived up to its billing – it’s the first car that can drive itself and is a limo capable of 64mpg.
And the Merc was perfectly in tune as its first passenger was Alicia Keys.
The American singer was the star turn at the launch show in Germany.
There was even a thunderstorm as the car drove down the runway and into a hangar at the Hamburg HQ of the Airbus A380, in front of the 800 invited VIP quests.
Calling a new vehicle “the best car in the world” has to be either misplaced arrogance or justified confidence.
That is the risk Mercedes took by making the claim at the VIP launch of their flagship S-Class model in Hamburg.
Just as well, then, that the car appears to have all the qualities to back up the bold boast, including being the first one that can drive itself in heavy traffic!
The steering assist and stop-go pilot mean it can steer, brake and drive itself automatically at speeds of up to 30mph in traffic jams.
|Technologically sound ... but Mercedes S-Class awaits test drive|
The driver can, of course, always regain control.
The car also has a brake system that detects pedestrians or vehicles in front in city traffic, and can self-brake to avoid a crash.
The system can also recognise a potential rear collision and put on the rear hazard lights.
These factors justify another Merc claim — that the S-Class is “the safest car on the road”.
And how about this for a ground-breaking development?
It has the first car suspension with “eyes”. It uses camera scanners — dubbed Magic Body Control — to detect bumps on the road ahead.
|Steer, brake and drive ... Mercedes S-Class boasts 'self-drive'|
When it sees one the vehicle then automatically adjusts the dampers and suspension on each wheel to a firmer or softer setting to give a magic carpet ride across potholed surfaces — perfect for UK roads.
It’s the most economical luxury limo, with a range of hybrid diesel/petrol engines capable of 64mpg — that’s better than most superminis.
Another promise is first-class aircraft levels of comfort and luxury, which was why Mercedes chose the German home of the Airbus A380, the world’s most advanced aircraft, for the launch.
That’s presumably also why stars such as singer Alicia Keys were happy to be there to endorse it.
I can vouch for the unadulterated luxury of the roomy, sumptuously soft leather seats.
The backrests recline to 45 degrees, the heated seats have an energising massage function and even the armrests can be heated or cooled. But it’s not all about relaxation.
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You get working desks in the back, plus two DVD screens which can be linked to the web for connectivity, along with a mega-music system, all of which can be operated from an app on your phone.
There’s even a climate control with air balance and an active perfuming system with four different smells to waft around the cabin!
Also, 115 years after cars were first fitted with electric headlamps, the S-Class is the first car since to have virtually NO lightbulbs — although its 500 LEDs mean it won’t leave you in the dark.
The new S-Class is very much the Airbus of motoring.
It’s a trailblazing, advanced trendsetter for business high-fliers when they are on the ground.
Over the years the car has been the best-selling luxury limo.
Alongside its high-spec standards it has always been at the forefront of technology, a winning recipe which has made it the favourite wheels of executives and politicians.
And the new model has much more road presence with its prominent and upright chrome grille, long, raking headlights leading to a long bonnet and a sleek, coupe-like roofline.
We will have to wait to test drive the S-Class to see if it delivers “the best driving experience”, but no other car can touch it for technological innovations and safety.
Only a Rolls or Bentley challenge it for out-and-out luxury — this is five-star motoring.
On sale in the UK this autumn, the price is yet to be confirmed but expect a range from £65,000 all the way up to £170,000.
|Class act ... Alicia Keys at Mercedes S-Class launch in Germany|
A fitting price for a car Mercedes believe to be the best in the world.