2014 Mercedes-Benz S Class
There’s luxury, and then there’s ultra-luxury. And while everyone certainly thinks luxury when they hear Mercedes-Benz, even the company thought that to go the ultra-luxury route, it would take a different brand. That’s where Maybach came in to play. But, it’s tough for a little know car marque to get a foothold, even when it’s backed by Mercedes. So, Maybach is again history. But don’t think for a minute that Benz has abandoned their ultra-luxury goals.
From our first moments behind the wheel of the all new S550, it was clear Mercedes-Benz is attempting to elevate S-class’ status enough to actually replace the ultra-exclusive Maybach. So, forget about competing with the 7-Series and A8, the new S-Class now has Bentley and Rolls-Royce in its sights.
And just like those high roller rides, there’s really no end to the list of options you can add in order to make your “S” a one of a kind piece. But Benz is also attempting to match unbridled opulence at a more attainable price.
For starters, the look is pure sophisticated elegance, not showy in any way; more chiseled than before, but with the same upsweeping body lines flowing to more substantial rear shoulders.
As you would expect in a new flagship Mercedes-Benz, new standards for safety are achieved. The technology is known, but now there is seamless integration of driver aides like Steering Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, and even a Night Vision system that works so well, you can make an argument for looking at it instead of through the windshield. Though ironically enough, when you need it most, the button to turn it on is nearly impossible to find in the dark. The new S-class also takes the illumination crown, as there are almost 500 LED’s between the exterior and interior; no incandescent bulbs whatsoever.
Just one word comes to mind when you first experience the interior environment, and that word is craftsmanship. Build quality is exquisite, and the excellence of materials and upholstery is very remindful of the aforementioned esteemed British marques.
Though all of the electronics and clarity of the navigation screen and virtual gauge panel are far superior and just scream high-end, much more so than in the previous generation S-class. The COMAND central control system is well improved, making a good case for eliminating touch screens altogether; and there are also enough traditional manual controls for most fundamental operations.
Seats and armrests are instantly comforting and soothing; all controls and accoutrements feel rich; the quality of wood and leather is amazing. All-in-all, it’s just a wonderful interior.
Our 4MATIC-equipped tester performed just great on our worn down wintery byways, though the additional heaves and holes in our roads had us wishing it would have been equipped with the optional Magic Body Control that does just what it sounds like; nearly levitating over every bump and road imperfection with the true sense of a magic carpet ride, with apologies to Steppenwolf.
The unique part of the “Magic” system is that instead of reacting to wheel movements, it uses cameras to scan the road surface ahead and predict what the suspension is about to deal with and adjusts damping accordingly. Unfortunately, the system is only available in rear-wheel-drive models.
Driving a full-size, high-dollar sedan can be a little intimidating, as not only are you aware of the car’s girth, but you are also very aware of the car’s price tag. But Benz does it’s best to alleviate that anxiety with an insane amount of comfort features, like massaging seats with pillow-like headrests, perfume atomizer, and Burmester Surround Sound audio. Also helping is the fact that it doesn’t feel as heavy as previous S, though it still has that substantial feel that only a German made luxury sedan manages.
Even without “Magic”, our 4Matic never bounced or floated like a Bentley or Rolls, making us want to push it faster and faster. And it has the power to do it. Which we confirmed at the track where we bolted to 60 in just 5.0-seconds, finding the end of the ¼-mile in 13.5-seconds at 108 miles-per-hour.
Making that possible, is a 4.7-liter V8, complete with a pair of turbochargers, cranking out 449-horsepower and 516 lb-ft. of torque. Transmission is a 7-speed automatic.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for our 4MATIC are 16-City, 26-Highway, and 19-Combined. We averaged a good 22.3 miles-per-gallon of Premium. The Energy Impact Score comes in fairly high at 17.3-barrels of oil use with 7.6-tons of CO2 emitted annually.
Even with its decidedly more upscale nature, base pricing starts under 6-figures at $93,825. Our extremely well equipped test car was $122,895. That’s not inexpensive, but the new S really does feel like a car that costs twice as much, and a bargain for this level of craftsmanship.
In fact, Mercedes-Benz claims the 2014 S550 is the best automobile in the world. We’re not ready to go anywhere near that far, but it is a pretty spectacular piece of automotive conveyance. It clearly has replaced Maybach, and without a question has become the new benchmark for the “mass produced” premium luxury sedan class.
- Engine: 4.7-liter V8
- Horsepower: 449
- Torque: 516 lb-ft.
- 0-60 mph: 5.0 seconds
- 1/4 mile: 13.5 seconds @ 108 mph
- EPA: 16 mpg city/ 26 mpg highway
- Energy Impact: 17.3 barrels of oil/yr
- CO2 Emissions: 7.6 tons/yr
Still The Same Mazda3, Just A Bit Better
When the fourth-gen Mazda3 arrived for 2019, it grew a little more stylish, a lot more upscale; and loads more practical too, adding all-wheel drive into the mix for the first time. How does it get better than that? Well, for ’23 the 3 adds an engine update that promises to deliver more power and better efficiency. Time to speak truth to this power.
The Mazda3 has always been a great compact car, big on both fun and value, and has earned numerous MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Awards over the years. This current-gen has been on the road for 4-years now, and it gets even better for 2023.
Starting with the powertrain, the base 2.0-liter I4 has been eliminated leaving just 2 versions of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, turbo and non-turbo. Base versions get a 5-horsepower bump to 191-horsepower, along with updates for its cylinder deactivation system. The 2.5 Turbo fits standard all-wheel drive and outputs the same 250-horsepower and 320 lb-ft. of torque as last year; provided you use Premium gas. Max ratings drop to 227-horsepower and 310 lb-ft. with Regular.
A 6-speed manual transmission remains available in front-wheel drive 3s, but AWDs come exclusively with a sport-tuned 6-speed automatic. We found it well-sorted and seemingly always on the same page as us whether we were shuffling through back roads or sitting in traffic. There is a softer overall feel compared to Mazda3s of old, which you’ll appreciate when encountering harsh pavement, but it still feels plenty agile when called upon.
That softer feel certainly carries over inside, where it has gotten much quieter, and quite nicely finished, consistent with Mazda’s Audi-like premium intentions. All 3s get an 8.8-inch center display, and all of the fingerprints on our test car’s screen signifies most people assume it’s a touchscreen. It’s not, however, as inputs are made with a rotary controller on the console. It’s not the most intuitive system, but once you’re past the learning curve, it’s tolerable.
The rear seat room doesn’t have the roomy feel of the Subaru Impreza, but space is certainly more than adequate compared to the rest of the compact set. Rear cargo space for this hatchback rates a good 20.1 cubic-ft. with trunk space in the sedan coming in at 13.2 cubic-ft. So yes, the Mazda3 remains available in both sedan and hatchback, but we still prefer the 5-door hatch both for its practicality and for its sporty looks. Top Turbo Premium Plus gets gloss black aero treatments including a roof spoiler and front air dam.
At the test track, power from the 2.5-turbo felt more than adequate off the line, using all-wheel-drive grip to bite into the pavement and get up and go to 60 in 6.0-seconds flat. There was virtually no turbo lag, and the engine felt nicely refined with its power delivery. Transmission operation was equally as smooth and kept the power flowing quite effectively throughout the ¼-mile, which ended in 14.5-seconds at 95 miles-per-hour. We really appreciate a well-tuned 6-speed in this world of overactive 8 and 10 speed automatics.
While there was definitely some understeer to manage in our handling course, the 3 turned in quickly and provided real, sporting feedback through our cone course. I-Activ AWD features G-Vectoring Control Plus, which uses both engine torque vectoring as well as selective braking to minimize body roll, and preserve the lively feel we’ve come to expect from Mazda. In panic braking runs, the pedal was soft, but that kept ABS pulsing to a minimum; and the results were great, as we averaged a very short 106-feet from 60, with minimal nose dive and stable, straight stops.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel drive Turbo are 23-City, 31-Highway, and 26-Combined; we averaged a good 28.4 miles-per-gallon of Regular.
Obviously by eliminating the previous base engine, prices have taken a jump for ’23, but so has everything else. Still they remain more than reasonable. The base S now starts at $26,855, with the top Turbo Premium Plus at $37,815, with many options in between. And sedan prices are even more sensible, starting at $23,715.
Like most brands, Mazda seems to be going all-in on SUVs; as the 3 is the last family sedan and hatchback in their lineup. And it would be a real shame if that were to change. As the 2023 Mazda3, the hatchback in particular, is just about the perfect car, offering utility vehicles levels of practicality along with better than average luxury, plus handling performance that few crossovers can match. So, long live the Mazda3!
- Engine: 2.5-liter Turbo-4
- Horsepower: 227 | 250
- 0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 106 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 28.4 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: 6-speed auto
- Torque: 310 lb-ft. | 320 lb-ft
- 1/4 Mile: 14.5-seconds at 95 mph
- EPA: 23-City / 31-Highway / 26-Combined