Project S

Get fast and furious with the Mercedes-Benz S550.

When Mercedes-Benz introduces a new s model, it is time to pay attention. After all, the founder of the company-Karl Benz-invented the automobile.

Mercedes S550
Engine: 4.6 liter, twin turbocharged V-6, 455 horsepower
Transmission: seven-speed automatic with sport and economy modes
Acceleration: 0-60: 4.8 seconds
Sound system: 590 watts, 13 speakers, CD changer; optional: Burmester 3D system with 1,540 watts, 24 speakers
Price : starting at $92,900, as tested $120,465

The 2014 four-door sedan, besides some exterior revisions, is a superlative techno tour de force. With selected redrawing of the lines and some smoothing out, the S slices through the air with a very low coefficient of friction. New LED headlights, a wider traditional grill, and some side sculpturing separate this S from its predecessor, but not dramatically.

Mechanically, there is plenty of power to go around. A twin turbo V-6 punches out a healthy 445 horsepower and pushes the big sedan from zero to 60 in 4.8 seconds. A seven-speed automatic is shifted into gear with a small lever on the left side of the steering column. On the economy front, by pushing an ECON button, the engine, once warmed up, turns off the powerplant at stops. Tap the accelerator, and the engine pops on… all very silently and almost imperceptibly.

In addition, drivers can control shift points by switching from an economy mode (shifts early) to sport (holds the gears).

But the ride is the telling luxury feature.

No matter how horrible the surface or the pothole, the air suspension handles it in quiet comfort. Corners are taken with similar decorum and lack of any leaning drama. But if a tighter ride is to your liking, select the sport option and the shocks tighten up.

Want more, you say? Check the Magic Body Control option slot, and a stereo camera mounted in the front windshield detects the surface in the front of the car and adjusts the suspension to make any bump or uneven surface completely disappear.

Much like the mechanics, the interior, particularly in the back seat, speaks indulgence in spades. Mixed in with the traditional analog cloak and the round traditional air vents are tons of wood, leather and metal. Two large iPad-like 12.3-inch screens are mounted on the upper edge of the dash. With the use of a sizeable wheel on the center console, multiple functions can be manipulated. Just above that wheel is a number pad to handle any needed number entries. Behind the steering wheel, the other video screen shows the speedometer and tach, which can be reconfigured to meet the driver’s desires.

The color of the interior LED lighting can be manipulated with plenty of color choices. And if the interior smell is not to your liking, a fragrance control can change that.

Tired after a long day and need to relax? Then you and your passenger can turn on the seat massage system where either can, not only pick multiple pressure points on the bottom and back of the seat, but can add heat.

If that’s not enough lavishness for you, then it is time to move to the backseat where the real pampering can be found. First, there is ample room for stretching out. The test car had an optional rear seat package ( fully leather lined, of course), which added a four-zone climate system, an adjustable footrest, rear seatbelt airbags, a hot massage function, and a right rear seat that can recline to a 43-degree angle. The ultimate executive rear seat option trims the rear to two seats but adds two folding tables for each seat.

Two video screens are mounted on the back of the front seats for any DVD action, and power shades for the side windows and the back window can be elevated to hide from adoring fans.

And certainly this new opulent S class should have lots of fans. With plenty of power, a smooth ride and an interior with multiple comfort choices, this redo should be a hit.


Much has been written about the latest in electric cars and plug-in hybrids. The benefits include enhanced mileage, a near zero-carbon footprint, and “motoring” silence.

Less known are the two-wheel electric “motor” cyles and mopeds. A number of American manufacturers are selling multiple models with vast variations of range and speed.

On the higher end, Zero ( of California has a wide range of bikes; some built for police departments. The S model has a range of 130 miles, 54 horsepower and a top speed of 95 miles. Acceleration, because of light weight and the instant torque of the electric motor, is as fast as big sport bikes. But for those who love the exhaust thunder of a large gas powerplant, they will be disappointed. Zero also stands for the “sounds of silence” when tooling around. On the ecology front, there is a federal tax credit, and the gas mileage equivalent is over 200 to 400 mpg depending on the model.

Out of Oregon, Brammo ( offers fewer models, but with more performance and a racer bike design. Their Empulse R has seven batteries and a six-speed transmission. Prices range from $11,000 to $20,000.

Locally, Cycle City ( sells the Evolve cycles and mopeds. Typical of these is the Helium model, which is considered a moped. As a moped, the driver does not need a motorcycle license because the top speed is limited to 35 miles per hour. A test drive revealed the Evolve is, not only nearly completely silent, but has instant acceleration from a stop. Range is 40 to 110 miles, depending on the model. Pricing is equivalent to high-end mopeds or about $4,700.

Clearly electrical power is moving into all means of travel and the two-wheel variety will certainly be a beneficiary…silently.

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