A curious transformation takes place when you get into an S-class: You immediately feel more important and privileged. As you sink into the generous leather seats, the Mercedes Assistant welcomes you while all driving and comfort settings automatically adapt to your stored preferences. And when the doors close, it’s almost like sitting in a soundproof vault – completely silent! Until you start your favorite music at the exclusive system, provided by Burmester and let the music massage the ear canals, and as far as the rest of the body as well…
The feeling of being a VIP only gets stronger when you travel on the road: People turn around, and it is as if the fellow road users suspect that you are rolling with a valuable load, perhaps a celebrity or an important minister? They keep a safe distance and are happy to let you pass. Yes, even public transport stops to let you out. What can we say, it’s good to be rich!
We have previously become acquainted with the standard variant of the new S-Class, complete with beautiful 3D surround sound from Burmester. But most S-Class buyers do not stop there, it turns out!
The S-Class is a typical executive or diplomat car where the main character is reclining in the comformat of the back seat, at full speed between contract signings and official assignments. Therefore, many of the cars are specified in a more representative, longer version with a larger wheelbase.
The long version of the S-Class offers extra legroom and increased comfort for the passengers. Among the many luxury options, we also find an even more sophisticated 4D sound system from Burmester – with built-in bass massage!
Car: Mercedes-Benz S400d 4-Matic
The test model we have borrowed this time is of the type S400d 4-Matic with four-wheel drive and diesel engine of 330 hp and strong 700 Nm of torque. But the S-Class is also available in plug-in hybrid with up to 100 km electric range.
An ordinary Mercedes S-Class is already almost 5.2 meters long: with the limo version, it increases to a full 5.4 meters. Our test model is wisely equipped with steering on all four wheels: The rear wheels can be turned up to 10 degrees each way, and reduces the turning radius by up to 2 meters.
We experienced that the 4-wheel steering gave the elongated car a surprisingly agile feeling at both low and higher speeds: During test driving I managed to get lost in a narrow busy cul-de-sac that would normally give the driver a relatively high heart rate with a car of this size and price range. But the electronic aids (360 degree camera and sensors) as well as the four-wheel steering made us get out of trouble without stress.
Excellent voice control
The MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Interface) user interface is now in its second generation, and of course tailored for the S-Class. And you can forget all about the half-finished smart systems we have tested from other manufacturers: This is truly a state-of-the-art intelligent system, with a voice control that actually works – even in Norwegian!
Speech comprehension and response are good enough that this is actually something you can use and benefit from in everyday life. Whether it is navigation, dialing contacts or specific comfort and driving settings, it is possible to ask the Mercedes assistant for help. Although the center console is equipped with buttons, they become almost superfluous.
By downloading the Mercedes Me app for iOS or Android, you can create your own user profile for the car. Then the car recognizes you when you get in, and switches to your pre-stored, individually adjusted settings. And as you know, there are many of them in an S-class. Of course, the app can also be used to turn on the heat, enter destinations and the like.
Focus on the passenger
In a car like the Mercedes S-Class, great emphasis is placed on ensuring the comfort of the passengers, and this only becomes even more apparent in the long version. Here you can stretch your legs, or take control of (almost) the whole car if you want!
Our test model is equipped with the so-called MBUX High-End Rear Seat Entertainment System (# 854) which in practice gives the rear seat passengers full control over both multimedia, navigation and other functions – including voice control. When you say “Hello Mercedes”, the assistant hears which seat your voice is coming from, and adjusts accordingly. The S-Class also has a very efficient hands-free function that directs and amplifies the sound to exactly the seat where the call takes place.
Via the touch screen in the back of the chair, you get access to a number of individual preferences and adjustment options, whether it is sound, light or massage in the seats. The integrated 11.6″ screens in the back seat can display movies as well as content from the internet or browser, or connect to external devices such as tablets/PCs and share content between the screens.
Burmester 4D system with 31 speakers
Mercedes and Burmester work closely together on the sound front, and on the flagship model of the S-Class, they have really taken it all out. Instead of a so-called 3D system with 15 speakers, you get 31 of them here! You’ll find speakers everywhere in the passenger compartment – ceilings, doors, dashboards – yes even the headrests are fitted with each speaker. The total amplifier power is set to 1750 watts, of which 400 watts go to a powerful subwoofer in the trunk.
As if that were not enough, this S-Class is also equipped with so-called resonant transmitters – bass actuators – in the back of the chair. These are not ordinary drivers, but electric motors that make the back of the chair vibrate to the beat of the music. This is where the fourth dimension of “4D” comes from (home cinema enhusistasts will be familiar with Buttkicker that does the same thing).
The comfortable leather chairs in the S-Class are already equipped with massage rods that knead your back on long trips, but here you can add “bass massage” as well! Definitely a finesse we have been excited to test out.
In addition to a larger quantity of speaker units, the 4D system also generally has higher quality on each individual twwter, midrange and woofer element, as well as two separate amplifiers with a juicy power supply. One amplifier drives the total of eight bass actuators in the driver and passenger seats.
The comprehensive sound package obviously affects the price: While a standard Burmester 3D system costs around £3,000 as an option, you have to pay over £10,000 for the 4D version (equipment code 811). But if you are among those who really appreciate good sound, it may actually be worth it.
The sound of Burmester 4D
We already have good experience with the 3D version of the Burmester system (# 810), which sounds big and open, full and musical – but also a little restrained at times. Even if you experience getting close to the music, it lacks a little extra juice and power, before the neck hairs really rise.
However, the neck hairs a raise when the Burmester 4D system offers up for dancing: Here they have definitely not spared on the effort, nor the expense! A large, powerful and powerful soundscape fills the cabin, and we are immediately stomping to the beat of Rage Against the Machine. Or rather, we are having ouselves stomped by the beat! The more comprehensive 4D system turns out to have exactly what we missed – namely significantly more muscle.
There is no shortage of sophistication either: Bob Dylan’s Man in the Long Black Coat sounds so clear and present that we have to pinch our arm – while keeping the other hand on the steering wheel of course.
We go through the test archive, with a wide repertoire of music: classical, hip hop, rock and electronic – and Burmester tackles everything with bravura. We may be particularly impressed with the precisely scalable sound image, which spreads between the A-pillars, but can also fill the entire car when the recording indicates that it is correct.
Another thing that strikes us is the total absence of noise and distortion. The quiet S-compartment isolates us from the outside world, and lets the details of the soundscape shine through. Here you can experience getting really close to the soloist, as well as separating each instrument into an entire orchestra. And even recognize which concert hall the recording comes from. This is truly hi-fi car sound at its best!
Bass massage in the back of the chair
We were of course extra excited about how the so-called bass vibrators would work. Would it be an embarrassing and vulgar thing or something that actually provides acoustic gain? The answer is that it works like a charm.
After some experience with bass actuators from cinemas, amusement parks and the like, it is easy to think that this is a gimmick. But Burmester has actually managed to make the vibrators work surprisingly well in interaction with the regular woofers. There is always a good sync between the physical projections and the bass sound in general. It simply feels like you have a giant, hard-hitting subwoofer in your back!
The 4D function also provides another, unexpected bonus: Even at a fairly low listening volume, you get a clear feeling of the bass notes, which you otherwise do not get from ordinary sound systems. And at really high volume, you can feel violent thumps in your back – just like being at a loud rock concert. And when we put on some tough electronics – for example Tiestos Business – the director’s car turns into a rolling disco!
Super sound in all seats
With such a huge number of speakers, it is perhaps easy to believe that the 4D system is aimed impressing the rabble with thumping bass and crazy SPL levels. But that is far from the case.
No – this is probably first and foremost about gaining full control over the sound image in the cabin, with plenty of room for individual adjustments. The many speaker units are strategically placed in doors, dashboards and ceilings, and all can be adjusted via the main unit’s advanced digital sound processor (DSP).
As usual, Burmester offers a number of different sound settings that are intended to give 3D and surround effect. We have not been particularly impressed with these before, but in the 4D facility they come more into their own. The surround mode provides a huge soundscape that fills the entire cabin, without sounding artificial and artificial. The 3D mode also helps to give the music an increased sense of height perspective.
Since this is the “limo” version, we were naturally extra interested in the sound experience from the back seat. And it turns out that Burmester has done extra diligence with the sound modes here as well.
Via the on-screen control, you can also define one of the seats as a “VIP seat”: Then the sound settings are adjusted to give optimal sound at that exact position. This had a noticeable effect where the sound image moved, and the timing and projections in the music became more correct – just like sitting in a “sweet spot” in front of a pair of cool stereo speakers. Maybe that’s how it feels to sit in the executive chair?
There is no doubt that the Mercedes S-Class type long is a luxurious and comfortable car. If you are also just as concerned about sound comfort, you should definitely consider the 4D sound system from Burmester as an option. With a larger number of speakers, more power and better adjustment options for optimal sound for each seat, the quiet Mercedes is transformed into a rolling concert hall. Definitely among the best cars we have driven – and heard!