When Mercedes-Benz launched its updated S-class as a 2007 model, it showed off some astounding new tech, including night vision and adaptive cruise control that can bring the car to a full stop. Two years later, not many automakers have caught up with this kind of tech, although Mercedes-Benz hasn't quite caught up in the areas of iPod integration and Bluetooth phone support.
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The exterior of the S550 presents a unique style for a sedan. Subtle fender arches evoke an older, classic style while the curved roofline and grille lend a modern look. Not many modern sedans stand out like the S550.
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The 2009 S550 relies on the same 5.5-liter V-8 launched for the 2007 model. It's not great on fuel economy, but does an excellent job moving the car with its 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque.
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Although not a stretched version, the S550 offers generous room in back without compromising the front seating areas.
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This model is equipped with an expensive sport package that adds AMG wheels. The car also comes with an air suspension with an Active Body Control option. The result is a suspension that can go from comfort to sport modes at the push of a button.
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With the suspension set in comfort mode, the S550 floats over rough roads, keeping passenger discomfort to a minimum. In hard cornering, the Active Body Control keeps body roll to a minimum.
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As befits the S550's level of luxury, the trunk opens and closes automatically. And there is plenty of room to load in suitcases or golf bags.
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Mercedes-Benz does a great job on the interior design, keeping buttons to a minimum. And the switchgear that is present is mostly metal, instead of plastics that would cheapen the look of the cabin.
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Despite some of the S550's sporting elements, the steering is very light, and doesn't offer much road feedback.
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The S550 comes standard with navigation, high-end audio, and a phone system. This big metal knob is the hardware portion of the Comand interface, which lets you select the various cabin tech functions on the car's LCD.
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The S550 can be had with a number of optional driver aids, such as adaptive cruise control, called Distronic Plus by Mercedes-Benz. It lets you set a cruise control speed, but will slow the S550 down to match the speed of slower cars ahead.
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A new driver aid for Mercedes-Benz is blind spot warning. Here you can see a red triangle lit up in the sideview mirror, indicating a car in the lane next to the S550.
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Night vision is one of the more remarkable technologies in the S550. The car has an infrared camera and projector mounted in front, with the camera receiving infrared light bounced off objects ahead of the car. It lets you see much further in dark situations than you can with the naked eye.
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Massage seats makes long journeys more comfortable in the S550, as rollers move up and down your back. You can choose from four settings for different types of massage.
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The S550 gets a new navigation system from the one offered at launch. This hard-drive-based system has high-resolution maps and performs quickly. It also shows traffic conditions, but unfortunately doesn't warn about traffic jams on the road ahead.
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The interface for Sirius satellite radio has a nice design, reminiscent of an old radio tuner. Mercedes-Benz also offers HD Radio.
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A six-disc CD changer sits hidden behind a panel in the stack. It can read MP3 CDs as well as DVDs.
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You can watch DVDs on the main LCD when the car is stopped. Although a small screen, the image is good.
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