2007 Mercedes-Benz S-Class

With practically no technological stone left unturned, the new 2007 Mercedes-Benz S-Class showcases all sorts of innovations in driver comfort and safety. Power-train technology isn't quite as enhanced, but it still shows a couple of interesting turns. Along with well-known features such as navigation, the S-Class brings tech to the car seats, introducing a massage system to alleviate back fatigue on long trips. Safety systems include a radar that contributes to braking assistance and adaptive cruise control. An infrared night-vision system is also available. For power trains, the new model comes in S350, S500, and S600 versions; an S320 CDI diesel version may also be released in the United States.

Upside: The seats in the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class are a technological marvel unto themselves. Lumbar, shoulder, and sides can all be adjusted via the car's Command system, Mercedes-Benz's vehicle interface. Further, the side bolsters will inflate during heavy cornering to keep the occupants from sliding around. On top of all this, the seats include a massage function. Seven interior temperature sensors and 21 air vents make for a fine-tuned climate-control system. Controls on the steering wheel offer similar navigation through the car's Command system, as do the knob and the quick access buttons on the center console. The LCD, placed just right of the instrument cluster, can display a rearview camera, complete with computer-generated steering guides. Safety systems also go the extra mile. A night-vision system uses infrared beams and a camera to display a view of the road ahead over the instrument cluster. The radar captures information about distance between vehicles and displays the data to the driver via a gauge. A braking system also uses the radar data to assist the driver in providing braking power or applying the brakes if the distance decreases drastically. If the car senses an impending collision through the radar, it will automatically tighten seat belts, close the sunroof, and take other protective measures for the occupants.

All the engines offered have been made more efficient, from the V-6 in the S350 to the V-8 in the S500. The S-Class also uses the seven-speed automatic previously rolled out in other models, such as the R-Class. The shifter configuration, a small steering-column stalk and rocker switches behind the steering wheel, is the same as on the R-Class as well.

Downside: With this amount of tech, it's hard to find fault. However, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, like other luxury vehicles, isn't very friendly to external electronic devices such as MP3 players. It does play DVD audio with the optional Harman Kardon Logic 7 sound system, which should allow drivers to bring along a good quantity of music. Price will also be, as can be expected, in the Mercedes-Benz realm.

Outlook: The 2007 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the company's flagship sedan, so it has been chosen as the platform to trot out the latest research. It also gives this carmaker a chance to shore up its quality reputation--one that has been hurt in recent years by some not-ready-for-prime-time technology. If the S-Class gets it right, this should prove to be a very popular car for Mercedes-Benz. It will also be a proving ground for some of its more innovative technology. Although navigation and satellite radio have become tech standards, the success of the more advanced technology in this car could motivate other carmakers to adopt them.