As an aside that would otherwise go unheard, I’m putting out blogs of my work versus my own thoughts, as they are two different things.
[Please note: this article was between the 2014 S550, while the 2013 S550 is pictured. Two very different vehicles]
When it comes to the full-sized flagship luxury sedan, there are but a mere handful of contenders. With the new Mercedes S550 leading the Europeans with an all-new car, Japan has the lone Lexus LS460 to offer some pesky competition in the otherwise stagnate class. Lets see how these two historically game-changing badges duel.
The Lexus LS460 saw a thorough revision for the 2014 model year introduces the new Lexus signature Spindle Grill, lots of under-skin tightening, and some added fuel economy and power. The new style outside sharpens the lines up quite well over the car it replaces, but the spindle out front creates polarizing opinions. The inside also receives welcome updates, with the old silver-button waterfall dropping down from the center stack screen removed in favor of new swaths of real metal, leather, and wood swiping across the cabin. Gone also is the old-fashioned Toyota digital clock, for a classier analog unit fitting more European tastes. Even being a large car, the LS460 still yields a hybrid-like drag coefficient of just .26cd, and weighs a scant (for the class) 4,300lbs.
Like Lexus’ flagship, Mercedes S550 also sees changes for 2014, but that’s where similarities drop. Both were fully revamped in 2007, but the S-Class has taken many more steps of improvement, including a vastly updated powertrain back in 2012 (from a 382hp V8 to a smaller turbo V8 good for 429hp). For 2014, the S550 engine remains the same smaller engine, but the entire car is redone otherwise. The exterior greenhouse evokes the Mercedes CLS with a subtle bottom arch, while the interior takes few cues of the marques past. An interestingly detailed two-spoke helm and a large touch-screen atop the dash is surrounded by quilted leather and is flush with the digital gauges. Technology and amenities make it more of a high-tech spa on wheels than a luxury sedan. So much in fact, one must see for themselves how far Mercedes goes for luxury.
The Lexus is a good car that has gotten better with age, but the Mercedes has long been known as a leader and innovator in this class, especially with a history that—unlike flagship rivals from Lexus, BMW, and Audi that sprouted around 25 years ago—spans more than twice their existence. Even for the lofty price difference over the Lexus, you get a far more developed, powerful (with equal combined fuel economy), roomy vehicle with heritage behind it.
I’m not a fancy person. There is no smart phone in my pocket, the phone that is in there is a Nokia that’s probably more than a decade old, I have a Garmin from 2008 that’s never been updated, and I have an iPod that doesn’t have a touch screen or wifi. The things I will turn my nose up at are Budweiser or Coors when there’s better beers like Heinekin or Sierra Nevada out there. Otherwise, I may be critical but am lowly enough to enjoy what I have.
These cars, then, never really grab me a whole lot. Do they seem sumptuous and inviting? Sure. Interesting? Meh. Cars that essentially drive themselves like the Mercedes (see link in this paragraph) make me think “and they made a worse driver for it.” That’s been something blogged here before, and will be again undoubtedly.
With this article for CarsDirect, I was unsure whether to look at the still-out 2013 or the 2014 S-Class to come out this fall, since they were non-specific. There isn’t nearly the official information out on the ’14 as there has been on the ’13 (and cars before it dating to 2007). This made me look at both, as well as the Lexus.
From here, the Lexus seems more interesting than the S550; more organic. There’s effort put into the woods and leathers that, on their website, reads out as something far more tailored and soul-infused. One of my favorite quotes from Horacio Pagani, founder of Pagani Automobilia, is “An object is able to transit emotions when there are the manual skills involved. The genius from the head being expressed through skilled hands: passion, heart. Only then does an object come to life; is given a soul, and is able to tell a story.” Maybe that’s what I’m getting from the Lexus.
This is the process:
Because of the details Lexus goes into about the materials and craftsmanship, and not the engineering wizardry, I appreciate the aging car more. The words may not be poetic, but the Lexus site says “Each of the textures of the interior was thoughtfully put into place in order to bring out an authentic expression of the material. For example, the shape of the leather trim evokes the tension of leather being stretched. Likewise, the aluminum trim design is inspired by metal being carved and polished.” The Mercedes site just doesn’t talk about that stuff as far as I recall.
Yes, the Mercedes is newer, probably better to drive, more tech infused, more powerful, and pretty much as efficient… I don’t care. Things like the digital gauges in the Mercedes trying to simulate chrome rings disgusts me—I play enough video games that I don’t want that in my car too. There’s something about the Lexus that pulls me. It seems more tangible, more real. Sure a boost in power would be nice, and the fact the F-Sport version has a narrower track than a regular LS is very odd indeed.
The S-Class is always an amazing machine, affording so many new luxuries or improvements on safety and engineering that it’s hard to deny it as best in the flagship class. Honestly, though, it’s hard to go wrong in this type of car, anyway. Each is highly engineered—the drag coefficient on may of them are as smooth as a Toyota Prius (around .26cD) which is quite an achievement. Some of these cars are also quite light—the Jaguar XJ, for instance, weighs less than a V8-powered Camaro. To call any of these cars better than the other… better at what? These flagships give their rich buyers choices and preferences galore to specifically fill their needs and then some. Likewise, it just comes down to what we as enthusiasts want that makes our preference “best.” For me, the Jag and Lexus would suit just fine. How about yours?