Bottom line: I’m often asked: “What is the safest car.?” My answer: The S550 4Matic is one of the safest. But you can die or be critically injured in that one, too. All it takes is something silly, like driving while sleepy, going way too fast for conditions or not wearing seat belts.
Ride, acceleration and handling: The S550 4Matic has a super-quiet interior. The ride is comfortably plush, but also controlled and disciplined. Credit the car’s air-spring suspension technology. Acceleration will not please speed freaks. But it is more than adequate for people who understand that a big luxury sedan is for cruising.
Head-turning quotient: I noticed that both garages I visited on the East Side of New York City parked the S550 4Matic out front. That speaks for itself.
Engine/transmission for the 2013 Mercedes-Benz S550 4Matic: It comes standard with a 4.7-liter, 32-valve direct-injection gasoline V-8 with variable valve timing (429 horsepower, 516 pound-feet of torque). The engine is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually. Premium gasoline is required.
Capacities: There are seats for five people. Maximum trunk capacity is 16.4 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 21.9 gallons of premium gasoline.
Mileage: I averaged 23 miles per gallon in highway driving. I kept this one out of the city as much as possible — too big, too costly to park, too much of an easy target for bumps and scrapes.
Safety: Standard equipment includes front and rear ventilated brakes; four-wheel antilock brakes; adaptive braking system with predictive, automatic brake drying, and hill-start brake technology; torque vectoring brake technology; electronic brake-force distribution; radar-based cruise control; side and head air bags (eight air bags in all); electronic stability and traction control. Recommended optional safety equipment includes Night View Assistance with pedestrian detection and active body control with crosswind stabilization.
Price: The base price of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz S550 4Matic is $98,000. Dealer’s invoice price on that model is $91,140. Price as tested is $120,655, including $21,750 in options (additional safety equipment, panoramic power glass roof, premium sound system and other items) and a $905 factory-to-dealer transportation charge.