Vision of the automotive future.
What exactly is the “smell of success”? Is it that heady aroma of fireworks and champagne, the rich scent of rose petals as they flutter to the ground around the feet of the champion? If you’re talking about a one-off triumph, perhaps; celebrating a promotion in the workplace or winning an award, for example. But what if success has become the norm, if setting the benchmark is no longer exceptional but routine, and the one to beat is always yourself? These are circumstances that call for a certain understatement. So how do you go about molding an idea that is already tough to define into microscopically small scent molecules that give the uninitiated nose only a vague sensation of what it feels like? After all, the nose is directly linked to the limbic system. “That’s the oldest area of the brain, the part responsible for the emotions,” explains Sabine Engelhardt. She should know.
The fragrances of comfort and luxury.
She developed the Active Perfuming System for the new S-Class and came up with olfactory translations for concepts such as familiarity and comfort, progress and luxury. Working in tandem with a renowned perfumer, Sabine Engelhardt’s team created four different fragrances – ranging from a Sports mood, which has the freshness of bright green foliage, to Nightlife, with luxurious wood and ambergris notes. Of course, the fragrances have to be just right in intensity, not overpowering, but instead “like taking a sniff from a perfume bottle,” she stresses. Sabine Engelhardt speaks eloquently and at length about vertical-axis flows and optimum air distribution in enclosed spaces; to talk to her is to recognize the enthusiasm the new S-Class triggers in those who helped create this car, even those focusing – like Engelhardt – on what you might class as small details.
Development has involved dozens of experts, people willing to look beyond their specialist areas and embrace a role as part of something bigger.
Monument to what is technically feasible.
The S-Class has always been more than just a car. It is a monument to what is technically feasible and a vision of our automotive future. More than 30 million lines of programming code are at work in a car like this – though the driver would never know it. That’s just a little less code than is used in a modern passenger aircraft. The perfect symbiosis of software and hardware. The list of technological innovations developed by Mercedes-Benz for this S-Class is as long as it is impressive. There are over 100 actuators and electric motors in the interior of the new S-Class alone – although naturally the main act remains the assembly under the hood. But the string of new developments and technological world premieres is endless.
They include intelligent driver assistance technology such as Distronic Plus with Steering Assist or BAS Plus with Cross-Traffic Assist, systems which recognize pedestrians and potential hazards at road junctions or help the driver maintain the correct lane position and distance to the car in front.
Then there is the multimedia system, which gives each of the four vehicle occupants dedicated access to the entertainment package. Or a suspension system which enlists the aid of a stereo camera mounted behind the windshield to scan the surface of the road ahead so it can iron out any flaws or unevenness in a fraction of a second. Mercedes-Benz calls this development Magic Body Control. That immediately brings to mind a quotation from science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” he opined. Except that Clarke could never have dreamed that the spirit of human engineering would get us to this point as early as 2013 – and certainly not manifested in such a prosaic object as a car.
Indistinguishable from magic.
Despite everything, throughout its long history the S-Class has never been just a simple – if high-tech – means of getting about. Indeed, it has morphed into a moving office, prestigious lounge and mobile wellness centre in one. Martin Bremer and his team were responsible for ensuring that the latest reincarnation of the flagship model from Mercedes-Benz continues to meet these requirements. As Head of the Color & Trim department, the 50-year-old’s job is to equip the entire interior. “Visual serenity” was the goal with the new car, he explains. “Our view is that you shouldn’t be aware of the complexity of the various mechanical systems and technology.”
So while they worked, the designers focused on creating an interior that would not alienate the occupant – despite the built-in technology, the large-format screens, the many buttons and switches – and instead would communicate craftsmanship and bear the hallmarks of handmade exclusivity. But that in turn meant using only materials suitable for processing and crafting by hand.
Craftsmanship in every detail.
Bremer and his team took two years just to select the leathers and fine woods for the interior. “The most important aspect,” explains Martin Bremer, “is that there is harmony between the various elements.” But isn’t there one feature of which he is particularly proud? Yes, he suggests. The seats. Or to be more precise, the way in which the seams of the optional perforated leather upholstery have been stitched. Bremer calls it “stagecraft”, explaining how it evokes associations with designer footwear and luxury handbags. And while you’re still musing over the significance of such fine details, the realization suddenly hits you: that is precisely what makes the new S-Class so unique. When you take a good long look around the outside, inspect the interior, try out the seats for the first time, at every turn you come face to face with new masterstrokes and superlatives.
And yet none of them appear to stand out on their own to claim the limelight for themselves. The S-Class is the sum of its parts. And so much more besides.