Auto sales Ltd launched the all-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class at their showroom in Lija late last month. General manager Mario Xuereb said this was the top model in Malta for Mercedes-Benz.

"Since the early 1950s, the S-Class has always been a world leader," Mr Xuereb observed. Among the owners of an S-Class have been Pope John XXIII, Margaret (now Lady) Thatcher and Maria Callas.

The outgoing model, launched in 1998 was a best-seller in the luxury car segment, with over 500,000 cars sold around the world.

With the S-Class, Mr Xuereb said Mercedes-Benz have always set new standards. Among the innovations on the new models are:

Brake Assist PLUS with radar sensors; dynamic multicontour seats with an extended massage function; night view assist with the latest infra-red technology; the new COMAND system; anticipatory PRE-SAFE occupant protection; and the Active Body Control suspension system.

The S-Class was the first car built with crumple zones, Mr Xuereb said, and its ABS (anti-lock braking system) was first launched 40 years ago.

Focusing on aesthetics, he said the new S-Class was attractive outside and even more beautiful inside. The new flagship model is larger than its predecessor in every respect.

There is a choice of two body lengths - 5,076 or 5,206 mm - which is 33 and 43 mm more, respectively, than the previous S-Class. The wheelbase has increased by 70/80 mm to 3,035/3,165 mm.

In addition, the body is now 16 mm wider and 29 mm higher than previously. These new dimensions create the basis for an interior space concept, which offers all passengers first-class comfort.

Getting in, driving and feeling at ease - this is the unique experience offered by the new S-Class. The newly developed, well-proven control concept enables rapid access to functions that are used particularly frequently.

Depending on the driver's preferred habits, the control functions such as the radio, TV tuner, CD/DVD changer, telephone and navigation system, either using conventional switches, via buttons on the multifunction steering wheel or with the help of the improved COMAND system, can be accessed. The direct control switches in the centre console are so ergonomically positioned that the driver can operate them conveniently and without looking down.

Although the S-Class has been on the market for only a few months since it was unveiled internationally in Frankfurt last year, Mr Xuereb said it has already received a number of awards, including the Golden Steering Wheel and Best Luxury Car in the What Car? awards.

There is an impressive list of standard equipment even for the Lm56,000 'base' S 320 CDI, powered by a new 3.0-litre 235-hp V6 diesel engine, mated with the 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission.

This engine supersedes the previous in-line six-cylinder unit of the S 320 CDI, improving output by 15 per cent. Maximum torque is increased from 500 to 540 Nm, which is available between 1,600 and 2,800 rpm.

This up-to-date direct-injection diesel unit is equipped with third-generation common-rail technology. Its advanced features include rapid and precise piezo-injectors, as well as a maximum injection pressure of up to 1,600 bar.

The maintenance-free particulate filter developed by Mercedes-Benz is also standard, along with an electric parking brake, automatic climate control, 17-inch seven spoke light-alloy wheels on 235/55 tyres, a multi-function steering wheel, two-stage rain sensor, and tyre pressure loss warning system. There are airbags for driver and passenger, side airbags for all outer seats and windowbags, plus seatbelt pre-tensioners on all seats and belt force limiters on the front and outer rear seats.

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