Introduced at the Shanghai Auto Show in April, the new S-Class comes with the automaker’s latest version of Intelligent Drive. The update brings new features to Active Distance Assist Distronic (adaptive cruise control) and Active Steering. Steering is now smarter about automatic lane changes, with only a tap on the stalk needed to initiate the feature. If the car doesn’t find an open space after 10 seconds, it’ll abort its mission. But more impressive is Distronic’s ability to grab data from Mercedes’ mapping partner, Here, and adjust the speed of the car as it enters and exits a corner. The driver doesn’t have to use the brake and accelerator. Just turn the wheel and enjoy the ride.
The software determines the speed that the S-Class should take a corner based on traffic, its current speed and data supplied by Here that provide the angle and tilt of the corner. The result is an impressive use of braking and accelerating that’s smoother than expected. Actually, it was even a better experience than when I’m the passenger while some of my human friends drive mountain roads.
Active Distance Assist Distronic works in conjunction with the vehicle’s current drive mode. In sport mode, it aggressively winds its way around corners. In comfort mode, it’s a relaxing drive. In eco mode, it’s painfully slow as it links corners together in the chillest way possible. If you’re going to be paying S-Class prices for a car, you should be able to use a feature as you see fit. Unfortunately, there’s no word on pricing, and while some Distronic features will be standard, some of them will cost extra.
Overall, the latest version of Intelligent Drive is a solid step toward the company’s goal of full autonomy. But the company (like all automakers) is adamant that the driver still needs to be in control and paying attention.
Still, if you’re not that jazzed on giving your car the power to accelerate and brake outside of the highway, you can’t deny that the S-Class’ safety features will probably keep you out of more than a few fender benders. There’s emergency stop, brake, evasive steering assistance, an infrared camera that detects humans and large animals at night and displays them on the dash — all meant to keep you and your passengers safe.