Instead of flying to Las Vegas, Nev. for CES 2016, I’m flying to Los Angeles, Calif. to meet Matt Swider, techradar’s mobile editor, and Max Barbanell, shooter editor for Future US, to embark on a road-trip that’s part The Hangover and part Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.
The car chosen for the road-trip is the Mercedes-Benz S550. This is the car that pushes the limits of amenities and in-car technology, some that you’ll see down the road in mainstream cars.
Mercedes-Benz sent techradar a 2015 S550 for review. This car is loaded to the gills with technology and extreme extravagance and carries an MSRP of $132,275 (£89,754.03, AU$183,092). The most important technology feature the car has is Mercedes’ Distronic Plus technology, which makes the car semi-autonomous for the long drive ahead.
Distronic Plus technology combines steering assist and adaptive cruise control functions to essentially drive the car for you. This isn’t your typical lane departure prevention technologies, which can only gently nudge the car back into the lane. Mercedes’ technology can keep up with windy roads, as long as your hand is on the steering wheel.
You can even let go of the steering wheel briefly and the car takes over some steering functions, but for legality reasons, it makes angry warning noises and turns off if it doesn’t detect steering input from the driver. Since automakers use CES to show autonomous driving technology and developments, the S550 is a perfect car to take on a road trip to see how the current state of advanced driver assist technologies compares to the future of autonomous vehicles.
I’ve been testing out Distronic Plus while cruising around Los Angeles, and it feels weird to drive the car at first. My hand is physically on the steering wheel, but the wheel moves itself. When traffic’s backed up, I set the adaptive cruise control and let the car take over driving duties. This sole feature is the reason why I chose this car for our 600 mile round-trip, plus the tech gadgetry and amenities too.
The car also has a night vision camera, head-up display, 360-degree camera system, massaging seats, dynamic seats and heated arm rests, so our trip will be extremely comfortable. Massaging seats and heated armrests are the two features I never knew I wanted until I experienced it.
There’s a couple seat massaging options that should help my aches and pains after a long day on the show floor. The heated armrests are an excessively lavish treat, but provide warmth for my arms. The seatbelts automatically tighten when latched on, which Matt Swider enjoys, because “it feels like the car is hugging me.”
A biturbo 4.7-liter V8 motor producing 449 horsepower propels the car to 60 MPH in 4.8-seconds, which should make passing other cars on the road a breeze. To help us stay out of trouble with the car’s speedy performance, we’re bringing a Beltronics GT-7 radar detector on the trip. The GT-7 combines highly accurate radar detection with a GPS database for speed traps and red light cameras, so we aren’t caught breaking any laws along the way.
Providing in-car Wi-Fi connectivity and tracking our trip is a Vinli dongle that connects to the car’s onboard diagnostic port (OBDII). The Vinli adapter provides mobile hotspot capabilities via T-Mobile’s LTE network. Accompanying the Vinli adapter is the Dash app for iOS that tracks where we go and how much gas is consumed.
A full review of the Mercedes S550, Beltronics GT-7 and Vinli is coming, but follow us on Instagram for the latest updates from the trip.