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 2004 Luxury Buyer's Guide
by Martha Hindes

Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Maybe you could call it a numbers game. By any measure, Mercedes-Benz has four different calculations that add up to plenty of prestige, tons of power and the tantalizing lure of the ultimate class act for the upscale driver.

Those configurations for '05 put lots of authority behind the next versions of the German auto maker's famed "S" series, with a host of amenities and options to appease the most discerning tastes.

The S430 and S500 get forceful V-8s, a 275-hp 4.3-liter and 302-hp 5.0-liter respectively. The thundering S55 AMG's 5.5-liter is hand assembled and supercharged for 493-horsepower and "rocket launch" propulsion, while the S600 glides on 493-hp, V-12 refinement with a smooth as glass ride.

With that said, the choices go in a myriad of directions. M-B expands the use of its seven-speed automatic transmission to all S-Class models for transparent shifting that also saves precious fuel. Though somewhat unpronounceable, "Distronic" adaptive cruise control keeps preset distances between your car and the one in front of you, even sharply braking if necessary.

With 4MATIC all-wheel-drive, even three tires can slip while the fourth performs rescue duty. And safety is tops with a standard tire monitoring system and continuation of the PRE-SAFE system that configures seats, seat belts and sunroof elements for best protection if there's a crash.

Need lodging or dinner reservations? Not a problem with the new S-Class standard telematics system called "Tele Aid," which has crash-protection to prevent any disconnect in the event of an accident. Additionally, its concierge services keeps pace with life on the go, with the ability to book tee times and more. "Fore," anyone?

Acura RL Luxury SedanJaguar XJ Long Wheelbase
BMW 645 CiLexus LS 430
Cadillac STSLincoln Town Car
Chrysler 300CMercedes-Benz S-Class
Infiniti Q45Volkswagen Phaeton