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Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard: First Drive

  • Jun 04, 2015
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[caption id="attachment_16587" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard front three quarter static Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard front three quarter static[/caption]

It’s not every day that you step onto the pit lane of a world class race track to be greeted by a large shiny black saloon car. But today is unlike any other day as this is not just one of the best luxury saloons in the world, it is also one of the safest standard road cars. And no, we aren’t talking airbags and stability programmes here, for the S Guard is a full-fledged armored car with VR9 grade ballistics resistance!

What we have here then is a different class of automobile that caters to a very niche clientele. This clientele consists of high ranking diplomats, dignitaries and the likes of multi-billion dollar industrial tycoons. In sync with its character, the Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard (imported as a completely built unit) commands an equally high flying price tag of an eye watering Rs 8.9 crore in India!

Having gulped that fact in along with a glass of water, I begin to wonder in the interest of prospective customers - what would they want from this car at its astronomical value?

 

[caption id="attachment_16607" align="alignnone" width="600"]Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard front Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard front[/caption]

Exteriors

For starters, owners would want the S Guard to look identical to the standard car so that people out to harm the owner will never know of the added protection under the skin. That’s how elite security works, I guess.

And Mercedes-Benz understands this. The undiscerning eye will not be able to tell the S Guard apart from the standard Mercedes-Benz S600. Its only when you pay attention and notice that the windows are so much thicker. The other way to know is by the tyres. You have to pay really close attention to understand that these aren’t stock tyres. But then again, when the car is moving you really can’t tell.

[caption id="attachment_16600" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard tyre Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard tyre[/caption]

The tyres themselves are unique to the car. These Michelin PAX run-flat tyres are mounted on rims that support the central polycarbonate rib. This allows the car to drive for around 30 km when it is flat and supports the car’s massive weight.



Coming back to the car, it’s the large chrome grille at the front with its bold outline that dominates the profile. Look closer and you will see a black reflective panel on the top centre section of the S Guard housing a host of sensors and cameras for a battery of safety features such as collision avoidance and preparation, lane keeping and traffic monitoring, pedestrian detection, night vision, bird’s eye view, self-parking, adaptive cruise control with steering assist and adaptive head lamps. Phew!

[caption id="attachment_16590" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard interior Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard interior[/caption]

Every other design detail such as the bonnet, grille, bumpers, aprons, doors and boot lid, all look exactly the same as those of the standard S-Class. All this means that the car still retains its swooping design elements that blend every body panel on the car beautifully to form an elegantly curvy profile.

What you do not see are the multiple thick sheets of metal that guard the occupants of this luxury saloon in absolute security. Just to give you an idea here, the body of the Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard can withstand assault from .22LR hand gun ammunition, surpassing the likes of AK47 and sniper rifle firepower and going all the way up to 7.62 x 51 mm military grade automatic weapons. And to put this in context, a 0.44 caliber bullet can penetrate though eight standard car doors without losing much velocity. The S Guard is subject to 500 rounds of .44s under testing before it is put though much more intense fire power! That fire power includes dual hand grenade attacks from HG85 grenades. The under body can deflect blast shock from even an IED!

As you can now understand, the S600 Guard then is one of the safest automobiles to get around in, short of a battle tank! Mercedes-Benz also gives you the option of reinforcing your S Guard further according to your needs.

Nevertheless, the standard S Guard with all its armour obviously weights significantly more than a standard S-Class. How much you ask? Well, it weights around 4.66 tonnes with four passengers on board! Again, to put this in context a standard S-Class weights around 1.9 tonnes. Fun fact, I was told that each of the doors weighs roughly 200 kg!

 



[caption id="attachment_16589" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard interior Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard interior[/caption]

Interiors

Swing the heavy doors open and the cabin is in stark contrast to its heavy armour grade. Gently close the door and the soft touch feature includes metal hinges that rise out of the door sills to hold the heavy doors in place. The power windows are hydraulically operated as the windows are extremely heavy themselves by measuring over an inch in thickness (they are made up of five layers and are infused with polycarbonate that prevents splintering).

Inside, everything in here looks standard, until you open the cover to the front cup holders in the centre console. Here you will find some switch gear befitting those on a trademark secret agent’s car. And they literally have the same functions too with controls to close all sources of external air in case of chemical attacks and to release clean air inside the cabin. Then there are controls for a PA system, buttons for setting off sirens and accompanying lights and even a fire fighting system that can put out an underbody fire or a fire close to the car.

[caption id="attachment_16580" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard emergency buttons Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard emergency buttons[/caption]

The cabin is one of the most luxurious places you can be in with its electrically adjustable and reclining memory seats all around. Ofcourse, they come with heating, ventilation and massage functions as well. No matter, where you are inside this cabin, there is always enough space for all occupants. The rear seat behind the front passenger comes with an additional foot rest to carry its owner in utmost comfort.

The S Guard comes with a 350 litre boot (down from 530 litres of the standard car). There is no spare wheel here, courtesy the run flat tyres. The spare wheel housing instead accommodates two car batteries, one of which ensures that the car always starts, no matter what!

[caption id="attachment_16577" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard boot Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard boot[/caption]



You can seat five people here, if you ever need to. But this is a place for four individuals really. The rear centre armrest houses everything from cup holders and cubby holes (for remotes to the entertainment system as well as other functions), to a fridge with storage place for champagne glasses. One of those rare places where you can store your champagne in a bullet proof environment this!

All the trim is covered in high grade leather and top notch materials with excellent fit and finish. It comes loaded to the hilt with comfort and convenience features. This also includes hydraulically operated power windows as electric motors will not be able to cope with the weight of the reinforced windows. All windows come with another switch for curtains.

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If I have a complaint here, it is that this completely digital instrument cluster displays the speedometer and tachometer in large oval forms that look artificial and out of place behind that wooden rimmed steering wheel, in this leather clad, wood trimmed cabin with its analog clock. While incorporation of clever technology is always welcome, somethings I believe should remain untouched in the nature of characteristic automobiles with as much heritage as the S-Class!

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Overall, the cabin of the S Guard is a really comfortable place to be in. You can find any comfortable seating posture you like at the front or rear. The seat cushions are just firm enough to offer great support while being remarkably soft. And those pillows on the rear head rests feel like you have put your head on a little piece of heaven.

 



[caption id="attachment_16581" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard engine bay Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard engine bay[/caption]

Engine and Gearbox

A car as heavy as the Mercedes S Guard needs the firepower to deal with the bulk. Mercedes-Benz has addressed this need and offers the car in S600 spec as standard. As its S600 badge suggests, the Mercedes-Benz S Guard is powered by a stonking great 6.0 litre, V12 petrol engine. In the S Guard it develops 537PS of max power and a peak torque output of 830Nm. The engine is mated to the company’s seven-speed, 7G-Tronic automatic gearbox.

[caption id="attachment_16574" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard action Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard action[/caption]

So what does this translate to on tarmac? As I gently put my right foot on the throttle and the car rolled off the pit lane of the Buddh International Circuit in an unrealistically smooth manner. This I feel is extremely important as you wouldn’t want to discomfort that significant person in the rear seat!

As the car drove on to track, I continued the gentle acceleration and enjoyed its smooth mannerism, all the while getting accustomed to its heavy wood-rimmed steering, the first corner revealed the heavy nature of the S Guard as the steering requires some amount of effort to direct the car on its intended path.

Prodding the right pedal deeper (in Sports mode) results in further linear acceleration. When I tried to downshift gears, for more rapid acceleration the transmission took its own time to respond and reward me with some more smooth acceleration. This goes on to show how the S Guard is tailored for passenger comfort.

[caption id="attachment_16598" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard side profile action Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard side profile action[/caption]

Do not worry though, should you need to get this car out of a tricky or threatening situation, all you need to do is ensure that the throttle is depressed past its half way angle. Once there, the 6.0 litre V12 engine releases power impressively to the rear wheels allowing this heavy saloon to climb up to triple digit speeds easily. Mercedes has limited the top speed of the S Guard to 210 km/h in the interest of its dynamics.

The 6.0 litre V12 has a quiet engine note, but you can tell from the pleasing burble that there is a nice engine under that bonnet. As the revs rise, the V12 lets out a note along the lines of a very refined rage being unleashed.



[caption id="attachment_16579" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard front three quarter dynamic Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard front three quarter dynamic[/caption]

 

Ride and Handling

Piloting the S Guard around the corners at BIC revealed the marked difference in drive dynamics of a VR9 grade armoured car. Carrying a reasonable amount of speed over bends reveals the heavy nature of the car as the S Guard rolls a fair bit and the steering only feels heavier as you keep the car on its intended path.

The S Guard is not an agile car, but its not very difficult to drive either. Ofcourse, should you choose to buy the car, Mercedes throws in a complimentary driver training programme for two individuals in Germany. Mercedes will teach drivers about car control, evasive drive techniques as well as about driving in a smooth manner.

[caption id="attachment_16585" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard rear three quarter dynamic Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard rear three quarter dynamic[/caption]

Coming back to the car, the S Guard comes with a one-off self-leveling air suspension that has reinforced suspension components, while there are additional rear supporting springs. This deals with the added weight of the car very well. The ride was sublime over the kerbs on the track and I’ am sure it will be equally good over broken road surfaces and undulations.

In order to keep that powerful V12 in check, the brakes of the S Guard have been uprated significantly from those on the standard S-Class with much larger discs and six-piston calipers. You have to brake nice and early in this car, this is a lot of mass in motion and needs time to slow down. The car comes with ABS, EBD, ESP and ASR as standard to ensure that the vehicle always stays in control.

Another thing to be kept in mind is that the windshield is thick and its nature means vision is a little distorted around the edges. The A-pillars are also quite thick, which means there are large blind spots on either side.

Nevertheless, the S Guard despite its weight is a rather easy car to drive. And that speaks volumes about its development. The car was even made to do a slalom course with a flat front tyre, and it took it rather well by remaining absolutely composed all the time. Proof that despite all that weight owing to its armour, the S Guard has well sorted drive dynamics.

 



[caption id="attachment_16586" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard[/caption]

Verdict

The Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard is a very niche product that caters to a handful of individuals. With its VR9 grade armour, it is superior to its armoured rivals such as the Audi A8 L Security and the BMW 7 Series High Security. Making the S Guard the ideal choice for those looking for the most secure luxury vehicle.

The S Guard is the best combination of safety and luxury on offer today. It comes loaded with a raft of safety and convenience features that pamper its occupants in complete luxury. And its powertrain has enough grunt to deal with the mass.

It takes about three months for Mercedes-Benz to build an S Guard. Due to this reason, Mercedes always keeps a couple units handy in case of urgent demand. And going by the nature of the S Guard there are cases where multiple identical units are ordered. Keeping that aside, it will be quite easy to maintain an S Guard as the car can be serviced in nearly any Mercedes-Benz service centre. The car even comes with standard warranty!

Ofcourse, its Rs. 8.9 crore price tag is on another scale. But prospective customers will consider their lives dearer, and there is no price you can put on that.

Comparison of S-Class models sold in India

[caption id="attachment_16613" align="alignnone" width="443"]Mercedes-Benz S Class spec sheet comparo Mercedes-Benz S Class spec sheet comparo[/caption]

Photography by Siddharth
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