There are two things that the rich and famous desire the most. They want all the luxury in the world, and they want to be safe. Since money can buy just about anything, German luxury car maker Mercedes has the perfect answer for such blessed and insecure ones. They've converted their flagship sedan, the S-class, into the armoured S-guard, a car that can stand almost any threat that is thrown at it, thereby making it one of the safest set of wheels ever to grace the passenger car segment anywhere in the world. Mercedes launched the S600 guard in India recently at a whopping price of Rs 8.9 crore, clearly targeting the highest end of the luxury car segment for which there is just no compromise when it comes to safety.
This is where the Stuttgart giant deceives you the most. The S600 guard may look like your regular S-class when it comes to design. But a lot has been done to the car to make it safe for its occupants. The doors are much thicker, the body shell is much stronger now than in any other S class, and the windows require a hydraulic-based mechanism instead of being operated by a conventional electric motor purely because of their thickness (more than one inch) and weight. The individual weight of every door and window is around 150 kg and it's only because of a soft close feature that the door closes in a smooth manner. The windshield too is very thick, so much so that the vision sometimes becomes blurred on the edges. VR9 is said to be the highest level of armour mechanism when it comes to non-military vehicles; the S600 complies with VR9. The under body of the car also is completely sealed from outside, ensuring safety from all sides.
So what happens when all these design elements come into effect? This means that the S600 guard can withstand attacks from almost all kinds of pistols, revolvers or rifles that could be anything from a 0.45 magnum pistol to an AK47 rifle. Furthermore, this fortress on wheels is also immune to a hand-grenade attack, land-mines and also chemical weapons. It runs on flat tyres from Michelin that have a pressure monitoring system, permitting an escape from the vulnerable zone up to a distance of 30 km at speeds of up to 80 kph even with damaged tyres. At the launch event at the Buddh International circuit in Greater Noida, Mercedes actually demonstrated a run with a deflated tyre and the car ran through the slalom course just as fast as with a fully inflated tyre.Image 2nd
Even from the inside, the S-Guard looks just like any S-class sedan. The same fancy luxury features that you can think of are there in this car. But there are some really important powers that are in the hands of the occupants to ensure greater safety. Chief among them is a panic button that raises an alarm signal when pressed. The car also features a separate oxygen cask which activates an emergency fresh air system that prevents harmful gases from entering the car. It will also be very difficult for the car to catch fire due to an automatic fire extinguisher system. You can also manually set off the system and extinguish any fire under or in close proximity of the vehicle.
Engine and Drive
The S-guard is significantly heavier than the S-class and understandably so. In fact, at 4.5 tonnes, it is almost double the weight of the regular S-class sedan. Therefore, the German car maker has put a 6.0-litre V12 engine that delivers a staggering power of 530 PS and 830 Nm of torque. It is matched to the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Keeping the weight in mind, the top speed of the car has been limited to 210 kms/hr. And even with that weight, the car reaches a speed of 100 km/hr in 6.8 seconds. These numbers are there to ensure that the car can escape sticky situations and doesn't get stuck for lack of power or torque. But merely that is not enough; power and driving characteristics also take a hit due to the added weight of the almost two tonnes of armour on the car. Therefore the suspension and brakes too have been ungraded on the car. The standard air suspension has been toughened to offer the same impressive ride quality associated with the S-class and even the brakes are larger in size. The ESP and the ABS too have gone through recalibrations to cope with the added weight. With all these modifications, hardly any difference remains in the ride quality and the handling when the Guard is compared to the regular sedan. Of course, there was no better place than a Formula 1 track to find that out.
The doors are thicker, the body shell is stronger than in any other S class, and the windows require a hydraulic based mechanism instead of being operated by a conventional electric motor purely because of their thickness (more than one inch) and weight.
The S guard is the wheels of choice for more than 90 heads of state around the world. This includes President Pranab Mukherjee, who uses the limousine version of the car. That's proof enough of the credibility this car commands. Mercedes already has a few advanced bookings of this new S-guard and not many are available, so it's not that all you need is money to buy one. And stay rest assured as Mercedes always does due diligence that a car like this never falls into the wrong hands. Buying an S-guard gets you two sets of driver training programmes in Germany so get set for a heavy duty safe ride. And in case Rs. 8.9 crore is way too much to spend, there are also the E and the ML guard from the Mercedes stable that can be yours for about 1/3rd the price and can keep you relatively safe.
Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars.