Most owners, I suspect, will prefer to drive Mercedes’s new missile by their flawed human selves. I can’t blame them. The supersedan’s 4.0-liter biturbo V-8, shared with the AMG GT supercar, pours out up to 450 kilowatts (603 horsepower). This Benz will hit 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) in a supercar-like 3.3 seconds, which is ridiculous for a sybaritic, all-wheel-drive midsize sedan.
Yet when it’s time to take a break from perspiring action, the new Drive Pilot system surrounds the Benz in radar beams that peer 250 meters ahead and 80 meters behind the car. They’re supplemented by separate 3D and 2D cameras that read lane markers and traffic ahead.
The car can still get flustered by tighter curves or vague road markings, as I found on a test drive in New York. But it will just about drive itself on the highway at up to 160 km/h (100 mph), chiding you with flashing alerts if you take your hands off the wheel for too long. Hit your turn signal and the system scans the surroundings before executing an automated lane change.
If all else fails, Mercedes’s latest suite of Pre-Safe features add cool new safeguards: Active seat bolsters thoughtfully shove occupants 8 centimeters toward the vehicle’s center just before a side impact to mitigate injuries by, among other things, getting bodies moving in the proper direction before a strike.
As you realize a crash is inevitable, you will be pleased to know that among the safeguards is Pre-Safe Sound. It’s an interference signal that comes through the audio system in the milliseconds before impact, triggering the ear’s stapedius muscle to contract, protecting the eardrum from injuries due to high acoustic pressures.
Shhh… can you hear that? It’s the sound of German engineers thinking.
A correction to this article was made on 19 April 2017.