Road Test: Mercedes S550

Flagship sedans are on every street corner out here in Los Angeles. How do you stand out? Hop behind the wheel of the redesigned S-Class from Mercedes. Purebred touches are everywhere, in its full-leather upholstery, burl-walnut trim and heated 14-way power front seats. Most impressive, the S550, with a new 5.5-liter, V-8, 382-horsepower engine, is 26 percent quicker than the last-generation S-Class, yet still gets the same fuel economy. And though this four-door family car is big--1.7 inches longer and nearly an inch wider than the previous model--it still drives like a lithe vehicle. The S-Class was born with Benz's pedigreed genetics, but this latest iteration shows the most swagger, jammed with the newest technology. The optional infrared Night View Assist (part of a $2,500 package) uses thermal imaging to help drivers see nearly 500 feet farther down the road at night. It's perfect for those who live in dimly lit areas with deer or kids on bikes. The Distronic Plus cruise control works in stop-and-go traffic, halting when the car in front does and then starting up again when it's clear. Finally, the radar-based Park Assist uses six sensors to help you become the ideal parallel parker. I loved each of these gizmos and the car even more.

--Tara Weingarten

Tip: A more powerful S600, with a twin-turbo V-12, 510-horsepower engine, will debut this fall.