Ask the average Filipino about the initials S.M.B. and he or she will tell you that it stands for perhaps the oldest wheat-fermented alcoholic drink in the country. But ask any motoring journalist what the said initials stand for and he or she will add three new Mercedes Benz vehicles as an added meaning to the said acronym.

Recently CATS Motors, Inc. (CMI, exclusive distributor of Mercedes Benz vehicles in the country) held its own version of SMB, launching the new S-Class (221 body), M-Class and B-Class models in lively celebrations at the NBC Tent (The Fort).


The new S-class brings to the crowded ultrapremium sedan segment a new chassis (billed as the 221 body) and an option of two body lengths (5076 mm or 5206 mm). Both 5076 mm (S-350) and 5206 mm (S-500) lengthwise dimensions are 33 mm and 43 mm longer, respectively, than the previous S-Class. With the added dimensions in length the wheelbase has also been increased by 70 mm for the Php 8.8M S-350 (for a 3035 mm wheelbase) and 80 mm for the Php 10.8M S-500 (for a 3165 mm wheelbase). In addition the body is now 16 mm wider and 29 mm higher than in the 220-body S-Class, thus creating the basis for an interior space concept reminiscent of its Maybach 57 and Maybach 62 brethren.

The S-class brings a wealth of features to provide the discerning chief executive officer or six-figure income earner with comfort one can experience in his or her home. The proprietary Mercedes Benz COMAND (Cockpit Management and Data, Stuttgart's answer to the BMW iDrive) links all navigation and audio/video controls to just one receiver (located at the console between the driver and front passenger) and comes with an eight-inch center-mounted monitor, DVD and MP3 capability. The Airmatic airbag suspension (with Active Body Control) provides for continual adjustment to the spring (and these are air springs we're talking about) and shock absorber rates for the benefit of ride comfort and handling stability, with three driver-selectable modes for the adaptive shock damping. Electric-powered, rear-mounted roller-motion door blinds provide privacy from prying eyes at the touch of a button and a night view assist feature helps occupants see what is going on around them in the presence or absence of light, while a reversing camera (in which the vehicle's rear viewpoint is displayed on the COMAND monitor) helps drivers perfect parallel parking and long backing maneuvers. And if that's not luxurious enough, the S-500 features the following: a TV tuner, a Harman Kardon LOGIC 7 surround sound system, a rear refrigerator box (mounted within the rear seat backrest), multi-contour seats with massage function and a fold-down table at the rear left and right.

The S-Class' seven-speed automatic tranny (a/t) is mated to two engines: a 272 hp 3.5-liter V6 (for the S-350) and a 388 hp 5.5-liter V8 (for the S-500). A car this powerful needs efficient brakes, and the sedan's Adaptive Brake system, coupled with an ABS-Brake Assist combination, makes stopping on dimes, centavos, pesos and other forms of currency the norm instead of being the exception. In case the brakes fail (or if an accident is inevitable), each passenger has his own seat-mounted side airbag and headliner-mounted head curtain airbag, which deploy according to accident severity. Also, the rear backrests are "crash-responsive," such that they return to an upright position to give occupants better rebound protection.


The new-look Php 5.5M ML 350 features a blend of heavily contoured surfaces and taut lines, all of which serve to highlight the swept-back windshield, the front fascia, the SUV's rising shoulderline and the overall brash sporting look of the vehicle. Powered by a 272 hp, 3.5-liter V6 (mated to a seven-speed a/t), the ML 350 weathers the roughest of terrain with features such as: permanent all-wheel drive, Acceleration Skid Control, a Downhill Speed Regulator, an Electronic Stability Program and Electronic Traction System.

Large helpings of bird's eye maple wood and brushed aluminum trim help define the handsome, sporty stack and console which has been modernized to include two of the largest cupholders man has ever seen.

In the back, passengers have over 39 inches of legroom to stretch their hamstrings and quads, nearly four inches more than found in the BMW X5's rear seat. Climate controls are mounted behind the front center console, and there's a center armrest in the rear seat that folds down to display cupholders large enough to hold a couple of Wendy's Biggie-sized softdrinks.


Stuttgart's answer to the BMW 1-series comes in two flavors – B 170 (powered by a 116 hp 1.7-liter inline-four engine) and B 200 (powered by a 136 hp two-liter inline four). This "compact sports tourer" meets the wishes of today's motorists for a car with generous space, exemplary comfort, excellent practicality, an exciting design and a high level of driving pleasure.

How? For starters, flinging the B-Class through hairpin corners and u-turns is sure to activate the car's speed-sensitive power steering, Steer Control Steering Assistance and Electronic Stability Program for razor-sharp handling and cornering. Loading the B-Class with cargo is an easy task, thanks to the split folding rear bench seat, a dual-level load compartment and a 1/3:2/3 split folding rear bench seat. And doubts about the B-Class models getting the 116 hp (or 136 hp) to the ground are put to rest with the Autotronic continuously variable automatic transmission, with the B 200 featuring steering wheel gearshift buttons for touring racer-style shifting and standard speed-sensitive power steering for safety purposes.

The combination of luxury, practicality, comfort and driving fun seen in the B-Class is due to Mercedes Benz's "sandwich concept", a space-saving arrangement of the engine and a/t in front of and slightly underneath the passenger cell, thus offering the interior spaciousness of larger saloons and estate cars in a compact external shell. And a lot of features normally found in sedans and long wheelbase passenger cars, such as seats wrapped in Artico man-made leather or Maastricht fabric, adaptive front airbags and head/thorax side airbags and a multifunction steering wheel.

The B 170 is pegged at P 2.250M, while the B 200 is pegged at P2.750M.