Tech reviews

Mercedes Benz S 680 Guard 4Matic review: price, design, bulletproof tech, features – Introduction

If you want to survive an apocalypse in style, the S Guard is what you need.

A car racing through the countryside, dodging sniper bullets and surviving explosions, and through all the smoke and debris, the passenger inside is completely safe and unharmed in a luxurious cocoon. For most of us, that’s a scene from a high-octane spy movie, but for a few, that’s real life and that’s exactly what the Mercedes-Benz S 680 Guard is built for.

With a VPAM VR 10 spec – the highest ballistic certification for civilian vehicles – this car is not only bullet-proof, but is resistant to explosive charges too. But you can’t simply buy one; you have to be thoroughly vetted and fulfil certain criteria before Mercedes will let you have the S Guard. Lucky me though, I got to experience what it feels like to be an invincible VVIP for a day.

Mercedes-Benz S680 Guard: engine, performance, handling

High in the Tyrolean alpine region, on a snowy, icy test track, I found out what it’s like to drive this 4.2-tonne armoured vehicle as if I were in one of those movie chases. The day began with a comparative braking test between the regular S-Class and the S Guard. While one can quickly feel the physics of the extra 2 tonnes of weight come into play, especially under acceleration and in stopping distances, the actual difference is quite remarkably small. I expected the armoured vehicle to go sliding a lot longer under braking, especially on the wet snowy track.

For the first time, Mercedes has equipped a Guard vehicle with AWD.

Later in the day, the ante was upped with us having to drive over a “Kick Plate”, which is a computer-controlled hydraulic-actuated plate, set flush to the road surface, designed to induce loss of rear wheel traction, putting the car into a skid or spin. The driver doesn’t know which way the rear will kick out and the idea is to react quickly and catch the slide. Now imagine the rear of a 4.2-tonne vehicle suddenly losing it without warning on a very low-traction surface while you are at the wheel. Your reflexes have to be lightning-quick to react.

Given its bulk, it’s surprising how close to a regular car the Guard feels like to drive.

What is remarkable is when you are quick enough with the counter steer, the titanic-like car regains composure with an ease you cannot fathom. Mercedes-Benz says that the aim was to make the armoured vehicle dynamically as close to the S-Class as possible. I can say with confidence they have. They also aimed to make it as luxurious and as similar-looking as possible; being discreet is the best way to stay safe.

Mercedes-Benz S680 Guard: exterior, bullet-proof details

Look at it from a distance and it’s hard to tell it apart from the regular S-Class. When you go closer, small details give it away. The shiny chrome flag holders on the sides, the alloys and the thicker window frames, and finally the S 680 badge at the back. 

While the car may look and feel like a regular S-Class inside and out, every little detail has been engineered keeping passenger safety in mind. There would never be a sunroof in the S Guard, nor would there ever be a keyless go that can be hacked. No fancy flush handles would ever replace conventional ones, and heavy steel brakes ensure the car stops in time.

But what else makes this vehicle so much heavier and so invincible? While earlier Guard vehicles had protective materials integrated into the standard body shell, this time, a body shell of protective materials has been engineered for the passenger cabin. The engine bay and boot, however, are not engineered grounds up as it is not absolutely necessary and would have only increased weight. Also, interestingly so, this is the first time a Guard vehicle gets all-wheel drive. To ensure that the 4.2 tonnes has enough to power it along, they have put in a V12 with 612hp and 830Nm of torque.

Windows are massively thick comprising glass and polycarbonate layers.

What keeps the passengers safe apart from this body shell is the bullet- and blast-proof, multi-layer glass that looks like it is 3.5 to 4 inches thick with a polycarbonate layer on the inside for splinter protection. This along with the special body shell needed to protect the occupants makes each door weigh in at around 250kg. To ensure that bodyguards can deftly open and close these massive doors, there are actuators that assist opening and closing. The actuators also hold the door open and prevent it from slamming shut under its own weight if the car is on an incline.

Mercedes-Benz S680 Guard: safety features

Interestingly, some features, which are considered ‘safety’ in the regular S-Class, like pinch-guard windows – which would stop operating if a hand were in the way – are considered unsafe in this car. Here, the window will continue to close even if the on-board power supply fails. Each door has a unit consisting of a compressor with a pressure accumulator to ensure that once set in motion, it will not stop for anything.

Reinforced tyres can run flat at speeds up to 80kph.

This is to ensure in an attempted attack, the passenger remains safe. However, for additional preventive safety, the windows really do not need to be opened at all, even to communicate with the outside world. There is an on-board intercom system that is operated by the driver via a couple of buttons on the centre console. They would allow you to speak to anyone outside the car, or listen to them.

The S Guard tyres are also specially constructed and are almost double the weight of a regular tyre. This is because there is an additional inner layer that ensures that when faced with a potential flat or dangerous situation, the car can still continue to be driven for 30 more kilometres up to a speed of 80kph.

Behind the rear seats is a fire extinguisher and a compressed fresh air tank in case of a gas attack.

Pop the trunk and it looks like the normal S-Class – spacious and deep until you drop the back cover onto what looks like something of a laboratory. Tanks and pipes stare back at you. The yellow tank is the one that will empty up to 900 litres of fresh air into the cabin in case of a gas attack. This can be deployed by the driver via a button on the centre console, which will close all outside vents before deploying this fresh air into the cabin. The red tank is the fire extinguisher, which also can be deployed in case of fire in the cabin.

Mercedes-Benz S680 Guard: interior

Speaking of the cabin, it is almost exactly the same as the S Class. Mercedes-Benz worked hard to ensure that despite all the heavy armour, the passenger would get the same level of luxury they expect. With the heavy doors shut, it’s like being deep inside a fortress. There is absolute silence, and black-out blinds in place of sunshades close out the world completely. The rear seat has the chauffeur package for VVIPs to stretch out in utmost comfort, along with entertainment screens, wireless charging, the tablet for internet or controls and everything else that’s needed.

Old-school buttons for critical functions; they look odd, but easier to operate under pressure.

The only real difference here is that the window area is a little smaller and when you drop the central armrest down, it’s like a charging hub with a multitude of Type-C ports. Up front, the central console is a little different too, with old-school coloured buttons like in a cockpit. They stand out as basic in this otherwise luxurious cabin, but again, for safety, it’s necessary to have these easy access buttons which are also backlit. They allow the driver to operate the intercom, in-cabin lights, deploy the extinguisher or fresh air tank easily, especially when under pressure.

A bank of Type-C ports to charge various gadgets.

While these are some standard features built in to ensure the highest levels of safety, the S Guard has a high level of customisation available – especially for communication systems – is what I was told.

Mercedes-Benz S680 Guard: verdict

After a day with the S Guard, I certainly felt a little more important and amazed too at how well the performance, transmission and suspension have been tuned to accommodate the extra weight. These make this battle tank-like car feel as close to a regular S-Class as possible. While they can’t bend the rules of physics, I’d say Mercedes has warped them enough to offer the highest levels of luxury with  the highest level of protection you can get.

Also see:

Mercedes-Benz S 680 Guard video review