"The Mercedes S-Class is one of the most comfortable and technology-loaded cars you can buy."
The Mercedes S-Class is famous for being the German firm's most luxurious and technology-laden model, and this new car is no exception. Comfort is a big priority in a car like this, and the S-Class is undoubtedly one of the most relaxing cars to drive or be driven in, that money can buy. The long wheelbase model is particularly luxurious with the Executive pack, which allows the rear seats to recline up to 43.5 degrees, which almost feels like you’re lying down. The range consists of an S350 V6 diesel, an S500 V8 petrol and an S400 petrol-electric hybrid, all of which are quiet and comfortable on long motorway journeys. The price tag is high, but for many buyers the sheer amount of comfort and technology will make the S-Class an appealing car anyway.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
For buyers looking for an S-Class with the best fuel economy, the S300 BlueTEC Hybrid is the most efficient option available at launch. It gets 53.5mpg and 115g/km emissions, so road tax only costs £30 annually – impressive for such a huge car. In early 2014 an S500 Plug-In Hybrid will be available, which will return an excellent 90mpg and 71g/km emissions – though at a much higher list price of around £100,000. Our pick as the car with the best performance and economy combination would be the S350 BlueTEC diesel, which is fast and still manages emissions of just 146g/km.
Interior & comfort
The Mercedes S-Class is well known for its impeccable comfort and refinement, and this latest car is the best yet. At 70mph you can’t hear any wind rushing past the car or even hear the engine – there's a tiny bit of noise coming from the tyres but it's all so quiet that you can actually whisper to the other passengers. If you go for the optional Executive Seat package you can recline with your legs fully stretched out in the rear seats, even if you're six foot tall. You can also specify a heated and cooled massage function for all the seats, including one that supposedly mimics a hot stone massage. Built-in screens for showing films, TV or Internet are available along with a Wi-Fi hotspot and an incredible 24-speaker stereo system. As well as all the luxuries you get an incredibly comfortable suspension set-up that cushions you from every single bump in the road. Go for the S500 model and you can buy a Magic Body Control system for about £4,000 that regognises bumps in the road and sets up the suspension before you get to them. Only cars like the Rolls-Royce Ghost can match the S-Class for comfort.
Practicality & boot space
All models in the S-Class range have plenty of legroom for rear-seat passengers, but opt for the long wheelbase version and the rear space is particularly cavernous. In the standard version you can recline up to 37 degrees, with the longer car allowing a steeper angle of 43.5 degrees for an even more relaxing journey. With the Executive pack, an option on the long wheelbase models, you also get a long centre console that stretches into the rear, complete with fold-out tables and massaging seats. There's even a Wi-Fi hotspot for Internet use and a 200GB hard-drive, as well as two screens – making the rear of the S-Class a superb mobile office.
Reliability & safety
Mercedes has an excellent reputation for reliability, so even though there are lots of electronic parts to go wrong we don’t expect the S-Class to be an unreliable car by any means. There's a three-year/unlimited mileage warranty for peace of mind, while the Mercedes dealer network is extensive and well regarded. The old S-Class was one of the safest cars available so we expect this one to do similarly well in the Euro NCAP crash tests when it is inspected for safety. The list of equipment is huge, and includes warnings when you are moving out of lane on the motorway, automatic braking if it senses a collision, a camera that can spot pedestrians in the dark, and an automatic brake if the car is involved in a rear-end crash.
Engines, drive & performance
Our pick of the engines on offer is the S350 BlueTEC diesel, which combines decent economy with loads of power. It can do 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds, but it actually feels even faster than that, and is really quiet as well. The S300 Hybrid gets better economy, but it's not as fast and is a bit noisier than the diesel S350. If you’re not concerned about running costs, though, the S500 is the smoothest engine of all, and the most powerful (until the S63 AMG performance version arrives in 2014). The controls are all very light and driving the S-Class is very relaxing – it's not exactly fun to drive, but that said, most buyers will be looking for a comfy car rather than one with sporty handling.
Price, value for money & options
The S-Class is available in SE Line or AMG Line specifications, with the latter commanding a premium of around £5,000. Buyers of SE models won’t be disappointed, though, with LED headlights, air-suspension, sat-nav and full leather upholstery all included as standard. AMG models get a more aggressive body kit, larger 19-inch alloy wheels and a few tweaks to the interior, too. There are plenty of costly options to push the price up, and since many buyers will want to personalise their S-Class this can really push the price up. The Magic Body Control system costs about £4,000, the Executive Rear package will set you back £5,000 and you can get an uprated stereo that’ll cost you a few thousand pounds too. The S-Class is a bit more expensive than an Audi A8 or a BMW 7 Series but the kind of ability it offers is actually more on a par with far more expensive models like the Rolls-Royce Ghost and Bentley Flying Spur – both of which cost well over £100,000.