“Beautifully built and offering unrivalled comfort, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is still the best luxury car on sale.”
With its high quality cabin and incredible luxury, the Mercedes S-Class is the best limousine money can buy. Comfort and build quality are second-to-none, while the engines are smooth and powerful. There's plenty of space inside, and long wheelbase versions offer huge amounts of rear passenger legroom. The styling is subtle, yet tasteful. As an added bonus, the S-Class is built for comfort, but it can also hold its own on twisty B-roads too, as the steering is precise and there's lots of grip from the large tyres.
The most popular engine in the S-Class – and our firm favourite – is the 3.0-litre 232bhp V6 turbodiesel. It's not as fast as the other engines, but it still has enough power to make the S-Class a brisk performer. There are five petrol engines available ranging from a 268bhp 3.5-litre V6 to a 604bhp V12. Each engine is exceptionally smooth and powerful, while the S63 AMG and S65 AMG models are extremely fast. Despite its size and comfort, the Mercedes handles corners very well. There's only a small amount of body roll during direction changes, the steering is accurate and all versions have strong brakes.
The Mercedes is one of the most comfortable, quietest cars ever made. At cruising speed, only a very small amount of wind noise can be heard from inside, but there's virtually no sound from the engine or the road thanks to double-glazed windows and generous soundproofing. Air-suspension, which uses gas filled dampers rather than conventional metal springs, means that the ride is extremely comfortable on any surface. The front seats are available with an optional massaging function and actively hold the driver and front passenger during cornering to keep them in place!
The S-Class hasn't been tested by Euro NCAP, but it's not short on safety equipment. The Mercedes comes with eight airbags and monitors that can detect when the driver is falling asleep at the wheel. A night view camera and radar that can detect an imminent collision are also available as optional extras. If the car senses that a crash is about to happen, it applies the brakes - even if the driver hasn't - and moves the seats to the safest position for the passengers. Build quality is better than almost any car on the market and, though the S-Class didn't appear in the 2010 Driver Power Reliability survey, Mercedes finished fourth overall in the JD Power Satisfaction survey, which is very impressive.
The Mercedes' 560-litre boot is one of the biggest offered in the limousine class, and beats rivals like the Jaguar XJ and Audi A8 hands down. The rear seats don't fold down, so it's difficult to carry large loads, but there is an optional ski hatch to improve carrying capacity. The doors have 'step-less stops', which allows them to stay open at any angle.
Value for money
One of the only things that could put buyers off the S-Class is its very high price. The attention to detail, technology and unrivalled quality can justify such a steep cost, and the entry-level versions are priced reasonably competitively against the Audi A8 and BMW 7 Series. However, the top-end 600L and 63/65 AMG models are extremely expensive and cost far more than the equivalent Audi or BMW. The Mercedes will hold its value better than its rivals.
The 350 CDI diesel S-Class has reasonable running costs, with 37.2mpg and emissions of 199g/km, so Road Tax costs £235 per year. The S350 V6 petrol version isn't horrendously expensive to run for this kind of car either - it offers 28.2mpg, though 234g/km emissions means that Road Tax is expensive at £425 a year. Every other engine sits in the top road tax bracket (M, £435 per year) and returns 25mpg or less. High performance 600L and AMG models average worse than 20mpg. Insurance is about as high as it gets with groups 46 to 50.