Mercedes S-Class saloon review
"The Mercedes S-Class fortifies its position at the top of the luxury class, becoming an even better place to spend time"
- Incredibly refined
- Class-leading technology
- 62-mile electric range for PHEV
- High running costs
- Only one petrol engine
- Expensive to buy
Sitting atop its vast model range, the Mercedes S-Class represents the pinnacle of the manufacturer’s technology and engineering expertise. It has often been described as the 'world's best car' as a result, appealing to customers who want the equivalent of a business jet sat on their driveway.
Despite offering such a rarefied experience, it isn't short of rivals - the Audi A8 and BMW 7 Series are its closest competitors, but models like the Bentley Flying Spur and long-wheelbase Range Rover target similar buyers. Traditionally, the S-Class has also been a fairly subtle machine for the ultra rich.
The latest version is based on an all-new platform, ushering in an even greater level of technological sophistication. Not only is the MBUX infotainment setup upgraded to 'next generation' status, but Mercedes is promising Level 3 'hands off' autonomous motorway driving in due course (where the law allows it).
Every version gets air suspension and a nine-speed automatic gearbox as standard, which combined with impressive aerodynamics ensure the inside of the S-Class is quiet and cushioned at all times. Despite its size and weight, it can also handle like a smaller car, particularly when four-wheel steering is fitted. This can turn the rear wheels by a staggering 10 degrees, giving the car the same turning circle as a Mercedes A-Class hatchback.
The engine line-up consists of the S 350 d and S 400 d with 282bhp and 325bhp respectively, getting the S-Class from 0-62mph in less than 6.5 seconds. Only the S 350 d is offered with rear-wheel drive, with other versions getting 4Matic four-wheel drive and a stretched wheelbase as standard. Fuel-economy is just over 40mpg for the entry-model and just under it for the S 400 d, while CO2 emissions of 173-184g/km place it in the top 37% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) band.
Choose petrol and for now the S 500 with 429bhp and mild-hybrid tech is the only choice, but an S 580e plug-in hybrid could be worth waiting for. With a 3.0-litre petrol engine and 28kWh battery, it's capable of more than 62 miles from a single charge - double that of the Audi and BMW. Its low CO2 figure will also appeal to business buyers and those frequenting low emission zones like London’s Congestion Charge area.
Inside, the S-Class is adorned in swathes of wooden trim and leather, and Mercedes has made great use of ambient lighting to alter its character as you drive. The centrepiece is a new portrait MBUX screen rising up to meet the dashboard and controlling most of the car's functions. There's also a new digital instrument display with augmented reality navigation instructions. Comfort is on a par with the world's most opulent cars (or any form of transport for that matter), particularly in long wheelbase versions with reclining rear seats and entertainment.
It's unlikely Euro NCAP will crash-test the S-Class because of its small production numbers, but occupants should feel very well-protected. Almost every bit of safety kit you can imagine is fitted, and new advances include air suspension that rockets the S-Class 80mm higher than usual if a side-impact is imminent, helping protect occupants by using more of the doors to shield them.