Mercedes S-Class saloon review
"The Mercedes S-Class now features even more technology but rivals are closer than ever to stealing its crown"
- Incredibly refined
- Class-leading technology
- 62-mile electric range for PHEV
- High running costs
- Laggy augmented reality
- Expensive to buy
Verdict - Is the Mercedes S-Class a good car?
The Mercedes S-Class has a reputation for being one of the world’s best luxury cars. Over the generations, it has offered the ultimate in comfort, technology and performance for a limousine. But in an era when Mercedes-Benz is shifting towards electric power, the seventh-generation model has its work cut out to keep pace with models like the EQS and BMW i7.
Mercedes S-Class models, specs and alternatives
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 for the road.
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 been a fairly subtle car for the wealthy and the latest version is just as discreet. Even the brutish Mercedes-AMG S 63 e Performance will slip under the radar of those less in the know.
It's 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).
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 prompts, but we found these could lag slightly behind our position on the road. 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.
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. However, we were disappointed that some bumps sent a shudder through the interior, possibly because of the 21-inch wheels fitted to our test car. 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 and S 580 e are offered with rear-wheel drive, with other versions getting 4MATIC four-wheel drive as standard. Fuel economy is just over 40mpg for the S 350 d and S 450 d, while CO2 emissions from 163g/km place both diesels in the top 37% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) band.
Choose petrol and the S 500 with 429bhp and mild-hybrid tech is the only traditional choice, but an S 580e plug-in hybrid is more likely to appeal to the business users who favour the S-Class. 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 ahead of the BMW 750e xDrive’s 49-mile range. Its low CO2 figure will also appeal to business buyers and those frequenting low-emission zones like London’s Congestion Charge area.
For those less troubled by fluctuating oil prices, there’s also the Mercedes-AMG S 63 e Performance, with a massive 792bhp from its plug-in hybrid powertrain. Taking Formula 1 know-how, it has a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine and electric motors, for a 0-62mph sprint in just 3.3 seconds.
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.
Which Is Best?
- NameS350d AMG Line 4dr 9G-Tronic
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto
- NameS580e L AMG Line Premium 4dr 9G-Tronic
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto
- NameMaybach First Class S680 4Matic 4dr 9G-Tronic
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto