Mercedes S-Class saloon - Engines, drive & performance (2013-2020)

Smoothness, refinement and comfort are the watchwords for the Mercedes S-Class here

Carbuyer Rating

4.0 out of 5

Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.0 out of 5

As a luxury saloon, the S-Class is all about delivering a comfortable, refined and above all relaxing experience – whether you’re sitting in the front or the back. However, the split personality of the Mercedes-AMG badged versions is really quite something.

Serene relaxation has always been one of the S-Class’ strengths and this generation is no different. If you want something to whisk you along comfortably and quietly without any fuss in the lap of high-tech luxury, then the S-Class is definitely the car for you. True, it’s not the most entertaining car in corners, but that’s not what it was designed to be.

That said, it grips very well and body lean is well controlled if you corner vigorously (although if this is the case, then you may want to make sure your chauffeur is trying to save you from some impending danger, rather than just driving too quickly).

Thanks to what Mercedes calls ‘Magic Body Control’, all versions of the S-Class have ride comfort that is unparalleled by anything this side of a Rolls-Royce. This system scans the road ahead using a variety of sensors, radars, cameras and scanners, looking for any lumps and bumps. It then sets the suspension up accordingly to best deal with what’s coming up. Even without this system installed (it’s a cost option) the standard air-suspension copes with bumps very well. A new feature called ‘curve tilting’ will arrive after making its debut in the Mercedes S-Class Coupe; it allows the suspension to subtly lean the car into corners like a Pendolino train.

Mercedes-AMG models are quite an experience to travel in. With the exception of a little more noise from the huge tyres, an S500 or S63 can cruise just as smoothly as other versions, but if you exercise a little more vigour with the accelerator, they turn into very serious sports saloons. Not only are they astonishingly fast in a straight line, but their enthusiasm for corners belies their imposing bulk.

You can forgive such a heavy car for having steering that feels a little over-assisted, and it does gain a little feel and a sense of precision when you begin to attack a twisty road. In fact, you soon forget you’re in a huge luxury saloon – you can confidently drive this Mercedes quickly. The Jaguar XJR arguably flows in a more natural way, but the S63 and S65 feel every bit the four-door supercar.

Mercedes S-Class petrol engines

The S-Class petrol engine line-up is impressive and ranges from the sensible to the sublime. In the former category is the S560e plug-in hybrid, with its 3.0-litre petrol engine boosted by an electric motor. It has a claimed 27-mile all-electric operating range and an impressive turn of speed. We’ve reviewed it separately.

Then comes the Mercedes-AMG models. The S63 previously used a 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8, but in the interests of economy and emissions, it’s now shrunk to just 4.0 litres. However, power junkies can be reassured that there’s been no toning-down here; in fact, this more efficient engine produces 604bhp compared to 577 of the previous one.

It uses a nine-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, which changes gear with lightning speed. There’s a Sports+ mode with even quicker responses that opens an exhaust valve so the V8’s battle cry is no longer smothered. If you’re looking for a restrained, subtle saloon with a race-car roar, look no further.

The latest S63 can dispatch the 0-62mph sprint a tenth of a second quicker than the previous version, in 4.3 seconds. The long-wheelbase S650 Maybach offers the same power, but its extra weight increases the 0-62mph time to a still-impressive 4.7 seconds.

Every petrol-engined S-Class is electronically limited to 155mph. The cruise control has a speed-limiter function, which is fortunate, because you’ll often find yourself going alarmingly fast without really noticing it – such is the refined nature of the performance.

Diesel engines

The previous V6 diesel was pensioned off in 2017 in favour of a new straight-six 3.0-litre with 282bhp in the S350d or 335bhp in the S400d. We’ve tried both and it’s noticeably smoother than the previous engine, with sharp responses and a quiet growl when you accelerate. The S350d will be all most will ever need, with so much acceleration on tap it makes the large S-Class genuinely fast. With a sizeable reservoir of torque from just above idle, overtaking slower cars is the work of a moment, with almost no fuss. It’s hard to see why you’d need to spend the equivalent of a city car to upgrade to the S500 petrol.

Next Steps

Which Is Best?

Cheapest

  • Name
    S350d AMG Line 4dr 9G-Tronic
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £79,960

Most Economical

  • Name
    S580e L AMG Line Premium 4dr 9G-Tronic
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £103,695

Fastest

  • Name
    Maybach First Class S680 4Matic 4dr 9G-Tronic
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £201,335

Recommended

Top 10 best luxury cars 2022
Mercedes S-Class saloon
Luxury cars
29 Jun 2022

Top 10 best luxury cars 2022

Top 3 used posh cars for under £40,000
Hero
Tips and advice
28 Apr 2022

Top 3 used posh cars for under £40,000

Have You Considered

Audi S8 saloon review
2022 Audi S8 driving
Audi S8 saloon
17 Feb 2022

Audi S8 saloon review

Mercedes S-Class saloon review
Mercedes S-Class saloon
Mercedes S-Class
3 Jun 2021

Mercedes S-Class saloon review

Most Popular

Nissan Ariya vs Volvo XC40 vs Volkswagen ID.4 - which is best?
Hero image
News
11 Aug 2022

Nissan Ariya vs Volvo XC40 vs Volkswagen ID.4 - which is best?

Best new car deals 2022: this week’s top car offers
MG HS
Deals
12 Aug 2022

Best new car deals 2022: this week’s top car offers

Top 10 best electric family cars 2022
MG ZS EV - front
Best cars
8 Aug 2022

Top 10 best electric family cars 2022

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
23 Mar 2022

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Electric car charging station
Tips and advice
5 Nov 2021

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Car buying
17 May 2022

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
20 Jun 2022

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Top 10 best car interiors 2022
Peugeot 208 hatchback
Best cars
25 Jun 2021

Top 10 best car interiors 2022

Top 10 best electric cars 2022
Ioniq 5
Best cars
12 Jul 2022

Top 10 best electric cars 2022

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2022
Nissan Leaf front
Best cars
12 Jul 2022

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2022

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2022
Audi RS 3 driving - front view
Hot hatches
24 Jun 2022

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2022