Mark Tisshaw
5 July 2013

What is it?

The new Mercedes-Benz S-class is the best car in the world. At least, that's what its maker wants it to be. And it was a phrase we were inclined to see the rationale behind after our first go in the sumptuous new S-class courtesy of the range-topping S500.

But this S350 BlueTEC has to try and meet that bold aspiration ever more as it is almost certain to be the best-selling S-class. It's all well and good nailing the range-topper, but this bread and butter model is the one that really has to meet its brief.

To help meet the brief, Mercedes has armed the S350 with a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine. It's the same engine as in its predecessor but armed with more power and torque, lower CO2 and improved economy that are further improved thanks to the S-class's lower weight and improved aerodynamics. 

What is it like?

Superb. The best in the world? There's a question. How can that be defined? There are definitely faster, more involving drives, but none that are as comfortable and refined. It's out on its own on as a world beater on those criteria. But we knew that already from the S500 we tested last week, so it's the diesel engine under the S350's bonnet that's up for judging here.

And it's business as usual for the engine; it certainly hasn't got any worse in its switch from old S-class to new. Acceleration is brisk, there's plenty of low-end torque to call on, for the most part it's inaudible from inside the cabin, and it is as buttery smooth and refined as the rest of the car.

Issues? There are a few, although none is a deal-breaker. Throttle response in the cosseting Comfort mode needs to be sharper, particularly when you need a sudden punch for overtaking but this is down to the seven-speed auto' gearbox (another carryover from old S-class to new) as much as anything.

There's also the slightest of gruff notes at start-up, a noise that reappears albeit louder under hard acceleration, something that should be a no-no in a luxury car. It's also not the most willing engine to be revved, but then your average S-class owner is hardly likely to give it the beans, or at least instruct their chauffeur to.

The rest of the dynamic package is typically excellent. The ride quality is superb, it corners flatly and handles with confidence-inspiring stability rather than any great level of driver involvement.

The ride could probably be made even better still if Mercedes' Magic Body Control (an incredible piece of engineering that can make speed bumps feel like they aren't even there) were to be offered, but it's only available on V8-equipped S-classes. Shame, but S-classes without it hardly feel like a poor relation.

The interior comfort is beyond reproach, the overall functionality and design less so. The twin front screens are a bit ugly, and the optional pair you can have in the back can only be operated by a fiddly remote or a smartphone app when you'd think they'd be touchscreen as standard in this iPad era. It can also be quite hard to find the button or menu for the command you actually want (skipping tracks on an album for instance).

Still, if all this winds you up you can always slip into the back seat, recline almost flat and have a hot stone-effect massage.

Should I buy one?

If you are a luxury car customer who wants the most comfortable and refined car out there then the S-class is for you. A Range Rover has a much greater sense of occasion, a Jaguar XJ is much more involving to drive, but just as those two cars nail their briefs for those traits the S-class nails its own for its grown-up manners and role as a businessman's express.

But there is the slight nagging doubt that it hasn't moved the game on as much as the new Range Rover did when it arrived. It feels like more of the same, and in parts, particularly the interior, it is a bit derivative.

Maybe we're nitpicking, as this is the one car you'd pick out of any class for a 1000-mile drive, or indeed passenger ride. It's just when the aspiration is to be "the best car in the world", you expect that extra five per cent, be it in a revolutionary new engine, gearbox or particularly an interior more in tune with the Apple generation, that will allow it to top any class in addition to its own. 

Mercedes S350 BlueTEC L SE Line

Price £65,650; 0-62mph 6.8sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 50.4mpg; CO2 148g/km; Kerb weight 1975kg; Engine V6, 2987cc, turbodiesel; Power 254bhp at 3600rpm; Torque 457lb ft at 1600-2400rpm; Gearbox 7spd automatic

Join the debate

Comments
39

Hot stone massage

41 weeks 2 days ago

Erm... what is a hot stone massage?

" A Range Rover has a much

41 weeks 2 days ago

" A Range Rover has a much greater sense of occasion, a Jaguar XJ is much more involving to drive"

Give it a rest with the JLR nonsense. Those two cars are made to look dated next to the S-Class. They simply cannot compete.

"but just as those two cars nail their briefs for those traits the S-class nails its own for its grown-up manners and role as a businessman's express."

So what you are reluctantly and clumsily saying is that the S-Class is the better luxury car. Go on,  just say it. We all know it's the superior car.

Why does every text about the S-Class involve XJ???

41 weeks 2 days ago

I'm not British, nor German, but must say that from an independent (maybe not independent, but definitely not biased by nationality) point of view, AutoCar's defensive position on the XJ in every single text about a german higher class car is riddiculous.

Would really love to see worldwide sales figures comparison between the 7-series, S-class, A8 and the XJ (have tried googleing them but it's not straightforward). Something tells me XJ would be dead-last, and probably for a reason. A reason that a magazine that is read worldwide (and not only on the island) should recognize.

Winston ChurchiIl

41 weeks 2 days ago

Winston ChurchiIl wrote:

" A Range Rover has a much greater sense of occasion, a Jaguar XJ is much more involving to drive"

Give it a rest with the JLR nonsense. Those two cars are made to look dated next to the S-Class. They simply cannot compete.

"but just as those two cars nail their briefs for those traits the S-class nails its own for its grown-up manners and role as a businessman's express."

So what you are reluctantly and clumsily saying is that the S-Class is the better luxury car. Go on,  just say it. We all know it's the superior car.

HAHA! This from someone with NIL experience of either and who decides on its 0-60 time! Pillock.

In this class...

41 weeks 2 days ago

there isn't a better car. It's that Simple. Why do so many chauffeur companies pick it? And, that ones that don't, probably (although they'd be reluctant to admit it) because the corporate fleet department at Audi, BMW and Jaguar bought them out of their current vehicles.

oh god, why do these guys

41 weeks 2 days ago

oh god, why do these guys insist on JLR comparo's. This car will sell in far greater numbers than either, for a very good reason. This car has moved the game on and the rest, eg A8, 7, Range and XJ will be playing catch up for years. Autocar please note that you are read worldwide and not just in blighty where you can get away with this nonsense.

twitter @anikadamali, @notPCnairobi

Van Nistelrooy wrote: I'm

41 weeks 2 days ago

Van Nistelrooy wrote:

I'm not British, nor German, but must say that from an independent (maybe not independent, but definitely not biased by nationality) point of view, AutoCar's defensive position on the XJ in every single text about a german higher class car is riddiculous.

Would really love to see worldwide sales figures comparison between the 7-series, S-class, A8 and the XJ (have tried googleing them but it's not straightforward). Something tells me XJ would be dead-last, and probably for a reason. A reason that a magazine that is read worldwide (and not only on the island) should recognize.

Couldn't have put it better.

iamnotbritishandthereforeunbi

41 weeks 2 days ago

iamnotbritishandthereforeunbiased wrote:

oh god, why do these guys insist on JLR comparo's. This car will sell in far greater numbers than either, for a very good reason. This car has moved the game on and the rest, eg A8, 7, Range and XJ will be playing catch up for years. Autocar please note that you are read worldwide and not just in blighty where you can get away with this nonsense.

Autocar never claimed to be a world magazine. It is a British magazine and, as it happens, JLR are fielding two cars that are, for those that can afford them, direct competitors to the S Class. The XJ is a perfect competitor to the S Class and the RR is even beyond the S Class into Bentley territory these days. Autocar is ALWAYS being accused of bias. It was only a few years ago when it was BMW that they were accused of favouring and it is always accused by people who seemingly have no experience to counter the claims nor who are the target market. I'll listen to Autocar thanks, at least until I've driven and experienced all the cars they write about and have an opinion of my own that is worth its salt.

You fool!

41 weeks 2 days ago

Ray6O wrote:

RR is even beyond the S Class into Bentley territory these days. 

No it isn't. The Range Rover was behind the previous S-Class. The new one makes it look even worse. To say that the Range Rover is into Bentley territory is nothing short of a joke, and shows that you know nothing about cars. 

inteior

41 weeks 2 days ago

intresting comment about the interior not being in touch with the apple generation. To my mind the apple generation would in A and C classes, so not sure the S should be aimed at the apple generation.

Ive not driven a Range Rover, XJ or S but its a very desirable car and on paper at least would be be my first choice. Certainly in the UK this car conveys classiness more than a Range Rover does

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