So for a couple of years now I’ve been craving a comfortable car, one that rides as though it’s suspended from above rather than in contact with the road surface beneath. Steve Cropley’s Mercedes S500 therefore arrives with me, if only for a short while, not a moment too soon.
Having used the car only a handful of times as I write this, I am pleased to say the S-Class really does ride well. Well enough, certainly, that the patches of rough and potholed Tarmac near to my house that have made me wince twice daily for two years are now smothered beautifully.
The S500’s ride is undoubtedly improved by its wheels, which at 19in in diameter are not as enormous as they might be. They’re shod in doughy winter tyres for the time being, too, which will contribute a little more bump compliance to the overall suspension system.
In many ways a very large, luxurious saloon is exactly what I need since so much of my driving is on the motorway. On the other hand, living in a city will invariably make driving a car as long as a five-a-side football pitch – this is the long-wheelbase model, after all – quite frustrating at times. Multi-storey car parks could be interesting, for instance.
The thing about the very best luxury cars, however, is that they steer well enough to make them easy to thread along a narrow city street, one that might be lined with cars. I remember that was what struck me most the first time I drove a Rolls-Royce Wraith and, as far as I can tell so far, the S500 does something similar. Its various parking cameras also make low-speed manoeuvring a doddle. I’m intrigued to see if, on balance, I prefer a bigger car for everyday driving or a smaller one.
Along with its comfortable ride, the big Mercedes is proving to be exceptionally refined. It’s quiet at all speeds, the petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain scarcely makes any noise and the front seats are supportive in all the right ways and so relaxing to sit in that I’m wondering about ordering a pair for my living room. I have yet to spend two or three hours in their embrace at once, but if I emerge from the cabin after even the longest drive with a single ache or pain, I will be amazed.
I was interested to read, finally, that Mr Cropley’s preference after driving the S500 back-to-back with another of Autocar’s luxurious long-term test cars, a BMW 740Ld, was very much for the Mercedes. He pointed out quite rightly that the 7 Series felt smaller and sportier (it is both of those things), but that he preferred the more relaxed gait of the S-Class.
Me? If I had to answer that right now I would say my preference was for the BMW, but a few weeks from now I will be able to say for certain.