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German limousine does comfort exceptionally well, but more striking still is how adept it is dynamically

Welcome, then, to the return of the self-styled ‘best car in the world’, this time for the seventh occasion since 1972, when Mercedes-Benz first used the S-Class name.

Naturally, like every new S-Class, this is the most advanced car Mercedes has made. Or is it? Because for the first time, the top-billing limousine in the line-up at Stuttgart has some internal competition, in the form of the Mercedes-Benz EQS, which aims to do everything the S-Class can do, only against the backdrop of all-electric power. Does this moment represent a changing of the guard? Perhaps, and that’s a matter worthy of its own dedicated story in these pages.

A shorter front overhang and less imposing grille contribute to the car’s pebble-like exterior design, as does the reduction in crease and character lines along the flanks compared with the more distinctive styling of the W222.

In the meantime, the car for which “in investment terms, no other model comes close”, according to head of development Jürgen Weissinger, returns with a new remit. Luxury and isolation still in theory lead the order of priorities, but digitisation and connectivity are if not quite on a par then a very close second.

The new S-Class is the first Mercedes capable of driving fully autonomously and without a driver, even if the capability is limited to closed-circuit environments such as parking garages. The car can now receive over-the-air software updates and, with the right equipment from Mercedes’ chosen suppliers, the MBUX Smart Home function can from within your car monitor and control the temperature, the lighting and even the position of window blinds at home, all through voice control. Useful?

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Possibly not, but it shows that Mercedes is forging new technological paths with the S-Class.

All of which sounds impressive, but it won’t matter a jot if this new S-Class can’t uphold the standards of its forebears in terms of unadulterated sophistication on the move. It needs to have that addictive knack of depositing occupants at their destination in a more rested and revitalised state than when they slid into the car. It needs to reassert its position as the best limousine money can buy short of going to Rolls-Royce, with the benefit of remaining relatively incognito at times when even the most subtly presented Roller would stand out.

With all this in mind, it’s time for the W223-generation S-Class to undergo a full road test, so we might discover whether new heights have been reached, or if standards have slipped.

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class line-up at a glance

The W223-generation S-Class comes in an array of forms. There are straight-six petrol and diesel options, and it’s also possible to have the petrol in PHEV guise (like our test car). Long-wheelbase versions are available, too, and that’s before you get to the trims, which range from AMG Line to AMG Line Premium Plus Executive.

Also, while Mercedes-Benz no longer offers a V12 in any model, the wider family gets around this by offering the noblest of engine configurations in the Mercedes-Maybach S680 – all 6.0 litres and 603bhp of it.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Mercedes-Benz S-Class First drives