There may be nothing radical in the architecture of the S 350 CDI’s four-link front and multi-link rear suspension with its adaptive air springs, but once out of town it still raises the ride quality standard to new class levels. In certain conditions, a Jaguar XJ or Lexus LS might match the Mercedes, but across all surfaces and through all loads from driver only to fully laden, we can’t think of another luxury car that approaches the Merc’s blend of steely body control and almost endlessly compliant bump absorption.

Early models could drop a wheel into a medium-sized pothole and the driver would both hear and feel a rather unluxurious thunk, a contrast to the near-uniform brilliance of the ride the rest of the time. Bigger, 18-inch, wheels didn’t help, but later models saw this quirk massaged away. 

If it's a big petrol S-Class you want, go for the sublime S 500 or S 600. The S 63 and 65 AMG are hilarious, but ultimately compromise the best elements of the S-class

This is no sports car, but it can still be hustled down a road with indecent haste. It’s all there: precision, poise, balance and even reasonable feel through the slightly too-light steering. It won’t have you setting the alarm for 5 o’clock on a Sunday morning, but nor will you greet each country lane with resignation. You’ll actually relish the prospect, and that's all you can expect. 

For the all-important rear passengers, tyre roar is well suppressed and the ride nicely rounded off. All of which cannot be said of many of the car’s luxury segment rivals.

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