In the unlikely event that you weren’t aware of the significance of recently emerged markets, where luxury car buyers tend to be passengers rather than drivers, consider the following: this is the first Mercedes S-Class to have been developed as a long-wheelbase saloon first, with the short-wheelbase variant spawning from it. Usually it’s the other way around.

Doing things this way, Mercedes says, has allowed it to endow the long-wheelbase variant with an unprecedented level of torsional rigidity, namely 40,500Nm/deg (its predecessor’s was 27,500Nm/deg).

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
The standard intelligent LED headlights are incredible

The body itself is a mixed-metal monocoque with much high-strength steel around the passenger cell, but with such a high aluminium content (more than 50 percent) that Mercedes calls it an aluminium hybrid.

Thus it’s claimed that the body itself hasn’t, despite impressive increases in stiffness and safety for occupants during the past 20 years, increased in weight. The overall weight of the car, though, inevitably has; one we tested weighed 2215kg, spread almost evenly between front and rear axles.

Those axles, incidentally, are the same distance apart as previously. The standard-wheelbase S-Class has a 3035mm wheelbase (and is 5116mm long), but this variant has a 3165mm one and measures 5248mm in length.

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What has changed are the front and rear tracks, which are 24 and 31mm wider respectively than on this S-Class’s predecessor. Mercedes claims a modest increase in interior volume as a result of better packaging and body design, but the real tricks inside are about equipment, not space.

The facelift didn't just bring about a host of tweaks and technology upgrades but also a revise engine line-up. As it currently stands the S-Class is available with four engines. The only diesel in the range is a 282bhp 2.9-litre, straight-six, replacing the 252bhp V6 that previous powered the S350d. Powering the S500 L is a petrol version of the six in-line unit good for 429bhp, while the AMG models keep the V-shaped engines for the time being.

The rapid 603bhp S63 gets an all-new 4.0-litre V8 found in the E63 and AMG GT replacing the outgoing 5.5-litre, while the ballistic 621bhp 6.0-litre V12 S65 remains the same, which out muscles all its closest rivals, including the Jaguar XJR 575Bentley Flying Spur and BMW M760Li coming close, with the latter the closest competition to the sumputous V12 S-Class.

The standard cars use Mercedes' 9G-Tronic Plus nine-speed automatic transmission, with gears being selected via a lever on the steering column. Paddle shifts are also fitted, for manual control when required. AMG models get a sports-tuned version, which quickens the changes and give those models a sportier edge. The S63 uses a nine ratio version of the gearbox, and the S65 retains the seven-speed version fitted from launch.

Hardware includes standard air suspension with adaptive dampers, although the really clever Magic Body Control (MBC) system is reserved for eight-cylinder models. MBC uses a pair of cameras atop the windscreen to read the road up to 15m ahead and pick out undulations.

The suspension then adjusts accordingly at each corner. It’s an extension of Merc’s Active Body Control, which compensates for pitch and roll by adjusting the air springs, but MBC does so in an anticipatory rather than reactionary way.

The 2017 facelift saw more than some light touch tweaking, with Mercedes-Benz going deep into its box of tricks to keep the S-Class ahead of its competition. Chief among which is the inclusion of a 48V electrical system, turning the S-Class into a mild hybrid, and giving it future autonomous capability. With the use of navigation data and radar systems the S-Class will be available to drive itself and even adjust its speed for corners, junctions, roundabouts and tolls based on that data.

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