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Bodystyle, dimensions and technical details

Slim headlights and soft curves mean the new Mercedes S-Class cuts a less ostentatious figure than its predecessor but it’s actually a larger car, in short- and long-wheelbase forms. With shorter overhangs, most of both derivatives’ additional length has been added between the axles, and the S-Class is also taller than before. Narrower, too, by 21mm between the outer edges of the wing mirrors, even though track widths are up significantly at both ends.

Our S580e L measures 5320mm nose to tail, putting it roughly on a par with the equivalent BMW and Audi models but some way off the 5546mm of the Rolls-Royce Ghost. The bodyshell now also uses more aluminium than ever, although this plug-in hybrid S-Class, whose 28.6kWh battery provides 62 miles of electric range, still weighs 2385kg.

The lighting has been slimmed down at both ends of the car. The headlights are also particularly clever in their ability to adjust for the topography of the road ahead, assuming you have the navigation active. The car can locate and ‘tag’ pedestrians at night, too.

Powertrains are currently limited to turbocharged straight-six petrol and diesel affairs, but a mild-hybrid 4.0-litre V8 is in the pipeline and you can supplement the six-cylinder petrol with an electric motor for more than 500bhp, as is the case with our S580e L. All cars use Mercedes’ in-house 9G-Tronic torque-converter gearbox, whose ninth ratio is an overdrive that drops engine speed to around 1600rpm on the motorway.

Four-wheel drive is also standard across the range except in the case of the entry-level S350d, and four-wheel steering is an option. The forged-aluminium links of the rear suspension have been redeveloped on account of this system, which for the LWB car reduces the turning circle by two metres. At the all-important rear, sub-frame carriers and the elastomer bearings of the struts have also been redeveloped to improve cabin isolation.

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Air springs are standard, with the bellows working alongside the adaptive ADS+ dampers to control each corner of the car independently of the others, as necessary. Ride height automatically lowers by 10mm at speed to reduce drag, and does so by a further 7mm in the S-Class’s sportiest driving mode.

Our test car didn’t have Mercedes’ E-Active Body Control, a development of the hydraulically actuated Magic Body Control that was introduced on the old Mercedes S-Class (2014-2020). Using cameras and feedback from the road surface to regulate pitch, lift and roll, it is fitted as standard on the Maybach versions of the car but not offered even as an option on others.