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.
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.