What is it?
Smoothly, quietly and confidently, a silver Mercedes-Benz S-class casually wafts along an autobahn outside Stuttgart.
The S 500’s twin-turbocharged 4.7-litre V8 is barely audible as the automatic gearbox picks up seventh gear with a velvety shift, dropping the revs back under 2000rpm for truly tranquil fast-lane progress. Save for some distant tyre rumble and a faint lick of wind across the roof, there is a remarkable calmness at an indicated 100mph. The car gathers miles effortlessly, pampering its occupants with low levels of noise and miraculous ride comfort.
This sixth-generation S-class promises big things. Its predecessor was an enduring favourite, so expectations surrounding Mercedes’ flagship have been mounting ever since it was revealed in May. The advanced four-door is a rolling fortress of technology, all of which aims to place it at the top of the luxury car ranks ahead of the Audi A8, BMW 7-series, Jaguar XJ and Lexus LS.
Mercedes-Benz chairman Dieter Zetsche acknowledges that this S-class has a vastly different mission from the one it replaces. It will be produced in no fewer than six different variants, including initial short and long-wheelbase models, followed by an extra-long-wheelbase model within the next year. This new variant, we’re told, will offer a limousine-like experience to match the Bentley Mulsanne and Rolls-Royce Ghost and is planned to be the basis for a return of the Pullman. There will also be a two-door coupé and a cabriolet.
Mercedes’ efforts at updating the S-class’s appearance have been a success. The exterior styling, with greater sculpture to the body, evolves the appearance without straying too far from the outgoing model. A more prominent grille and larger, more angular headlights provide quite a noble appearance, while a prominent swage line adds greater intrigue to the flanks. There is little change in external dimensions over the old S-class in the long-wheelbase model tested here, the new car being just 21mm longer, 29mm wider and 11mm higher than before.
The S-class’s aerodynamic properties are class-leading. Official figures point to a drag coefficient of just 0.24, with further refinements set to net the S300 BlueTec Hybrid an even more efficient 0.23 thanks to adjustable louvres in the cooling system, extensive underbody panelling and detailed work to the wheel houses.