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It may not be all-new, but the latest version of Mercedes' range-topping S-Class saloon sets new standards in refinement

Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz S-Class

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the self-proclaimed ‘best car in the world’, is back. Or is it?

18 July 2017

What is it?

Listening to Mercedes-Benz outline the latest incarnation of the S-Class at a press conference in Zurich, Switzerland last week, you could have been forgiven for thinking it really is an all-new model.

The latest S-Class features more than 6000 new components and three new engines – two of which are new to the model, including a six-cylinder petrol unit combined with an electric motor and 48-volt electrical system in a pair of mild hybrid models. There’s an updated infotainment system and a semi-autonomous driving system that can accelerate and brake by itself, including in and out of roundabouts.

But no matter how hard Mercedes-Benz tries to convey the step the latest S-Class has taken – and, admittedly, it is significant – it is still a mid-life facelift of the W222 model.

That said, it is a facelift the Mercedes’ head of research and development, Ola Kallenius, describes as the most comprehensive in the company’s long history. Indeed, the latest S-Class appears to be right up there with the BMW 7 Series and the Audi A8 in technological terms, no mean feat for a car originally introduced in 2014.

Dimensionally, the S-Class hasn’t changed; it stretches to 5125mm in standard guise and a rather palatial 5255mm in long-wheelbase form.

The familiar exterior appearance remains, too. However, many of the details, including the prominently chromed grille, profiling of the bumpers as well as the LED headlamp and tail lamps graphics, have been updated to give the S-Class a fresher look.

Underneath, it uses an updated version of the outgoing S-Class’s platform – a combination of the MRA platform used by the smaller C-class and E-class, with unique S-Class structural elements at the rear. It is allied to standard Air Body Control air suspension. Unlike the three-chamber system unveiled on the latest E-Class, though, the S-Class retains the simpler single chamber air springs used on the outgoing model

The electrical architecture has definitely been upgraded, and supports the widest range of driver assistance system of any Mercedes.

UK pricing is yet to be finalised, but is expected to be around £80,000.

What's it like?

We drove the S-Class 400d in long wheelbase form. It comes with rear-wheel drive as standard; our test car was fitted with optional 4Matic four-wheel drive.

The big change is the engine. Gone is the turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 diesel unit that has been a mainstay of the S-Class line-up since 2005. It is replaced by an all-new turbocharged 2.9-litre in-line six-cylinder diesel motor that delivers 335bhp. It has 19bhp more power than the turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder unit used by the latest BMW 730Ld and 71hp more than the turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine in the fourth-generation Audi A8 3.0 TDI. The S-Class's engine features a stepped bowl combustion process, multi-channel exhaust gas recirculation system and, for the first time, variable valve lift control.

The new in-line unit is smoother and more refined than the V6 it replaces. Barely audible at idle, revs build quickly, smoothly and linearly, with the S-Class’s new nine-speed torque converter 9G-Tronic gearbox, which operates in combination with a 2.47:1 final drive ratio, programmed to exploit the strong torque characteristics.

While lacking the electric motor assistance of the 2.9-litre, in-line six-cylinder, petrol-powered S500, speed nevertheless builds quickly with merely a distant hum from the new engine detectable from the well-isolated cabin. With a strapping 516lb ft on offer at just 1200rpm, the new 2000kg S400d 4Matic’s in-gear performance is wonderfully punchy from anything above idle through to where it peaks at 3200rpm. Mercedes-Benz quotes a 0-62mph time of 5.2sec and a (limited) 155mph top speed, with official fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of 50.5mpg and 147g/km.

Behind the wheel, it's the superb ride that sets the new S-Class apart from the upper luxury car competition. On smooth surfaces it glides along in the finest traditions of its celebrated predecessors. The electronically controlled air sprung suspension maintains a pre-set ride height and sponges away blacktop scars with authority. Even over nasty transverse ruts, our 400d 4Matic managed to maintain ironfisted composure with the sort of inherent control and sensitivity unmatched by the latest 740d and the outgoing A8 3.0 TDI.

Switch the standard Dynamic Select system into Sport mode and it distinguishes itself with outstanding road holding and, with the optional Air Body Control suspension fitted to our long wheelbase model, exceptional body control given its generous dimensions.

The steering remains extremely light and a little vague in the first few degrees off centre, but it weights up nicely and is sufficiently precise with a quarter turn of lock to engage the driver. The four-wheel-drive S400d 4Matic serves up exceptional grip and the sort of cornering tenacity to allow swift and spirited progress over more challenging roads without constant interruptions from the traction and stability control systems.

Inside, the front seats offer a tremendous comfort over longer journeys. The cabin styling has been subtly refined, with higher-grade materials within the dashboard, which remains dominated by two high definition displays for the instruments and infotainment system. 

In the rear, the long wheelbase provides exceptional leg room – something that arguably matters most at this end of the luxury car spectrum.

There’s also an incredible amount of technology, ranging from a raft of driver-assistance systems to cutting edge semi-autonomous driving functions. While the S-Class can’t steer by itself for more than 30 seconds at a time, the autonomous accelerating and braking functions that come as part of an updated cruise control system are a clear step toward fully automated driving that Mercedes-Benz promises will be part and parcel of the next S-Class just three years from now.

Should I buy one?

There will always be some who feel the need to arrive in something more exclusive than an S-Class. Yet despite the cachet associated with a Rolls-Royce Ghost or Bentley Flying Spur it is arguable whether they manage to deliver the sort of wellbeing served up by the latest incarnation of the long-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz saloon flagship.

Those buying it to drive, or to be driven in, will experience an exceptional car perfectly judged to meet the demands of a discerning market.  

     

Mercedes-Benz S-Class S400d 4Matic

Location Switzerland; On sale Now; Price TBC; Engine 6cyl, 2925cc, turbocharged, diesel; Power 335bhp at 3600rpm; Torque 516lb ft 1200rpm; Gearbox Nine-speed automatic; Kerbweight 2000kg; Top speed 155mph; 0-62mph 5.2sec; Economy (official) 50.5mpg; CO2 147g/km; Rivals Audi A8, BMW 7 series, Jaguar XJ

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Comments
13

19 July 2017

Still the best. What a car!

19 July 2017

...can a non-sports, luxury car that big and heavy hit 62 in just over 5 seconds with just a 3.0 diesel, it'll leave a Golf GTI Club Sport for dead.  Well impressive, top of the tree for understated looks

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

19 July 2017

Although at over 5 metres long is it practical in the UK? I think not. At least you'd be in a comfortable place looking for a that extra large Waitrose parking space. 

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

19 July 2017
xxxx wrote:

Although at over 5 metres long is it practical in the UK? I think not. At least you'd be in a comfortable place looking for a that extra large Waitrose parking space. 

Perhaps time for three types of special parking space in supermarket car parks: disabled spaces, parent and child spaces and fat car spaces.

Citroëniste.

19 July 2017
Bob Cholmondeley wrote:

xxxx wrote:

Although at over 5 metres long is it practical in the UK? I think not. At least you'd be in a comfortable place looking for a that extra large Waitrose parking space. 

Perhaps time for three types of special parking space in supermarket car parks: disabled spaces, parent and child spaces and fat car spaces.

Fat car spaces? I think you'll find they're called parent and child spaces aren't they?! The number of times I've seen middle aged men coming out of the supermarket only to jump in their Range Rover or Porsche which has been parked in a parent and child space.

19 July 2017

I'm not sure why anyone would need 30 seconds of autonomous driving. There must be a reason for it, though?

19 July 2017

This new diesel technology has got to be the way forward. Diesel isn't dead!

19 July 2017

There are probably very few cars which just seem to dominate their class and outdo all its rivals almost year after year after year and with each new generation of model too. The S Class is one of those cars and it sounds this revised model is still very much the best car in the world, and comfortably too. Its good to see that with its expansive model line up Mercedes hasn't loss focus with the car that really defines the marque. I've been in the current W222 model and it really is an outstanding car. Good to see the return of the straight sizes in Mercs too. 

19 July 2017

The star meter would have been fully illuminated. Just saying, and all that.

19 July 2017

Interesting (or brave or cynical) naming convention. The S500 has always been a V8 and arguably the defacto flagship of not only MB, but the luxury car class as a whole, despite there being 560/600 models above it. The V8 revives the 560 moniker, while 450 also returns, this time as an I6.

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