What is it?
This is the facelifted Mercedes S-class, which the German company describes as the “original reference point in the luxury class”. Judging by the performance of the S 350 CDI tested here, we wouldn’t disagree.
The six-cylinder turbodiesel that powered the popular S 320 CDI has been uprated and now puts out 199g/km of CO2 and achieves 37mpg combined, an improvement of 21g/km and 3mpg.
Aerodynamic improvements, low-resistance tyres and modifications to the seven-speed auto ’box account for the environmental improvements.
What’s it like?
As effortless and cosseting as ever. New speed-sensitive variable-ratio steering and a torque-vectoring brake system make turn-in sharper, and though the weight and size of the S-class are always noticeable, it’s easy to feed accurately down a winding road or through traffic.
Ride quality is exemplary, and still a class benchmark. Even the most severely broken road surface is smoothed into submission by the Airmatic air suspension.
The S 350 CDI engine is equally effective. It’s well matched to the seven-speed ’box, and most users won’t ever find the need to change out of D thanks to the spread of torque, though using the paddle shifts is a satisfying experience on the right road.
Still, the 3.0-litre engine does grumble intrusively under heavy acceleration and it can feel strained in the higher echelons of the rev range, so it’s best to just sit back and enjoy the cruising ability.
The driver need do very little to achieve that, because there are now even more electronic marvels to keep the S-class at the forefront of the technology revolution.
Lane Assist vibrates the steering wheel if you go over a white line without signalling, adaptive high-beam headlights automatically sense oncoming traffic and dip themselves, active body control compensates for crosswinds, the Distronic cruise control has been improved, and to stop you falling asleep, Attention Assist monitors 70 different parameters to sense and warn when the driver needs to take a break.
Should I buy one?
Do you need to ask? Even if the thoroughly impressive (and mostly optional) gadgets that make the S-class a winning luxury saloon don’t sell it to you, rest assured that even in standard form the Mercedes is still the one to beat.