Expensive, but it feels it and if you want truly convincing performance for your S then this is the place to get it.

Until the S 63 AMG arrives next summer this is the quickest S-class available, but at a shade under £100k the long wheelbase-only range-topper is expected to tempt just three in every 100 buyers.

The twin-turbo V12 is the sole survivor from the old S-class engine range, though there’s an extra 17bhp and 22lb ft of torque to deal with the new car’s additional 45kg. Its monster 612lb ft torque peak overwhelms Merc’s 7G-tronic gearbox so the S600 sticks to the old five-speed auto.

Old-tech it may be, but this remains a very special S-class. Mercedes’ flagship is a heavy beast, and feels it even in 383bhp S500 form, but the 510bhp V12 is rather more convincing. Performance is spectacular for a 2180kg limo, 0-62mph is posted in an Aston DB9-beating 4.6sec and even on dry roads the traction control is tested when the 1900rpm torque peak is reached in second and third gears.

The combination of bigger tyres – 255/45 front and 275/45 rear R18s - and Mercedes’ Active Body Control makes swift progress possible on twisty roads, with steering and body control notably improved over the old car’s, though the same combination mean there is a touch more tyre and suspension noise than the S 350 we tried last week.

Inside, the 600 feels special enough to justify its lofty price tag. The generous dose of Nappa leather out-blings other S-classes with a hide-clad wheel and dash, while extra standard kit includes parking sensors, harman/kardon stereo, TV tuner and that trick suspension.

Avoid the AMG bodykit and the S 600 is a particularly subtle way to go very quickly, but it’s also exceptionally relaxing to drive when you’re not breaking speed records. If you can afford it, this is the ultimate S express.

Alastair Clements

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