Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - S-Class - Range
Sumptuous comfort, fantastic quality and refinement, little interior noise, effortless powertrains, smooth ride, premium materials
Room for improvement
Vehicle weight blunts driving dynamics, overzealous lane departure warning, suspension prone to wafting
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15 Dec 2017
AFTER arriving in Australian showrooms in late 2013, Mercedes-Benz has updated its W222 S-Class to keep it fresh against rivals such as the newer BMW 7 Series and Porsche Panamera.
Improvements include the debut of a new inline six-cylinder diesel engine for entry-level variants, a smaller-capacity V8 for more highly-equipped versions, styling changes, cheaper entry to the range and an increase in safety technology.
With the update, Mercedes is aiming to return the S-Class to the top-selling upper-large luxury sedan in Australia after the BMW 7 Series usurped its title in 2017.
Will the raft of changes help the new S-Class regain its segment sales crown?
While elements of the S-Class update, including the styling changes and safety equipment upgrades, are relatively minor, other changes, namely the overhaul of engine choices, are major additions to the line-up.
Two new mills have been added to the range, consisting of an all-new 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder turbo-diesel unit making its Australian debut in the S-Class, as well as a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 powering the newly-named S560 and feisty S63 AMG.
The other two engines – a twin-turbo 3.0-litre petrol V6 in the S450 L and mighty 6.0-litre twin-turbo V12 in the Mercedes-Maybach S650 – are carryover units from the old range.
Unfortunately, due to time constraints we could only test the S450 L and S560, while being consigned to the passenger seat in the oil-burner.
While the new engines are the biggest part of the update, the S-Class experience begins before the start engine button is pushed.
Stepping into the cabin, it is immediately apparent that the S-Class is a vehicle befitting of a $200,000-plus pricetag.
Sinking into the deeply padded perforated leather seats, the S-Class announces its intentions early as an immensely comfortable cruiser, a trait further highlighted by the high-quality dash and door trim, woodgrain stripe along the dash, and a bevy of comfort-oriented features including heated and ventilated seats, ambient lighting with 64 different colour choices, front and rear climate control air conditioning and ambient fragrances for more highly-equipped variants.
Once the engine has been fired up and the vehicle is moving, the S-Class has an almost eerily quiet cabin with all but the most intrusive noises kept to the outside of the vehicle.
Noise, vibration and harshness levels are first class, with no cabin rattles and a feeling of excellent build quality.
With a combination of extravagant comfort, quiet cabin and relaxed soundtrack, the S-Class almost lulls one to sleep with its plush and whisper-quiet driving experience.
The relaxing experience is enhanced when sitting in the rear seats of one of the long-wheelbase versions, with unparalleled legroom, electrically adjustable rear seats that also allow you to move the front passenger seat, sunblinds for the rear side windows and rear window, climate control air-conditioning with A/C vents nestled in the B-pillar, and an optional rear entertainment package.
One of our favourite aspects of the interior is the dual 12.3-inch display screens comprising the Comand infotainment system and digital instrument cluster, which offers a huge choice of configurations and large, high-definition images of whatever the driver wishes to put on screen.
We did experience some lag, and the Comand system is not the most user-friendly or simple interface to use, but it is still a quality offering.
The large number of buttons on the centre console, dash and steering wheel can also be daunting, but is a matter of getting used to the car and shouldn’t be a problem for S-Class owners after the initial growing pains.
One of the better features of the S-Class interior is the steering wheel-mounted touchpad controls, which allowed for quick and intuitive navigation of the instrument cluster display.
Aiding in the S-Class’ supremely congenial driving experience is the air suspension set-up which does a great job of minimising road imperfections and delivering a smooth ride, even eating up sizeable potholes with ease.
However, the suspension is prone to wafting on undulating roads, hampered by the considerable weight of the S-Class, which checks in at around two tonnes.
The weight was also felt through corners, with the suspension struggling to stiffen enough for the big rear-drive saloon.
Even when engaging the stiffer suspension set-up in sport mode, the dampers feel like they need an even firmer setting for those wanting to confidently engage in spirited driving.
Of the powertrains driven, the impression given is the S-Class is powered by mills that are confident, capable and willing.
The carry-over twin-turbo V6 in the S450 L offers keen performance with 270kW/520Nm on tap, and never feels stressed even when accelerating hard.
Mercedes has borrowed the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 found in a number of AMG-fettled models for its S500 replacement, now known as the S560, with 375kW/700Nm being forced through the rear wheels via a nine-speed automatic – a configuration seen on all S-Class variants bar the ultra-luxe Mercedes-Maybach S650.
The S560’s bent-eight provides ultra-smooth motoring with effortless performance, with plentiful power on tap whether launching from standstill or overtaking at 100km/h.
As a passenger in the S400d, the new oil-burner is a quiet and torquey unit that shifts smoothly and provides a similar driving experience to the petrol units, with the 700Nm pulling the two-tonne S-Class along with a minimum of fuss.
Our only gripe is the engines are somewhat lacking in savageness – a trait one would expect from an engine capable of pumping out nearly 400kW.
Mercedes seems to have gone the route of comfortable and amiable motoring over pulse-raising severity, which to be fair fits the bill of the S-Class and its customers.
While it may be one of the most comfortable vehicles to pilot on the market, it results in a slightly disconnected and sterile driving experience.
A number of active safety features are implemented on the S-Class, and for the most part they work well.
The assisted steering and active cruise control work well, while the new active lane change assist feature can do the work for you by simply flicking the indicator stalk while cruise control is activated.
Lane departure warning is the only intrusive safety feature, with an overzealous operation that kicks in seemingly before any road lines are crossed.
Mercedes-Benz has hit the mark with its new S-Class, with sublime ride comfort and interior specification to make anyone feel like a millionaire.
The new suite of engines are potent and willing, and can haul the upper-large sedan around at a minimum of fuss, with enough grunt to really move the two-tonne flagship when needed.
Any complaints of a car this accomplished are always going to be minor, but a more dynamically involving drive experience would be welcome, even if there was a drive mode setting dedicated to it.
At times it feels like the best place to be in an S-Class is the rear seat instead of behind the wheel, but in a lot of cases, that is exactly the point.
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