Think of a chauffeur-driven luxury saloon, and chances are you’ll picture the Mercedes S-class.
It’s the most prestigious Mercedes money can buy, and it’s always combined cutting-edge technology with some of the highest standards of quality and comfort around.
This latest model maintains that tradition, offering a host of new features and one of the best interiors you’ll find in any car.
Here’s a list of pros end cons.
Space in the Mercedes S Class
The S-class is Mercedes’ biggest saloon, providing lots of passenger space, both up front and in the back. However, I’d still recommend you consider the slightly stretched L version if you usually let a chauffeur do the driving for you; the L offers even more rear legroom and the option of two individual reclining rear seats in place of the standard three-person seat.
Another option that’s worth considering is the Rear Seat Reclining Package, which lets you fold the front passenger’s seat right out of the way. By contrast, I’d advise against specifying a fridge – it really is possible – because this takes a big chunk out of the boot.
Even without it the S-class’s boot capacity isn’t class leading (you get more room for luggage in Audi’s A8), but you’ll have no trouble fitting in a large suitcase or a couple of sets of golf clubs.
No matter how you spec the S-class, it features huge door bins and a deep storage space between the front seats.
Comfort in the Mercedes S Class
The S-class can be specified with a clever suspension system called Magic Body Control, which reads the road ahead and actively pulls the wheels up and down to absorb each bump as the car rolls over it. It’s effective but is only available on the most expensive petrol-engined models.
Lesser versions of the S-class have to ‘make do’ with a suspension system that uses air to cushion the ride. This is still very comfortable, although it works best when combined with the 18-inch wheels that you get with the entry-level SE Line Specification. The alternative is the AMG Line, with 19-inch wheels and lower profile tyres that don’t absorb bumps quite as well as we’d like.
I’d also recommend you steer clear of the S300 Bluetec Hybrid because the diesel engine in this model gets rather noisy when you accelerate hard. By contrast, you barely hear the other engines, and wind and road noise are blissfully muted whichever S-class you choose.
The seats manage to be firm and supportive, yet wonderfully comfortable. And a massage function is available as an option.
Dashboard Styling of the Mercedes S Class
The interior of the S-class is trimmed with the finest leathers and woods, but its dashboard also has a surprisingly clean and uncluttered design. There’s a neatly-styled row of metal switches, a few air vents, and a smattering of buttons ahead of the central armrest – and that’s about it.
That’s because many of the car’s more in-depth functions are controlled via a rotary scroll dial and two massive display screens; one of these takes the place of the traditional analogue instruments, while the other deals with audio, ventilation, navigation, and other such systems.
The sheer size of the screens combines with a logical menu layout to make the system fairly simple to use, although the sheer number of functions can make it a bit of a challenge to find what you’re looking for at times.
There are a couple of other niggles, too. Firstly, the cruise control stalk on the steering column is far too near the main stalk, which operates the indicators and wipers. Often, you find yourself pushing one when you’re going for the other.
What’s more, the shape of the central armrest – and its integrated telephone keypad – forces you to crane your neck to see the switches hidden on the other side.
Driving Ease of the Mercedes S Class
It might not look it, but the Mercedes S-class is a real pussycat to drive. Every model comes with an automatic gearbox, making pulling away from a breeze, and each engine – with the exception of the 2.1-litre diesel in the S300 Bluetech Hybrid – offers plenty of get-up-and-go.
In addition, the major controls are light and easy to operate, and every model comes with front and rear parking sensors, as well as a reversing camera. While this is a big car, then, it’s not difficult to manoeuvre or park.
The only downside is that the visibility in the S-class isn’t as good as it could be. Thick chunks of bodywork between the windows and around the door mirrors can block your view at times.
Throw the S-class into a corner, and you’ll be surprised by how quickly it turns. That’s because the variable power steering system recognises the situation and automatically sharpens up its response.
It’s clever, and makes this massive Merc impressively agile, although it also make it less predictable, which can cause you to turn in sooner than you were intending.
With the suspension in ‘comfort’ mode, you can feel the S-class lean over quite a long way in bends, but switch to ‘sport’ and it stays a lot more composed. What’s more, there’s loads of grip, meaning you can actually carry quite a bit of speed.
As good as the S-class is, both the Jaguar XJ and Porsche Panamera are more involving, although the sportier AMG versions of the S-class come with thumping V8 and V12 engines that promise plenty of excitement.
Reliability of the Mercedes S Class
Put simply, the S-class is the most efficient luxury saloon you can buy. Like-for-like, no rival can match its fuel economy figures.
Mercedes offers a diesel hybrid S-class – unique among its rivals – that averages more than 60mpg in Government tests. And the petrol hybrid and regular diesel versions are also very frugal.
Safety of the Mercedes S Class
The Mercedes S-class helped pioneer everything from padded door trim to stability control, so it’s only natural that this latest version comes packed with safety equipment.
Front and rear passenger side airbags are standard across the range, along with curtain airbags that run along the windows, and the traditional forward-facing airbags for the two front seats; that’s more than most rivals offer.
There’s also a system that predicts accidents so it can close the windows and tighten your seatbelt before impact, while another automatically applies the brakes if it senses an imminent low-speed collision with another car or a pedestrian.
Top-spec models even come with infra-red headlamps and a night vision camera to help you spot obstacles in the dark.