2014 MERCEDES-BENZ S-CLASS REVIEW
What’s Hot: A regal back seat, exceptional sound/vibration suppresion, dizzying array of high-tech options.
What’s Not: Those options aren’t cheap, but do you really care?
X-FACTOR: The pinnacle of luxury motoring - if you've 'made it', this is your car. We mean it.
Vehicle Style: Large luxury sedan
Price: $215,000 (S 350 BlueTec) to $385,000 (S 63 AMG)
190kW/690Nm 3.0 diesel turbo 6cyl | 7sp auto
335kW/700Nm 4.4 turbo petrol 8cyl | 7sp auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.0 l/100km (S 350 BlueTec), 9.2 l/100km (S 500)
Mercedes' S-Class has defined 'large luxury' for decades. Beloved of African warlords, European monarchs and more than a few rappers, it adds style, class and power to anyone within its sumptuous confines.
Not just the flagship for Mercedes-Benz, it is the flagship. Since the first generation S-Class made its debut in 1972, the S-Class has been the high-tech spearhead for technologies and safety features we now take for granted.
ABS, airbags, traction control, stability control, active cruise control - all made their production-vehicle debut in an S-Class.
And now we have a new one.
While there are no significant 'firsts' with the new W222 S-Class, there’s now more technology than ever before.
So much, in fact, that an optioned-up S has twice as many lines of code in its various on-board computers than a modern airliner.
Mere wires aren’t enough to run this ship either, and the entire car is fitted with a fibre-optic network that’s so fast and comprehensive Tony Abbott himself would surely disapprove.
And there’s more luxury. Forget business class, with a few select options Benz’s new flagship easily becomes more luxurious than a lot of first-class cabins. Let’s delve in, shall we?
While for most cars the focus is on the driver, in the S-Class the most important chair is in the back.
To emphasise this, the first leg of our test ‘drive’ was made from the rear seat, with none other than V8 Supercar driver Karl Reindler up front manning the helm of our S 350 L BlueTec diesel
Not only does the long wheelbase model provide acres of legroom, but models equipped with power-adjustable rear seats (standard on long wheelbase; a cost option on normal wheelbase) provide up to 37 degrees of backrest recline.
All S-Classes get a dual-pane panoramic sunroof too, which is truly huge in the long-wheelbase models.
Backseat VIPs get their own controls for the retractable sunblinds in the rear doors and rear windscreen, which quietly glide out to screen occupants from peasants and the occasional papparazzo.
If you’re lucky enough to sit on the passenger side of a Business Class Package equipped S-Class, you’ll also get to enjoy the greatest amount of rear-seat backrest-recline in a luxury car - a lounge chair like 43.5 degrees.
And while you're laying back, there’s no shortage of gizmos to play with.
Options for backseaters include individual rear entertainment screens (which automatically adjust their angle when the front seats are moved), seat heating/ventilation, a fridge and individual rear seats with aircraft-style fold-out tables.
Not enough? How about massage chairs to rub away those business-induced knots in your back?
Still stressed? Maybe unwind with a movie played on the rear screens, with sound piped through the optional Burmester premium sound system.
With 24 speakers, 24-amp channels, 1540 Watts of power and the ability to focus sound on an individual seat, the Burmester audio should soothe your ears.
These juicy options all come at a cost, yes, and just a quick glance at the options list was enough to make my nose bleed and my wallet shrivel.
However, if you’re putting an S-Class in your garage, odds are that money isn’t much of an issue.
Even if you don’t spend a cent on options, you’re still rewarded with impeccable build quality, sumptuous materials and incredible attention to detail.
S-Classes are built with a bit more love than most other Benzes, and it shows in the quality of the leather dashboard’s stitching, the quilted hide on the seats, the deep pile of the carpets and the solid ‘thunk’ of the door closing.
Even the door bins are lined with plush carpet. THAT’s luxury.
It’s also worth mentioning the new infotainment software, which is accessed via the gigantic 31.2cm TFT screen in the dash (there’s another immediately to its right, which displays the instrumentation).
It runs on the new NTG5 architecture, and it’s a sign of things to come for other Benz models.
Gone is the clunky menu interface of the old Comand system, replaced by a more intuitive ‘carousel’ menu system and extremely slick graphics.
Cabin ambience is given a big boost thanks to the standard LED cabin lighting (did we mention that there isn’t a single incandescent bulb in the S-Class now?), which can light the interior in seven different hues.
It looks great at night, and the LWB features LED piping that wraps around both rear seats rather than just the rear doors.
But besides the ambience, the tech and the quality, there’s one other attribute that’s an S-Class hallmark: it’s quiet.
Sound suppression is so good that we had trouble figuring out what engine was up front. Turns out it was a diesel, but we only knew for certain when we got out and scoped the S 350 BlueTec badge on the bootlid.
S-Class Key Interior Features:
- Leather dash, seats, steering wheel.
- Power adjustable rear seats standard in LWB models, optional in normal wheelbase.
- 510 litres boot capacity.
- 13-speaker standard Burmester audio, 24-speaker audio system optional.
- Panoramic sunroof standard on all models.
ON THE ROAD
It seems a bit improper to be discussing how an S-Class drives. After all, that’s your butler’s problem. (Or is it the valet that does the driving? Clearly I've never employed either...)
What I do know is that the S-Class is everything you’d expect it to be on the road. Powerful, unflappable, comfortable and… not terribly exciting from the driver’s point of view.
To be fair, we were only able to drive the S 350 BlueTec diesel and the S 500. The S 63 AMG is currently on sale but none have yet hit our shores, so we were unable to sample its more driver-focused delights.
The S 350’s diesel engine does things in a hushed whisper (it sits on pneumatic mounts, don’t you know), but it’s also impressively torquey.
Its 690Nm makes light work of shifting the S-Class’ near 2-tonne weight, and with peak torque on stream from just 1600rpm it doesn’t need to be worked hard at all.
For most, the diesel will do everything they ask of it - all while delivering a claimed fuel consumption of 6.0 l/100km (we got 8.8 l/100km, but with a heavy and undignified foot at work).
If you crave a bit more power than the S 350’s 190kW, then there’s the 335kW 4.4 litre twin-turbo petrol V8 of the S 500.
Closely related to what’s used in the head-stomping E63 AMG S, the S 500 has 700Nm to match its 335kW, and that torque is delivered in an irresistible diesel-like fashion.
All of it is available from as low as 1800rpm, which gives the S 500 tremendous low-down thrust.
The standard air-suspension is cushy and floaty in comfort mode, which is better suited to cracked urban pavement than the undulating country roads we drove on.
It gets a lot tauter and less-inclined to body-roll in Sport mode though; we found the big S-Class o be reasonably nimble considering its size and mass. It’s no sports car, but surprisingly quick when it needs to be.
S-Class key specifications:
- 3.0 litre V6 turbo diesel, 190kW/690Nm
- 4.4 litre V8 turbo petrol, 335kW/700Nm
- 7-speed automatic with paddle shifters and sport mode.
- Rear wheel drive.
- All independent.
- Air suspension standard with adjustable damper settings and adjustable ride height.
- Optional steel springs with magnetorheological dampers (sports).
- Fuel consumption
- listed: 6.0 l/100km (S 350 BlueTec), 9.2 l/100km (S 500)
- tested 8.8 l/100km (S 350 BlueTec), 14.3 l/100km (S 500)
- ANCAP rating: not tested
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT | OVERALL
There might be fancier and more ostentatious large luxury saloons from the likes of Bentley and Rolls Royce, but when it comes to class and power, it’s hard to think of anything other than an S-Class.
It's one for Presidents and Prime Ministers, for the carparks of 'The Hague' and 'The UN'; those other marques are for the merely rich.
Since its birth the S-Class set the standard for luxury motoring.
There’s no hype here - the S-Class is well and truly the definition of luxury motoring.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- S 350 Bluetec - 3.0 diesel - $215,000
- S 350 Bluetec L - 3.0 diesel - $222,500
- S 500 - 4.7 litre V8 - $285,000
- S 500 L - 4.7 litre V8 - $310,000
- S 63 AMG - 5.5 litre V8 - $385,000