Travelling in luxury sometimes means sacrificing on-road manners or dynamic ability and the new S-Class is no different. But the additions of Mercedes’ latest and greatest self-driving technology in the updated sixth-generation flagship Benz takes graceful driving to another level.
Being the pinnacle of safety, technology and comfort of what the German marque can produce, the S-Class is packed with an extensive amount of gear across a wide model range. However, Mercedes-Benz has shaved its S-Class range in Australia by a third to offer a simpler nine variants in 2018 that introduce its facelift, tech and a new diesel engine.
Vehicle Style: Premium luxury sedan
Price: From $195,500 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 210kW-463kW/600Nm-1000Nm 3.0-litre 6cy turbo diesel, 3.0-litre V6 petrol, 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, 6.0-litre twin-turbo V12 | 9spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.4 or 5.5L/100km, 8.4L/100km, 8.5L/100km, 9.0L/100km
Along with a lighter model line-up is a price-drop across the range with the most popular entry model S350d starting from $195,500 (plus on-road costs) through to $295,000 for the re-introduced 560L nameplate.
In-between are the 400dL, 450L and 560, powered by either the new 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel turbo (350d and 400dL), a 3.0-litre V6 petrol (450L) or a 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo petrol (560 and 560L).
A new 560eL hybrid model will be introduced mid-2018 and replace the outgoing model with an improved 50km electric-only range.
The performance-oriented Mercedes-AMG S 63 L receives a hotter version of the blown V8 tuned to 450kW and 900Nm that will shoot the two-tonne sedan from 0-100km/h in 4.7 seconds. It also turns up the price to $375,000 (plus on-roads) but is not yet available.
At the top of the tree is the uber-luxe Mercedes-Maybach S650 powered by a 6.0-litre twin-turbo V12 which develops 463kW and 1000Nm. It is priced starting from $425,000 and options take it north of half a million dollars.
While not major surgery, the updated S-Class has had a facelift which introduces a different grille design and headlights along with bumper changes front and rear. The new headlight features the latest multibeam ultra high range technology and, in conjunction with automatic high beam dimming (standard across the range), will illuminate up to 650 metres of road at night.
While over 6500 components in the updated S-Class are new, some of the most notable inclusions are Mercedes’ latest autonomous driving technology and safety assists that improve even further on the recently updated E-Class.
- Standard Equipment: Leather seats with electric adjustment, heating, ventilation and massage function, multi-zone climate control, push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, multibeam headlights, leather steering wheel, electrically-adjustable steering column, adaptive cruise control, 21-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 12.3-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, USB input, Apple CarPlay, 21-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: 510 litres
The S-Class is the cruisiest and most comfortable model with a three-pointed star (and the only model to come with the iconic ornament mounted to the bonnet as standard).
On a scorching day, the back seat of the 450L offered our first taste of S-Class life. Business class style reclining rear seats, more room to kick your legs than a folk concert and super luxe leather with down feather pillows. Climate control was personalised to the rear occupant’s liking and the addition of vents to the B-pillars took the hot-air edge off quickly once the power-closing doors sealed shut.
There wasn’t a Maybach on test but the rear bench shrinks from three to two seats and luxury is taken even higher.
The front is just as well equipped as the rear and fitted with quality leather, polished timber and metal inlays with the option for carbon fibre inserts.
It’s a well-crafted blend of traditional and modern design elements that nails the premium brief.
The new dual 12.3-inch display upfront adds the best of the German brand’s in-car infotainment technology and also replaces the need for analogues dials or displays. It’s a high-resolution and crisp display that sits behind one long glass screen, moulded as well as a long rectangle can into the sculptured dash. Along with vital vehicle information such as a digital speedo and engine temp, the interface can deep dive into settings and turn on and off nearly ever feature the car has.
The menus can also be controlled by new touch and swipe sensitive buttons on the steering wheel, so there’s no reason to take hands off the wheel, a move cemented by relocating the cruise control stalk to on-wheel buttons.
Despite being a myriad of configurations and options available, the simplification of finding and choosing functions with a move to continuous hands-on driving helps with relaxing the driver. Moving through an Apple CarPlay Spotify playlist is as easy as swiping a thumb on the wheel, while radar cruise control is just a finger flick down. The 13-speaker Burmester sound system offers plenty of clarity and detail too, and the chassis imbedded dual subwoofer ported speakers produce impressive amounts of bass.
Mercedes has also included its new ‘Energizing Comfort’ wellness feature that is configured to play certain types of music with settings for climate control, seat massage, ambient lighting and fragrance aeration. Modes such as Vitality, Joy or Wellbeing are just some of the pre-configured selections and by analysing hard drive or USB loaded music any tracks can be analysed automatically and used. Some work better than others, but it’s a matter of different strokes for different folks.
There’s as much detail in the front seats as the rear, and despite an overly zealous massage function in some modes, they’re both comfortable and ergonomic, with a good amount of adjustment for finding a nice driving position. And no matter how far back you need to take the front seats, the rear is never struggling for leg room.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 210kW/600Nmn or 250kW/700Nm 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo diesel, 270kW/520Nm 3.0-litre V6 petrol, 345kW/700Nm or 450kW/900Nm 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, 463kW/1000Nm 6.0-litre twin-turbo V12
- Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: Multi-link front and rear suspension
- Brakes: 350mm front discs, 300mm rear discs
- Steering: Electric power steering, 12.3m turning circle
The S-Class has some of the most advanced autonomous driving assists available and the addition of lane keeping assist and active lane change mean hands-off steering is possible.
Like the E-Class, the S-Class will change lanes automatically if the indicator is activated and lane assist is on. Unlike the E-Class, the S-Class will look for an opportunity to move across for up to 10 seconds rather than two, just as long as it’s on multi-lane roads above 80km/h. And it works well.
It’s also a smarter self-steering system which, in conjunction with adaptive radar cruise control, will slow down and anticipate corners. It wasn’t always spot on, sometimes entering a little too hot and hitting the brakes late, but beyond anticipation the S-Class was smart at picking road position where country road line markings had disappeared or weren’t obvious, highlighting the advancements made by the German marque towards getting to Level 3 autonomous driving.
Adaptive cruise control was just as predictive and the controls have now moved onto the steering wheel and feel intuitive to engage. The distance maintained felt natural - not jerky or lazy in accelerating up to other vehicles - and can be moved closer or further away.
When not using active lane keeping assist the steering feel is good but it prefers to drive gracefully rather than dynamically, but is nevertheless accurate and provides some feedback of what the front is doing.
The engines across the range are in a different mind and there’s plenty of grunt available, with all variants hitting 100km/h from a standstill in less than 10 seconds – many nearer to 5 seconds – and the new 3.0-litre turbo diesel is a wonderful addition.
Despite an increase in output for the 400d that takes the 210kW and 600Nm to 250kW and 700Nm, the 350d is eager and powerful, with plenty of grunt on tap. The nine-speed automatic is also a smooth ‘box and that will keep up with the quick acceleration and the 350d should continue to account for around 60 per cent of S-Class sales, if not more given the price has closed-in to the top E-Class offering.
The entire S-Class range is also equipped as standard with the latest safety aids such as autonomous emergency braking, evasive steering assist to help steer away from obstacles and pre-safe sound which helps protect ear drums from the 165 plus decibel crunch of an accident.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Although a better ride for chauffeur driven owners, the S-Class shows-off some of the marque’s best innovations and autonomous driving assistants available right now. The Maybach and AMG, which aren’t yet available, add even more comfort and performance to a strong flagship line-up and the hybrid may surprise further by promising a strong electric-only driving range when it arrivews next year.