Mercedes-Benz S-Class Review

Find out more about the Mercedes-Benz S Class in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

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4
Out of 5

Pros

  • Luxurious and refined finish
  • Well-balanced cruiser
  • Lots of great tech

Cons

  • Expensive price and options
  • Is rather large
  • Best tech reserved for top models
  • MPG

    19 - 112

  • CO2

    57 - 325 g/km

Model Review

After starting life as the ‘Ponton’, ‘Wingtail’ and W108, the S-Class was first named as such in 1972, where the W116 began to display the excellent levels of relative safety.

Throughout the 80s and 90s, the models brought through new technology, such as passenger side airbags, seat-belt pre-tensioners and traction control, and it has continued to lead the way in vehicle safety.

With the fourth and fifth generations, the technology and refinement was further improved and features that have now become commonplace, such as cruise control, air suspension and active cylinder control, were introduced and other more off-the-wall additions like a night vision camera were also brought in.

The latest version is the most advanced and refined yet and really puts the Mercedes S-Class at the top of luxury saloon with a long wheelbase option and an extensive list of accessories to make your experience in the S-Class as luxurious as possible.

Latest Model

The sixth generation was unveiled in 2013 with a fresh design and further technology to make it even more advanced, such as Pre-Safe protection and Intelligent Drive.

It was also made larger, more efficient and a hybrid model was also added in the guise of the S 500 e. It is available in saloon, coupe and cabriolet styles.

The cockpit is now dominated by two 12.3-inch TFT displays, which help provide the driver with all the vital information in clear, as well as the standard but nevertheless impressive comfort features.

2017 saw the mid-generation update and the addition of new features to the Intelligent Drive package, an upgraded exterior façade and all-new LED lamps, as well as new touch sensitive controls on the steering wheel.

Value for money

Something that won’t be lacking in any S-Class is good quality features and from the ‘base’ SE level, you will find plenty of luxury for your money. You get leather upholstery, widescreen cockpit with two displays, Thermotronic two-zone automatic climate control, two-spoke multifunction steering wheel with touch-sensitive controls and electrically adjustable front seats.

You also get Airmatic air suspension with adaptive dampers, active parking assist with Parktronic system and reversing camera, full-LED headlights and Eco start/stop system. That is just a summary of the extensive level of accessories available in the S-Class and they account to make a starting price of £70,470 – which for the quality on offer is probably right.

Due to the latest generation’s release being in 2013, you will be able to find used S-Class models on the used market that are both in condition and quite up to date with the features on board. One example is an S 400h L in AMG Line trim from 2015, having covered only 19,000 miles.

The hybrid model comes with a 3.5-litre petrol engine to complement the electric system that helps improve efficiency and reduce emissions. Accessory-wise, this version comes with the widescreen cockpit, three-spoke multi-function steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, active high beam assist, cruise control, AMG styling package and the full parking package.

Starting at £64,990, the only concern you might have is the model’s condition, but the example in question is in as good a condition as when it left the showroom, so make sure if you choose to go for a used model that you check its condition.

 

Looks and image

One thing that immediately comes to mind when you see an S-Class is just how smart it is – even in standard spec. It slots into the executive market perfectly and arguably defines the entire sector, thanks to its mature looks and sweeping roofline – especially when in long wheelbase.

If you can splash the cash, the Mercedes-Maybach version looks like it’s worth £170,000, with the chrome finishing and more premium interior finish adding to the high-end look and comfort. But if your wallet doesn’t stretch quite that far then the Mercedes-Benz models look both clean and grown-up, something that few can match.

What Mercedes have always focused on when building the S-Class is luxury and refinement, but you’d be a fool to think it can’t perform well. Although it isn’t the most dynamic saloon out there, it whooshes along with great ease and with the adaptive air suspension fitted as standard you get excellent ride comfort and cornering – especially considering the size of the car.

The optional Magic Body Control system – which scans the road to set up the car as well as possible – can give extra stability to the extensive S-Class through the turns, but only if you’re really chucking it in will it really matter.

Comfort-wise, well, what needs to be said that already isn’t known about the S-Class? It is supremely well-made, well-balanced and cruises along like nothing else. The aforementioned air suspension soaks up almost every lump on the road – although at lower speeds you can feel some creases in the road – and gives possibly the best ride on the road today.

As normal larger alloys can take away some comfort from the overall ride and transfer some road imperfections into the cockpit, but they are less than you expect. The driver and three occupants will travel in excellent comfort and with the long wheelbase options, rear passengers will get excellent leg room to add extra comfort.

Space and practicality

Something you won’t be lacking in the S-Class is passenger space – especially in the long wheelbase guise. You can choose to have either four or five seats, but due to the encroachment of the transmission tunnel throughout the rear section, we’d recommend the four-seat option thanks to its private jet-like comfort, with the long chassis offering even more leg room.

The S-Class was big enough as it was, but Mercedes increased the dimensions for the latest model, so you will be even more comfortable driving and in the rear. The Executive Comfort package adds reclining massage seats in the rear, if you felt that the standard model just wasn’t comfortable enough.

Officially the diesel and hybrid models offer 510 litres of boot space, which is just off the market-leading Jaguar XJ for rear storage, while the petrol models can take advantage of 530 litres of boot space.

The rear seats, however, can’t fold down so the boot space is restricted to that. There are plenty of cubby holes, cup holders and storage solutions throughout, so there is plenty of practicality on offer.

Despite not being EuroNCAP tested, the Mercedes S-Class is notorious for being one of the safest cars on the road and that’s down to its supreme technological additions that can not only take the force out of the crash but also take passengers away from the impact in the car.

For example, the seatbelts pull occupants away from the impact to reduce possible injury and the rear belts also have micro airbags in them to reduce the strain on the ribcage.

There are also plenty of safety systems to help you to prevent crashes also, such as Intelligent Drive that makes a 360-degree view around the car, active lane keeping assist, attention assist and Distronic plus, which is a pre-cursor to autonomous driving as it can follow vehicles in front and also keep the car in the lane.

 

Engines

Currently there are two petrol options, two hybrid models and a diesel version, as well as two petrol options for the AMG models. The S 300 h comes with a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine and a 27bhp electric motor, while the S 500 e is fitted with a 3.0-litre 33bhp V6 petrol and a 116bhp electric motor, which really helps to reduce emissions and improve efficiency. With the S 350 d, you get a 3.0-litre V6 producing 258bhp and in the S 500 petrol engine you get a 4.7-litre V8 producing 455bhp.

The top-end engine is the 6.0-litre V12 unit fitted to the S 600 that produces 530bhp. The diesel engine will be the most popular unit to choose due to its efficiency and relative cheap starting price, but it could be worth stretching for the S 500 e thanks to its low emissions and much better running costs.

 

Running costs

Due to the high price to buy and actual size of the car, don’t expect the running costs to be small – but you would know that getting into the market for an S-Class. Due to the car starting at over £40,000, road tax from the second year onwards will be £450 due to the premium.

The S 500 e L can return an excellent 65g/km CO2 that means a lower road tax for the first year, while the rest of the range return more than 100g/km CO2 that means at least £140 for the first year.

The diesel models and the petrol hybrid are the only S-Class versions that can achieve 50mpg, while the rest of the petrol models can barely reach 30mpg – which isn’t good at all. For insurance, the lowest ranking S-Class is the diesel hybrid, which fits into group 44, but the remainder of the range are placed in groups close to group 50 or in it – the highest insurance group on offer.

Things to look out for

Mercedes has a surprisingly bad reliability record with the S-Class and since the mid-90s there have been multiple incidents of equipment malfunctioning. For example, in the more recent models the start/stop system has led to recalls, as well as airbags not performing as specified and fuel leaks also being calls for concern. Other problems had befallen the S-Class in previous generations, but the ones that would still be in use now and on sale are likely to have had those issues fixed.

 

Rivals

Other executive saloons that are likely to challenge the S-Class mainly come from local rivals BMW, Audi and Porsche in the shape of the 7 Series, A6 and Panamera respectively. The 7 Series can compete on a space and comfort level, whilst the A6 and Panamera are both more dynamic than the S-Class but can be dragged down in overall ride comfort – the AMG models are arguably sportier than those two though. The Jaguar XJ is also a likely challenger in the executive saloon market thanks to its long wheelbase option and good quality finish.

 

Depreciation warning

Unfortunately for executive saloon owners they don’t hold their value well on the used market and the S-Class is no exception. What’s worse is that if you spend more on your S-Class, you’re more likely to lose a lot of money from your purchase. The best-selling diesel model will hold its value the best, although that will be under 50 per cent, and if the hybrid models are popular enough they could potentially do well also.

Which S Class to Pick

Cheapest to Buy When New

S350d AMG Line 4dr 9G-Tronic

Most MPG

S560e L AMG Line 4dr 9G-Tronic

Fastest Model (0-60)

S63 [612] 2dr Auto

Trims Explained

For the Mercedes-Benz S-Class you will find only two trim levels, while the AMG and Maybach models are in their own classes in terms of style and function. But whichever model you choose accessories won’t be lacking and from the SE level, there is plenty for you to enjoy.

AMG Line

With the SE models Mercedes fits useful systems such as Active Parking Assist with Parktronic and reversing camera, Airmatic adaptable air suspension with damping control, Thermotronic automatic two-zone air conditioning, widescreen cockpit infotainment and instrument display, leather seats and fully adjustable electric front seats with lumbar support. You also get a two-spoke multi-function and touch-sensitive steering wheel, start/stop system, intelligent LED headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels. The Mercedes COMAND online infotainment, seven-speed semi-automatic transmission and electrically adjustable heated wing mirrors are also included. However, the SE version is only available on the 350 d model and in long wheelbase format, which does mean extra space but is arguably more challenging to manoeuvre.

The starting price is £70,470.

Summary

  1. Supreme comfort and ride
  2. Drives well, but not as dynamic as some rivals
  3. Many accessories on offer
  4. Doesn’t hold its value well on used market
  5. Good quality used options available
  6. Great safety features
  7. The class leader on many aspects
  8. High purchase and running costs
  9. Has been known to suffer from significant reliability issues
  10. All engines offer great performance, with hybrid models available

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