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2013 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Road Test

By raccars Published

S-Class: even more class from Mercedes-Benz

10 Second Verdict

The best just got better: the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is now even more of a default choice for luxury car buyers.

Price: From £62,650
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel
Power: 258hp
Torque: 457lb ft
Gearbox: Seven-speed automatic
0-60mph: 6.8 seconds
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Fuel economy: 51.4mpg
CO2: 146g/km
Insurance group: tbc

Three UK Mercedes-Benz S-Class facts

  • 9 in 10 Mercedes-Benz S-Class sold here use the 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine
  • Two trims will be offered, SE Line and AMG Line
  • Mercedes-Benz will eventually offer a choice of five power variants: petrol, diesel, petrol hybrid, diesel hybrid and petrol plug-in hybrid

What is it?

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been the default luxury car choice for more than four decades now. The current car is already the best car in its sector but the firm wants to retain the leadership it has held for so long now: an all-new one thus arrives in October. The best just got better?

It certainly looks better. With a less bluff front end, modern sculptural lines and lithe and coupe-like rear end, this is one of the best-looking Mercedes-Benz S-Class ever. It’s certainly the sportiest when wearing the new AMG Line trim choice Mercedes-Benz has developed for the new car, which is sold from launch in standard and long-wheelbase guise.

The amount of high-tech new features packed into the new S-Class is mind-boggling. It’s no wonder the firm calls this the most advanced car yet launched. These range from seats that give a very convincing hot stone massage, to night vision that scans for and warns you about pedestrians, to road-reading suspension that will detect bumps up ahead and actually lift the suspension before the wheel meets them so they ride the lumps as if they weren’t there.

There will in time be five engines but the most important one in the UK is the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel S 350 BlueTec. It accounts for 9 in 10 sales, so is the one Mercedes-Benz has to get right. RAC Cars flew to Canada to test-drive it for the first time.

Performance

Owners of the old Mercedes-Benz S-Class will be familiar with this engine. It is basically unchanged from its guise in today’s car, even down to the 258hp power output. It’s quicker in the new S-Class though, reaching 60mph from rest in 6.8 seconds.

It is a very smooth and appealing engine when driven sportily. It revs with uncanny smoothness and the noise it makes, while distant and very well refined, has a racy edge too. There is, however, a bit too much rumble and drone at lower speeds and engine revs. By most objectives, it’s still superb – but by the high standards of this car, it’s left a little wanting.

It’s also not quite as responsive as engines such as BMW’s 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel, not helped here by the seven-speed automatic gearbox: rivals have eight speeds and use a more modern design of gearbox than this, too.

Don’t get us wrong; the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is far from deficient here. Its engine performance is strong and the mannerisms show class. But the rest of the car is staggeringly good and, by those incredibly high standards, the engine and gearbox are not quite as comparably great.

Ride and handling

Luxury cars are all about a smooth ride and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class provides this in abundance. Bumps that you would notice and feel in any other car are passed over in this with but the merest thud. Surfaces that you look at and brace yourself for as they approach become but a passing irritating rather than a full-on body shakethrough.

That it’s so incredibly quiet, gliding along road surfaces with so much sophistication, only adds to the sense that this is something breaking new ground for passenger comfort. But don’t think it’s all holding on tightly in corners due to excessive body roll, and holding onto your hats on undulating roads due to loose body control: the S-Class handles, too.

Computer-controlled Airmatic suspension means the new Mercedes-Benz is able to deliver on both counts, with a choice of either Comfort or Sport to add the preferred focus. The car steers confidently through bends and is very well balanced. Given how well it rides bumps, this poise in corners is also impressive.

It all combines to make the new S-Class an extremely satisfying car to drive. It delivers the true luxury car experience and always feels rich, special and high quality. That’s the same for both the driver and passengers, too…

Inside story

The dashboard of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is as appealing as its styling. Two widescreen monitors replace the traditional dials on the dashboard, masterminding everything and centralising the huge amount of functions. Around them is a dashboard of superb quality, really tactile feel, boutique-level materials and, pleasingly, a design that’s as modern as the exterior.

It’s all about the rear seats here, though. Although there’s that choice of standard or long-wheelbase designs, space is not lacking even in the regular car. A choice of five different seat options means there’s something for everyone (or certainly every level of budget). Finished in soft, clean leather, the seats are better than anything we’ve ever sampled in the back of a car.

Gadgets abound and most of them work well: even the cupholders are smart, as they know if a drink is hot or cold and keep it at required temperature automatically. We also like the interior perfuming system, scenting the cockpit with one of four fragrances. Like in the front, flatscreen monitors for the rear seats, with their own remote control, mastermind most of the gadgets.

The new S-Class can also, technically, drive itself. The new Distronic Plus cruise control system is among the most advanced in the world. It uses radar to maintain a distance from the car in front and computers to ensure the S-Class slows down and speeds up to keep pace with traffic – even if the traffic stops completely and then goes again. Add in lane keeping steering that automatically steers the car and you have a genuine hands-free car that works incredibly well. Pity legislation doesn’t allow this yet…

Marketplace

The S-Class is the best-selling luxury car in Britain: testimony to its excellence, yes, but also the fact it is such a cost-effective model by the standards of this sector. Prices are competitive, retained values are high and overall running costs are kept well in check.

This is particularly so on the latest diesel model, thanks to combined economy of 51.4mpg and, on the SE Line model, CO2 emissions of 146g/km. The AMG Line is just a little higher at 151g/km – but, although it costs £5000 more, it shouldn’t cost that much more to run due to its enhanced styling possibly making it even more desirable used.

Rivals include the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Jaguar XJ, plus the Porsche Panamera, Maserati Quattroporte and Lexus LS. These days, there’s also an extra rival from someone Mercedes-Benz didn’t bank on competing with just a few years back – Land Rover’s Range Rover is becoming a real alternative to the luxury car defaults, especially as the latest model is greener than ever.

Verdict

Mercedes-Benz challenged itself to produce ‘the best car in the world’ with the new S-Class. It has succeeded: this is a world-class car that is better than all its rivals and sets new standards in the luxury car class.

It delivers an experience for both drivers and passengers that is simply superb, and enhances this with cutting-edge features and technology that work brilliantly. A luxury car that’s hard to fault and even harder not to fully recommend – that’s how exceptional the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class is.

Five rivals

Audi A8: Understated four-wheel drive luxury car often seen on the celebrity red carpet
Bentley Flying Spur: Bentley’s recently perfected entry-level luxury car is suddenly now very competitive
BMW 7 Series: BMW would argue it’s the driver’s choice in this sector…
Jaguar XJ: … So too would Jaguar with the uniquely-styled XJ saloon
Range Rover: Now a genuine rival to the S-Class – and just as fantastic

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