First Drive: Can the Mercedes S-Class retain its premium car crown?

The new S-Class has arrived, bringing more technological innovations than ever. Has it got what it takes to come out on top? Jack Evans finds out.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Mercedes-Benz S-Class

What is it?

Mercedes-Benz S-Class
The S-Class exhibits an understated design

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When it comes to trendsetters, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has always come out on top in the car world. Throughout the decades, the S-Class has set the tone for in-car technology and design, with many of the innovations debuted on this flagship saloon eventually finding their way into more mainstream models.

Now, there’s a new one. But with the motoring scene moving at a far quicker pace than ever before, and with in-car technology ramping up with each new model, can the S-Class still retain its place at the top? We’ve been finding out.

What’s new?

Mercedes-Benz S-Class
The S-Class takes the backache out of longer trips

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As you might expect, the S-Class is absolutely packed to the rafters with cutting-edge technology. We’ve got a massive central screen and a variety of driver assistance systems while the whole car has grown in both width and length to give the cabin even more space than before. We’re testing it in spacious long-wheelbase form, though a standard-length S-Class remains available.

You can tell things are sharp from the moment the S-Class’ flush handles emerge from the doors as you approach the car – you don’t even need to press the key. It’s just one feature that helps to give the S-Class a really futuristic feel from the off.

What’s under the bonnet?

Mercedes-Benz S-Class
The 3.0-litre engine is impressively refined

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Though the S-Class is available with plug-in hybrid powertrains, we’ve been testing it with a relatively old-fashioned diesel engine. A 3.0-litre straight-six, it brings 282bhp and 600Nm to the table, equating to a 0-60mph time of just over six seconds and 155mph flat-out. Mercedes claims up to 39.8mpg combined, while emissions stand at a very respectable 190g/km.

It’s a wonderfully well-suited engine for this application too. When fully topped up, we were seeing an indicated range of over 600 miles and during our time with the car even longer stints did little to dent the car’s predicted mileage. For context, the S-Class comes with a 76-litre fuel tank, with eight litres in reserve.

What’s it like to drive?

Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Despite being large, the S-Class handles well

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From the moment you settle into the S-Class’ ultra-comfortable seats, you can tell that this is a car geared towards outright refinement. It’s superbly hushed at speed, with very little road or engine noise penetrating the car’s cabin. In fact, you have to push hard to determine whether there’s an engine there whatsoever, with the turbocharged six-cylinder unit barely whispering as it powers along.

The steering is neat and accurate, while the air suspension takes out all of the worst that the UK’s roads have to offer. Though there are a variety of driving modes on offer, it’s always ‘Comfort’ that we found ourselves returning to; the S-Class feels most in its stride when at a cruise, though it certainly doesn’t become wayward when going through tighter turns, either.

How does it look?

Mercedes-Benz S-Class
A 3.0-litre engine powers the S350d

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It’s actually when it comes to exterior design that the S-Class feels the most conservative. It’s very close in the way it looks to the car it replaces – particularly from the front end – though that’s not to say it’s boring. We like the intricate headlight design and the LED lights at the rear, joined together by premium-looking chrome trim.

The whole car has an overarching executive appeal in the way it looks, neither too out-there nor too subtle. Of course, looks are entirely down to the individual, but we’d say that the design of the S-Class is a success.

What’s it like inside?

Mercedes-Benz S-Class
The interior is dominated by screens

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The cabin of the S-Class is an almost overwhelming display of technology. The forward part of the interior is dominated by the 12.8-inch central display, which handles all of your main media functions and heating and ventilation controls, too. We’d argue that things go a little overboard with the steering wheel, mind you; the touch-sensitive buttons can be a little tough to use accurately when on the move, particularly when it comes to changing a track on the media player.

In the back, you’ve got acres of space to stretch out and enjoy. The seats themselves are gloriously well-padded while the headrests are a particular highlight – and it’s not very often we say that about a car. Both driver and passengers are set to have a comfortable journey, that’s for sure.

What’s the spec like?

Mercedes-Benz S-Class
The rear seats of the S-Class offer acres of space

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Our test car came in AMG Line Premium Plus, which is the third-from-bottom specification, following on from AMG Line and AMG Line Premium. Priced at £95,695, it’s a decent chunk more than the £78,705 you’ll pay for an entry-level S-Class in standard wheelbase length, but it does bring a host of features. You get a full AMG bodykit and 21-inch AMG alloy wheels, as well as a full suite of driver assistance systems and parking cameras.

Inside, there’s the aforementioned infotainment display, alongside four-zone climate control, a panoramic sunroof and three-stage heating for the front and outer rear seats. The S-Class really does come with an almost baffling number of features to look through.

Verdict

The S-Class is yet another triumph for Mercedes. It’s a frankly superb all-rounder, with the kind of palatial refinement you’d expect from a luxury saloon. But it’s also tech-focused and, though a little understated from the outside, is packed with touches that’ll no doubt impress whoever is sitting in the cabin.

This S350d does play a part in showing that diesel still has an application in many cars, giving the S-Class excellent long-distance abilities as well as punchy performance. As an overall package, this latest S-Class is hard to beat.

  • Model: Mercedes S-Class
  • Base price: £78,705
  • Model as tested: S350d L AMG Line Premium Plus
  • Price: £95,695
  • Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel
  • Power: 282bhp
  • Torque: 600Nm
  • Max speed: 155mph
  • 0-60mph: 6.2 seconds
  • MPG: 39.2-39.8
  • Emissions: 190g/km

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