Five petrol engines are offered. The 3.5 V6 in the S350 is more than comfortable in its task, the V8-engined twin-turbo S500 is quick enough to trouble a Porsche away from the lights, and the engines in the S600, S63 and S65 give even crazier performance. For all that, though, the strong, refined and frugal diesel is the most sensible choice - and still no slouch.
The S-Class rides on air suspension, featuring adaptive damping that monitors the road surface and adjusts the suspension settings accordingly. Body movements are tightly controlled, the steering provides plenty of feel and accuracy, and the brakes are strong.
A little bit of wind noise finds its way into the S-Class’s cabin when you’re cruising on the motorway, but otherwise it’s eerily quiet. Engine noise is all-but absent, while road noise never rises above a muted rumble, no matter how fast you go.
More than nine out of 10 S-Class buyers opt for the diesel engine, so we have good news - the latest version of Mercedes' 3.0-litre V6 diesel slashes CO2 emissions to 164g/km. The 3.5 V6 and 4.7 V8 are also amazingly efficient considering their power and the size of the car they have to pull.
While highly polished wood and premium leather trim are the least you’d expect, the precision fit and finish of panels and proliferation of twinkling aluminium switches have the hallmark and solid quality reminiscent of an age when cars were hand-built by detail-obsessed craftsmen. Mechanically, an S-Class should take many miles in its stride.
Just when you thought the S-Class had the lot, it has got more. Latest features for the car are monitors that detect drowsy drivers or unintended lane changes, and actively prevent you steering into the path of another car coming up behind you or changing lanes unintentionally.
There's plenty of room up front, as well as finely adjustable seats. Many commonly used systems – such as the stereo, ventilation and sat-nav – can be accessed through a single rotary dial and viewed on a large colour screen. This set-up is called Comand, and is similar to BMW's iDrive and Audi's MMI. However, it’s more distracting than these rival systems.
As well as being longer between the axles than the previous S, this latest model is also wider and taller. So, even when the well-heeled occupants are sprawled out in the back, there's little danger of them rubbing shoulders and even less likelihood of them brushing their hand-tooled brogues against the front seats. Boot capacity is a decent 560 litres, too.
Standard specification is comprehensive, while some of the options are cutting-edge. These include radar-operated cruise control that automatically brakes the car to a standstill and then re-accelerates back up to a safe distance from the car in front in stop-start traffic, as well as infra-red headlights that massively boost night-time visibility.
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With the cheapest list price, the best fuel economy and lowest running costs, this is by some way the best model in the range - and our reigning Luxury Car of the Year.