Mercedes-Benz S-Class Saloon full 9 point review
We’ve driven the S350 Bluetec (which has a 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine), S300 Bluetec Hybrid (a diesel-electric hybrid), S500 (a 4.7-litre V8 petrol), S63 AMG (a 5.5-litre V8) and the ultra-luxury Mercedes-Maybach S600 (a 6.0-litre V12). The S500, S63 and S600 are seriously rapid, but the much cheaper S350 Bluetec also feels fast and flexible. Even the S300 Hybrid feels brisk, plus there are more powerful petrol-electric hybrids, badged S400 Hybrid and S500 Plug-in Hybrid.
Ride & Handling
The S500 we drove was fitted with Mercedes’ optional Magic Body Control system (it's standard on the S63 and Maybach S600), which reads the road ahead so it can prepare the suspension for bumps and potholes you’re about to hit. Given how effective it is, it’s a little disappointing that it's available only on the more expensive petrol models, but cheaper cars with the standard air suspension still offer a smooth ride. Body roll is pretty well controlled and the steering is nicely weighted.
The S350 is one of the most refined diesels we’ve ever driven, while the S500 and S63 emit an aggressive yet muted growl when you accelerate, but are virtually silent at a cruise. As you’d expect, the Maybach S600 is supremely hushed. The diesel hybrid breaks this good run, because its four-cylinder engine is noisy at idle and when revved. Every S-Class is superb at shutting out wind noise on the motorway; in fact, the only thing that disturbs the peace is some road noise on certain surfaces.
Quality & Reliability
As you’d expect, the cabin is beautifully finished, with high-quality metal detailing, bespoke switchgear and swathes of double-stitched leather. It also feels modern, because the dashboard is dominated by two widescreen displays with sophisticated graphics. The Mercedes-Maybach S600 gets materials that are even plusher. The S-Class did not feature in the most recent JD Power customer satisfaction survey, although Mercedes as a brand scored below-average marks for reliability.
Safety & Security
The S-Class gets lots of safety equipment as standard, including a Pre-Safe system that uses the seatbelts to pull occupants into the best possible position if it detects that a crash is imminent. However, buyers can also specify everything from night vision to a system that lets the S-Class automatically follow the car in front in traffic jams; you don’t have to brake, accelerate or steer.
Buying & Owning
Most buyers will opt for the S350 Bluetec diesel model, which has claimed economy of more than 50mpg in both standard- and long-wheelbase form. The S300 Hybrid is even more economical, while its lower CO2 emissions make it a tempting company car choice. The S400 Hybrid is also impressively efficient, but the S500 is expensive to buy and run, while the S63 demands some serious cash. Given that it is pitched against the Rolls-Royce Ghost and Bentley Flying Spur, the Maybach S600 looks good value.
Behind The Wheel
As in other Mercs, you scroll through the various onscreen menus using a rotary dial that’s positioned between the front seats. This time, though, the shortcut buttons for individual systems are by the dial, where they’re easy to find and use, instead of up on the dashboard, mixed in with other controls. Finding a comfortable driving position is easy, too, thanks to an electrically adjustable seat that moves every which way.
Space & Practicality
There'll be no complaints about passenger space, especially in the long-wheelbase model. Several rear-seat layouts are available, such as a three-person bench or two individual chairs separated by a centre console with fold-out tables and cupholders that heat and cool drinks. The Maybach S600 adds yet more leg- and headroom, providing enough space to keep even the most demanding multi-millionaire happy. All versions have a boot that’s easily big enough to swallow multiple sets of golf clubs.
The cheaper versions come with a good level of standard equipment, but a lot of the most desirable kit costs extra. This includes everything from rear entertainment screens and a 24-speaker audio system to an adjustable fragrance system and heated seats that are designed to replicate the effect of a ‘hot stone’ massage. Go for the top-end Mercedes-Maybach S600, however, and there’s so much kit that the only non-bespoke options are paint colours and a choice of rear-seat layout.