Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The Mercedes S-Class engine range kicks off with the 2.9-litre S350d diesel. Its 282bhp is enough for 0-62mph in 6.4sec, and when you put your foot down, it feels more than strong enough, even in a car of this size. Importantly, considering this is luxury transportation, there's no need to thrash it to make swift progress – although if you want more oomph, there's also the 326bhp S400d, which reduces the 0-62mph dash by a second.
If you’re after something even more urgent, you might want to consider the S500 petrol. Its turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol engine produces a substantial 429bhp, dropping the 0-62mph time to just 4.9sec. Meanwhile, mild-hybrid electrical assistance sharpens up the automatic gearbox's kickdown response and the engine's low-end shove, so it's another engine that feels brisk without trying. The Audi S8 and V8-engined BMW 750i are faster still.
Suspension and ride comfort
The S-Class's ride is exemplary on motorways, and the air suspension irons out dips and crests exceptionally well. It's one of the few cars in the world in which passengers can lie back with their heads against the headrest and not have them kicked forwards over bumps. It's perfect, in other words, for tycoons who want to nap while the chauffeur whisks them across the country.
That said, the broken edges of potholes cause a little bit more of a thump than you'd feel in the Audi A8, especially at town speeds. That's more noticeable in the S580e PHEV because the weight of its batteries gives the suspension more to deal with. It’s still more comfortable than the BMW 7 Series, though.