What's the used Mercedes-Benz S-Class saloon like?
It might hurt those at Rolls-Royce and Bentley to hear it, and BMW certainly wouldn’t be pleased, but if you were taking a poll to find the car that could lay claim to the title of the best in the world, most of the votes would probably go to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class .
For many years, this flagship car has showcased new technologies and electronic innovations that have in due course spread down into far more humble vehicles. They have also embodied the last word in luxury, pace and refinement, proving along the way as good to drive as they are to be driven in.
When this generation of S-Class was launched in 2014, it carried on all those traditions and won all the plaudits. It was loaded with some astonishingly clever kit that could read the road ahead for bumps and adjust the suspension accordingly, and semi-autonomous driving technology that could utilise sat-nav data to slow you down and steer you around bends.
So advanced was it that it came as quite a shock to discover that under its bonnet was a range of quite traditional petrol and diesel engines, albeit with some more on-trend hybrid options, too. The lone diesel is the S350d, while petrol engine options range from the 4.7-litre V8 in the S500 up to some ultra-sporty Mercedes-AMG S63 and S65 versions and on to the V12-engined S600. There’s also a petrol-electric hybrid known as the S300h and a plug-in hybrid called the S500e.
Trim levels tend to be assigned to whichever engine you choose, but some give you the option of AMG or AMG Line trim. Both are more than well-equipped, as you might imagine, with AMG Line giving you keyless start and entry, cruise control, 19in alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera, metallic paint, adaptive LED headlights, leather seats, heated electric front seats with lumbar adjustment and a memory function, Comand Online infotainment with two 12.3in screens, sat-nav Apple CarPlay and Android Autos smartphone mirroring and wireless phone charging, among a host of other delights.
On the road, the S-Class is, for a car of its size and weight, exceptional. Performance with any of the engines in situ is more than adequate, with even the S350d getting from 0-62mph in just 6.0sec. The S500 does the same sprint in a mere 4.8sec – faster than most sports cars – while the S600 and the AMG models are even quicker still. All S-Classes have a nine-speed automatic gearbox that works smoothly and quietly and shifts almost imperceptibly.
The S-Class also has one of the best rides, not just in this class, but overall. True, there is a slight reverberation over broken surfaces around town, but for most of the time, it rides beautifully, being both supremely supple and comfortable. It handles well, too, utilising all the technology it carries to corner with verve, especially so for a car of this class. The steering is precise and you'll find plenty of grip.
But it’s in terms of refinement that the S-Class shines brightest. There is no other car that can waft like this one, making it sublime on the motorway.
Inside, it’s even more impressive. It’s awash with all the kit you could want, never mind need, and provides a great driving position with good visibility. The dashboard and all the major and minor controls are logically placed and all work with a well-damped and high-quality feel that few rivals can match. All models have a crisp 12.3in widescreen infotainment display that’s intuitive to operate, via touchscreen or rotary controller.
There’s plenty of space up front and masses in the back, too, especially in the long-wheelbase version, which is standard on all variants bar the S350d. And there’s a large boot that's more than adequate for a week’s worth of holiday luggage.