Used test: BMW 7 Series vs Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Amid higher interest rates, you might need to forgo that new luxury car for a used one. But which opulent barge is best?...
BMW 7 Series 730Ld
List price when new £68,480
Price today £37,000
Available from 2016-present
The 7 Series attacks the luxury car class elite with cutting-edge technology
Mercedes-Benz S-Class S350d SE Line L
List price when new £67,995
Price today £36,000
Available from 2014-present
Defines this class with sublime ride comfort, refinement and interior quality
Price today is based on a 2016 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
Disaster: your stock has tanked, suppliers are after your company for money and, to top it off, the Bank of England has raised the interest rate, so the monthly fees on that mortgage you’ve just taken out on the country pad have gone through the roof. All this means that the shiny new luxury car you were promising yourself is now no longer viable.
But all is not lost, because What Car? is here to help. While you may not be able to afford a brand new BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-Benz S-Class, their used equivalents have shed value faster than a lift car with the cable cut, bringing them into the financial grasp of those business types who have fallen on hard times or mere mortals like you and me.
Unbelievably, the two example you see here have lost nearly half their original value in just two years. This makes them a tempting alternative to a factory-fresh mid-range executive car from the class below and a great way to keep up with the Joneses. Just think how good it would look to have either of these ex-plutocrats runarounds on your driveway.
The S350d SE Line L and 730Ld here are long-wheelbase cars that allow their rear passengers to stretch out, and both come with powerful diesel engines that enable these big barges to effortlessly waft down the road. Plus, they are surprisingly frugal. So, since these two appear to be so incredibly close on paper, we thought we’d bring them together to find out which is best. Let battle commence.
What are they like to drive?
Both cars come with adaptive air suspension, rear-wheel drive, 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel engines and automatic gearboxes.
Ride comfort is a critical factor, not least because these will often be used as chauffeur cars, and here Mercedes has the edge. The 7 Series glides over bigger intrusions, such as speed bumps, just as serenely as its rival. However, it tends to shimmy around a little more at low speeds, particularly over scruffy town surfaces, bothering occupants with the odd suspension clunk. It doesn’t ride as smoothly on the motorway as the S-Class, either.
Our 7 Series is fitted with the optional Integral Active Steering, which brings four-wheel steering, and Executive Drive Pro, which includes active anti-roll bars. The result is a car that corners with less body lean than a standard S-Class. However, the 7 Series’ light steering isn’t as satisfying and natural-feeling as the one in its rival, even if it’s marginally more accurate when cornering quickly. It’s a substantial enough difference to make the S-Class more rewarding, not just when sweeping through bends but even when muddling through town traffic and manoeuvring.
The 7 Series gets one over the S-Class in terms of performance, though, covering the 30-70mph sprint in 5.9sec compared with the latter’s 6.8sec. Having said that, both feel effortlessly smooth and responsive when you ask for a surge of acceleration, but the 7 Series’ eight-speed gearbox shifts more precisely and without the dithering that afflicts the seven-speed transmission in the S-Class when pulling out of junctions or on to roundabouts.
Both cars are supremely hushed, but the S-Class has a smoother-sounding engine and better suppresses wind noise, making it the quieter of the two at 30mph. The 7 Series suffers from noticeably less road noise at 70mph, though, so it's a slightly quieter companion on the motorway.