Mercedes S-Class: All hail the technology-packed king of luxury

As the benchmark in the world of the luxury executive car, the Mercedes S-Class has raised the bar yet again and this model is the king of the pile; “what you have here is excellence-plus.”
Mercedes S-Class: All hail the technology-packed king of luxury

The Mercedes S-Class has raised the bar yet again as the luxury executive car benchmark

MERCEDES S-CLASS

Rating

★★★★★

Price

From €123,875 – €128,449 as tested

Engine

A delightful diesel

The Spec

Buckingham Palace isn’t as well kitted out as this thing

Verdict

All hail The King

In every aspect of endeavour there are benchmarks against which everything is measured.

For example, in sport, benchmarks are set and broken all the time; in art, the main benchmarks have been there for, in some cases, centuries, although new ones come along now and then; ditto in literature and rock ‘n’ roll.

In the world of the premium executive luxury car, however, there has only ever been one benchmark – the Mercedes S-Class.

OK you can have your Rolls Royces or your Bentleys in the uber-luxury segments or even your Maybachs (which are – ironically – built by Mercedes), but at the very top end of what might be called ‘standard’ luxury automobiles, the S-Class has reigned supreme since we first saw it in 1972.

Known as the Sonderklasse in Germany (which translates into ‘special class’ and is shortened to S-Klasse in Mercedes-speak), the S-Class has a unique place in the company’s history simply because it is their flagship and as such carries both a huge responsibility for those making it as well as a massive expectation from buyers.

In the case of the new S, the system has been further refined and developed and now has an ‘Interior Assistant’ (a Mercedes Alexa, if you will) which will recognise you by voice, face, or fingerprint.
In the case of the new S, the system has been further refined and developed and now has an ‘Interior Assistant’ (a Mercedes Alexa, if you will) which will recognise you by voice, face, or fingerprint.

Motor nerds will tell you that while the model designations for the S-Class have varied from the first – the W116 – to the current one – the W223 – the one thing that has never wavered is the commitment to excellence from the manufacturer.

That obligation from Mercedes has meant that other manufacturers have been forced to follow suit – BMW with the 7 Series, Audi with the A8 and Toyota even invented a whole new brand, Lexus. Unfortunately for most of them, their efforts to supplant the S-Class have generally fallen short of the high bar set them.

While the S-Class only came into existence in 1972, its actual heritage can be traced back to 1954 and the W180 and W128 ‘Ponton’ models which were produced until 1961. These gestated into the Heckflosse or ‘Fintail’ Mercedes W110 and W112 versions which were produced until 1971.

Then in 1972 the Sonderklasse came into being and the S-Class has been with us since. From then until now it has been not only been a byword for innovation in terms of drivetrain technologies, ground-breaking interior features and many, many novel safety devices, but also as the sine qua non for Patrician motoring of a high order.

The new one – the W223 – has had all that history distilled into it and, as you would expect for such an important car, also been kitted out with some the most advanced automotive technologies yet seen on a production model. All of this is aimed at keeping it a good few steps ahead of the chasing pack.

We will get on to the driving the car in a little while (just a clue: it’s sensational), but first we must concentrate on the battery of technologies which Mercedes has introduced here. We already know much about Mercedes’ MBUX ‘infotainment’ system.

Honestly, I’ve rarely – at least outside that uber-luxury segment referred to earlier – experienced anything like it. It’s like flying, but without any air turbulence.
Honestly, I’ve rarely – at least outside that uber-luxury segment referred to earlier – experienced anything like it. It’s like flying, but without any air turbulence.

In the case of the new S, the system has been further refined and developed and now has an ‘Interior Assistant’ (a Mercedes Alexa, if you will) which will recognise you by voice, face, or fingerprint. It also racks up the gesture control and eye-tracking tech and is a sophisticated as anything I’ve seen in a car.

I mean, in some versions when you can tell the car you’re frazzled – ‘Hey Mercedes, I’m frazzled’ – it will activate the massage functions in the seat and play soothing music. Really.

At the centre of all the tech activity is the new – giant – 12.8” OLED central display from which all the vehicle settings, the ‘Thermotronic’ climate control, connectivity, camera assistants, multimedia, ambient lighting and all sorts of stuff – some of which you might never thought had applications in a motor vehicle.

But Mercedes has never felt it had to slacken off on the surprises in the S-Class and that line of thinking is very evident here. Practically everything in this new beast will leave you thinking ‘Wow, that’s really cool’ or perhaps ‘Holy cow, who ever thought you’d need one of those.’

The new S combines that sort of jaw-dropping daring – in both design and application – that can only leave you impressed and even somewhat embarrassed that they went to such lengths to make you so spoilt.

In the case of the new S, the system has been further refined and developed and now has an ‘Interior Assistant’ (a Mercedes Alexa, if you will) which will recognise you by voice, face, or fingerprint.
In the case of the new S, the system has been further refined and developed and now has an ‘Interior Assistant’ (a Mercedes Alexa, if you will) which will recognise you by voice, face, or fingerprint.

Take the AIRMATIC suspension, for example. The system adapts to prevailing conditions, whether you’re on a billiard table surface or a lumpy B-road. The damping of each wheel adjusts to whatever is thrown at it surface-wise. This happens by virtue of two separate valves for rebound and compression and delivers the sort of magic carpet ride that allows the car a nonplussed demeanour wherever you bring it.

Honestly, I’ve rarely – at least outside that uber-luxury segment referred to earlier – experienced anything like it. It’s like flying, but without any air turbulence.

Now, some rich types might arch an eyebrow on hearing that our tester for this first Irish experience of the new S-Class was ‘only’ the S350D in AMG Line guise, especially given there will be versions such as the petrol S500 4Matic or S580 available, but this is a cracker and Mercedes – rightly – believes this one will be the big seller here.

A six-cylinder of 2,925 cc, the 350D has a plentiful 286 bhp on offer and a positively monstrous 600 Nm of torque. This means a 0-100 kph time of 6.2 seconds, which is not slow by anyone’s measure and the limited top speed of 250 kph suggests its not slack in any shape or form.

Combined with a nine-speed 9G-TRONIC auto ‘box, this engine is not only fast enough for most of us, but it also delivers almost imperceptible shifts and there’s no unnecessary leaping from cog to cog searching for the right one at any given time. This drivetrain is supremely intuitive.

Hell, it will also deliver a consumption rate of 6.9 l/100 km (over 40 mpg) which, for a car the size of New Delhi, is pretty damn impressive.

We will get on to the driving the car in a little while (just a clue: it’s sensational), but first we must concentrate on the battery of technologies which Mercedes has introduced here. We already know much about Mercedes’ MBUX ‘infotainment’ system.
We will get on to the driving the car in a little while (just a clue: it’s sensational), but first we must concentrate on the battery of technologies which Mercedes has introduced here. We already know much about Mercedes’ MBUX ‘infotainment’ system.

Overall it seemed to me that in every area of performance and comfort the new S-Class clearly supersedes the six generations which have preceded it and that, once more Mercedes has out-done itself in making sure this model is the king of the pile.

Now, obviously, when you are talking about a car which costs in excess of €120,000, you would expect something truly special. Well, look no further because something truly special is with us in the shape of the new S-Class.

And the funny thing is that the excellence of all that went before it has been thoroughly usurped here, so what you have here is excellence-plus.

Normally when you try and evaluate luxo-barges such as this one you do so largely from the vantage point of the rear seats, from where most of the owners will appraise its lavishness and comfort levels.

While this one, however, can also be fully evaluated from the rear seats, it is from the drivers’ seat that it is best appreciated. Not too many big luxury cars are that much fun to drive really. But this one is and as a driver of cars, that is something to be truly appreciated and lauded.

A six-cylinder of 2,925 cc, the 350D has a plentiful 286 bhp on offer and a positively monstrous 600 Nm of torque.
A six-cylinder of 2,925 cc, the 350D has a plentiful 286 bhp on offer and a positively monstrous 600 Nm of torque.

This is not just Patrician motoring, it is positive aristocratic and blue-blooded in execution, but noble, refined and truly enjoyable to drive as well.

That means there will be a lot of blood, sweat and tears spent in the coming months in Munich, Ingolstadt and Nagoya trying to produce something – anything – which is as impressive as this one is.

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