Mercedes S-Class 2014 review
The Mercedes S-Class is the ultimate luxury limo and a fantastic showcase for cutting-edge technology
Since its 1972 debut, the Mercedes S-Class has become a byword for luxury and innovation. Now in its sixth generation, the company’s legendary flagship promises to be the most advanced and cossetting car ever. And that’s not all: sleek new looks mean the Mercedes S-Class is more desirable than ever, plus it gets a completely overhauled cabin design.
Sitting in an S-Class is truly one of the most relaxing experiences available in the automotive world. Vibrations through the pedals and steering wheel are non-existent, and even at motorway speeds you won’t hear any wind or tyre roar. All the engines are fantastic but it’s amazing that Mercedes can offer a diesel-electric hybrid offering more than 60mpg, or even a standard V6 diesel with 50mpg. For the ultimate in speed an S63 and S65 AMG are on the way, or if you want an S-Class that emits less CO2 than a Toyota Prius then wait for the S500 Plug-in Hybrid, which is due in early 2014.
The S350 diesel is our pick thanks to its super smooth and quiet engine combined with seriously quick in-gear acceleration and it will make up the vast majority of sales in the UK. Apparently 0-62mph takes 6.8 seconds but it genuinely feels much faster than that. The S300 Hybrid is currently the most efficient, with fuel economy of 53.5mpg, but it’s also the slowest and the least refined.
Our choice: S350 L BlueTEC AMG Line
Smart styling and neat detailing help the long-wheelbase S-Class disguise its vast size. Yet with lines inspired by Mercedes’ F700 concept, there’s plenty of imposing appeal. At the front is the company’s trademark chrome grille, topped by the famous free-standing three-pointed star and flanked by swept-back headlamps. Cut into the sides are a number of eye-catching lines, while the sweeping roofline takes its cues from Merc’s rakish CLS. The S-Class is also the first model in the line-up to benefit from all-LED lighting. Climb aboard and you’ll find one of the most inviting and beautifully built interiors money can buy. The dash is dominated by two vast 12.3-inch screens: one for the speedo, rev counter and trip computer, the other for the widescreen sat-nav. Elsewhere, you’ll spot the distinctive metal ‘eyeball’ air vents set into a swooping, dark Eucalyptus wood trim panel that stretches across the dash into the doors. There’s also a two-spoke multifunction steering wheel and nicely damped silver-finish switches. As you’d expect, the fit, finish and material quality inside are all first-rate. All S-Classes get atmospheric and ambient lighting as standard. There’s a choice of seven colours – from simple white to deep purple. Other standard kit includes two-zone climate control, sat-nav, a DAB radio and Bluetooth.
Comfort and refinement are the order of the day thanks to the S-Class’ whisper-quiet cabin and pillow-soft ride. Even in its firmer Sport setting, the standard air-suspension effortlessly soaks up bumps and potholes, while wind and road noise have been banished, even at speeds above 100mph. It’s virtually silent at idle and emits only a distant roar when extended. Yet refinement doesn’t come at the expense of performance. Despite a hefty 1,975kg weight and the seamless seven-speed automatic box’s long ratios, 0-60mph takes just 6.9 seconds. On the road, the new S-Class doesn’t feel as urgent as the Audi A8, but still packs plenty of overtaking punch. The brakes are strong, too, with a positive and progressive pedal feel. The Mercedes maintains its composure when you point it down a twisting back road. There’s a touch more roll than in the Audi, but grip is strong and the steering is naturally weighted and precise. Crucially, the S-Class disguises its bulk and never feels intimidating to drive, even on country lanes and city streets. Buyers wanting even sharper driving dynamics can choose the £4,340 Magic Body Control system. It’s currently only available on the petrol-powered S500 and includes active roll control as well as Road Surface Scan. This uses cameras to read the road ahead, and then adjusts the suspension to deal with bumps.
With its strong tradition for quality and durability, the S-Class promises to be reliable. Better still, Mercedes finished an excellent fifth in our Driver Power 2013 owner satisfaction survey, while its dealers were ranked in 12th place overall. Yet it’s the safety systems that really impress. Euro NCAP hasn’t tested it for crash safety yet but the old car was one of the safest models on the road, and this latest car will be more of the same. The kit list is almost endless, and includes eight airbags, stability control, Collision Prevention Assist, Crosswind Assist and Attention Assist, which monitors you for tiredness. There’s also a host of options, such as the £2,300 Driver Assistance pack that combines blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control with Active Lane Keep Assist and Steer Assist. The former steers the car back into lane if it senses you’re drifting across the white lines, while the latter steers automatically if cruise control is engaged – although you have to keep your hands on the wheel at all times.
As you’d expect, there’s no shortage of space inside the S-Class, particularly in the long-wheelbase model. In fact, our tape measure revealed that there’s 80mm more legroom in the rear than in its 4x4 rival, the Range Rover. Our car also featured the £4,000 Executive Rear package, which adds ventilated and reclining rear seats. Yet even the standard seats – front and back – are supremely supportive. As with the Audi A8, you get a 510-litre boot, plus the cabin is packed full of useful storage. However, unlike the Range Rover, there’s no option to fold the rear seat flat for more space. It’s available with fold-out tables, a hot-stone massage function in the seats, a wi-fi hotspot, as well as a 200GB hard-drive and high performance infotainment system featuring two individual screens.
Hit the options list and the cost can spiral, but while the Mercedes isn’t cheap to buy, it shouldn’t cost the earth to run. Mercedes’ Service Care pack covers routine maintenance for £40 per month, and in S350 form, the new S-Class should match the previous model’s 44 per cent residual value after three years.
The S300 BlueTEC Hybrid is currently the most efficient engine, boasting fuel economy of 53.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 115g/km – that means it’s actually free to tax for the first year and only £30 thereafter. It's not on sale until the end of 2013, though, and will be trumped shortly after that by the S500 Plug-in Hybrid – on sale early in 2014 – which offers around 90mpg and CO2 emissions of 71g/km. Offering the best blend of economy and performance is the S350 BlueTEC, which feels seriously quick, while still emitting just 146g/km. The new S63 is more efficient than ever - but still only manages a meagre 27mpg combined as a consequence of its enormous power and two-tonne bulk even though it does have a carbon fibre boot liner and the option of fade free ceramic disc brakes.