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In-depth reviews

Mercedes S-Class review - Engines, performance and drive

Magic carpet ride and punchy performance make the S-Class a dream for both driver and passengers

Despite its focus on luxury and refinement, the S-Class is still one of the most engaging executive limousines on the market. The standard air suspension gives a wonderfully cushioned ride, while S 65 buyers can get even sharper driving dynamics with the Magic Body Control system, which reads the road ahead and adjusts the car's set-up accordingly.

There’s barely any wind or road noise, while the standard air-suspension effortlessly smooths out bumps – although the 19-inch wheels can crash into potholes.

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Yet, this comfort doesn’t come at the expense of agility. The steering is quick and well weighted, plus there’s lots of grip. Selecting Sport mode stiffens the standard adaptive dampers, and a fast, flowing road is good fun in the S 350 d, thanks to the accurate steering and a body that’s surprisingly resistant to roll. It’s no sports car, but there is still some driver appeal.

On the road, the new S-Class doesn’t feel as urgent as the Audi A8, but it still packs plenty of overtaking punch, whatever engine is under the bonnet. The brakes are strong, too, with a positive and progressive pedal feel.

The high-power Mercedes-AMG models give this limo supercar-rivalling performance. They come in long-wheelbase form only, and while they're not the last word in sharp handling, you'll be surprised by how well they corner considering the car's sheer size.

Engines

The S 350 diesel will make up the majority of S-Class sales, and it's our pick of the range, thanks to its super-smooth and quiet engine. Combined with seriously quick acceleration, it proves refinement doesn’t come at the expense of performance.

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It’s extremely quiet and there’s only a faint rattle at idle. In fact, you’ll sometimes think the stop-start system has kicked in, even when the engine is still running. It’s not totally silent as the revs rise, but it’s still a great fit and feels suitably luxurious.

There’s plenty of power, too; with 282bhp and 600Nm of torque (the latter available from just 1,200rpm), the S 350d is a genuinely fast car. It was built for motorway cruising, and the torquey engine means overtakes are never stressful or drawn-out. The nine-speed automatic gearbox shifts smoothly, so even when it does need to kick down, there’s little hesitation.

If you can stretch to it, the S 500 does 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds; and, if you want a limousine with real supercar credentials, the V8-engined S 63 can manage 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds. The V12 S 65 is a further tenth of a second faster.

However, the S 560 e plug-in hybrid is almost as quick as both AMG versions, with 469bhp and 700Nm of torque on tap and a 0-62mph time of five seconds flat and a top speed of 155mph. As an added benefit, it has claimed economy figures of 113mpg, and will cover around 50km (or 30 miles) in electric-only mode.

And, on the basis of our short test in Germany, we reckon the numbers are actually pretty realistic. We drove the S 560 e for more than 40km, including stretches of motorway running at 60-70mph, and still had a few miles of electric-only range remaining when we got to the end of our journey.

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    S350d Grand Edition 4dr 9G-Tronic
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £74,540

Most Economical

  • Name
    S560e L Grand Edition 4dr 9G-Tronic
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £96,750

Fastest

  • Name
    S500L Grand Edition 4dr 9G-Tronic
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £86,750
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