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.

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.

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.

Next Steps

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

Most Popular

New 2021 Volkswagen Polo facelift arrives with Golf 8 styling
Volkswagen Polo - front
Volkswagen Polo Hatchback

New 2021 Volkswagen Polo facelift arrives with Golf 8 styling

Revamped Mk6 Volkswagen Polo unveiled with new GTI version coming next year
21 Apr 2021
New all-electric Opel Manta GSe ElektroMOD reimagines the classic coupe
Opel Manta GSe ElektroMOD - front
Vauxhall

New all-electric Opel Manta GSe ElektroMOD reimagines the classic coupe

The Opel Manta GSe ElektroMOD EV reboots the iconic Manta coupe for the electric era
20 Apr 2021
Stellantis maps out future EV platforms with up to 497 miles of range
Stellantis battery
Peugeot

Stellantis maps out future EV platforms with up to 497 miles of range

Four new EV platforms for Stellantis Group, the first of which we’ll see in 2023
20 Apr 2021