In-depth reviews

Mercedes S-Class review - Engines, performance and drive

Once impressive performance pales beside electric rivals, but ride and handling are typically well-composed

From the driving seat the S-Class maintains its traditional ability to offer agility and composed handling that belies its size and two-and-a-bit ton weight. Adaptive air suspension on the S 500 glides over even challenging road surfaces and it’s rare that an imperfection will trouble the occupants beyond endurance. 

The big wheels and tyres can thump loudly in the cabin though, and overall we feel this latest S-Class’s ride quality isn’t quite as sublime as the previous version. Models riding on smaller wheels may improve our impressions once we’ve had a chance to sample them, but anyway the odd shiver of a jolt transmitted into the cabin scarcely diminishes the outstanding comfort occupants enjoy. 

The inline six-cylinder engine is hushed even under hard acceleration, but what noise you do hear is not particularly stimulating so there’s not much to be gained from driving an S-Class like you stole it. Wait for the AMG variant for that.

Driven briskly though, the S-Class is impressively poised and responsive to steering inputs, making it easy to place the long bonnet in corners and keep progress neat. There’s a small amount of body roll as you’d expect, but even on especially challenging twists and turns at the test track, the big Benz is reassuringly responsive. 

Grip is excellent from the standard 4MATIC set-up on the S 500, while four-wheel steering combines with the electronic chassis management systems to help keep cornering lines neat. The same also applies during high-speed lane changes where stability is impressive, and excellent aerodynamics mean there’s little in the way of wind noise to unsettle the ambience either. 

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed 

There are three engine options initially available in the new S-Class, and the list comprises a pair of diesels and a single petrol engine. 

We’ve tested the S500 with its inline six-cylinder engine, and although the capacity is just three litres it makes 429bhp at 6,100rpm - good enough for 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds, and a maximum speed of 155mph. It revs smoothly and delivers power in a linear fashion, but there’s little sense of occasion about the acceleration which happens in a rather matter-of-fact style. Gear changes from the standard 9G-Tronic transmission are all but imperceptible.

The S 350 d also has a three-litre in-line six, but making its 282bhp across a decently wide 3,400-4,600rpm powerband, and with 600Nm of torque it should have plenty of pulling power. That’s reflected in a still relatively rapid 6.4-second 0-62mph time. The S 400d version of the same engine has the wick turned up a little to 325bhp, and 0-62mph comes around in 5.4 seconds.

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