New Mercedes-Benz S-Class models aren’t an everyday occurrence, so when they do come along they create a big stir throughout the global automotive industry.

Obviously the designers of Merc’s arch rivals Audi A8 and BMW 7 series will pay the most attention. However, lesser car makers also inspect the S-Class very closely because it signals the way in which technology is advancing, technology that will eventually work its way down into more affordable cars.

The latest Merc S-Class is elegant with a bold touch that just falls short of being overtly aggressive. The big grille is a reminder of the classic days of older Mercedes and the subtle swage lines along the sides neatly take the bulk out of what is a large car.

As befits a car in the limo class, it’s positively luxurious inside with a classic timber, leather and stitching in high grade materials that give the feeling you could be inside a top class hotel.

The display screens are huge, covering about two-thirds of the width of the dashboard; other makers seem to be apologetic about their screens, but Mercedes presumably see them as the way of the future.

The Mercedes S 500 has a 4.7-litre V8 turbo-petrol engine with 335 kW and 700 Nm.

Mercedes-Benz_S_500_interiorAlso on offer is the Mercedes-Benz S 350, which has a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel with 190 kW of power and 620 Nm of torque. Power is transmitted to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission.

To try to avoid crashes, Mercedes-Benz S-Class monitors 360 degrees around itself and alerts the driver to possible dangers. If the driver ignores the alerts the car will do the best it can to take control by braking and steering out of danger. If that’s not enough it will mitigate collision forces to protect occupants.

Safety belts in the outboard rear seats have inbuilt airbags as an option. These expand the width and depth of the belt during a crash to provide better protection, and minimise belt bruising.

Mercedes S-Class has no conventional light globes. Instead it uses hundreds of LED lights which consume about a quarter of the energy of old-fashioned lights.

Mercedes-Benz_S_Class_5Intelligent headlights automatically provide as much light as possible in exactly the right spots. The lights not only vary in intensity, but also move from side to side and up and down. This spreads the light widely and lets you see far more than standard lights. As an added safety feature the lights never dazzle other drivers.

Tail and brake lights vary in intensity according to ambient light showing maximum light when the car is in bright areas, such as cities, but less when it is surrounded by darkness.

Seating is provided for five, but we expect that four seats, with the centre-rear armrest folded down, is a more likely arrangement. There’s also a long-wheelbase option for those who love to travel in the back in real style rather than, heaven forbid, do their own driving. In the LWB Benz the seats are electrically adjustable for angle, height and headrest. They’re sure to make long distance cruising very pleasant.

Mercedes-Benz_S_Class_4The front seats are large and comfortable. They don’t provide the sort of side support that would be required if the car was driven hard in corners. However, it’s not that sort of machine.

This Benz is a big car so isn’t what you would call nimble, but it certainly hangs on extremely well in corners. It’s competent in the steering department, though we would prefer a bit more feel and feedback, but see the previous remarks about it not being aimed at the sporting driver.

Mercedes-Benz_S_Class_3Noise and vibration are suppressed to astonishingly low levels. The big Benz is all but silent on motorways and other smooth roads, whispering along in a way that passengers will just love.

There’s a lot of car around you and though the S-Class is equipped with a full range of parking options aimed at easy parking. However, there are times when the bulk of the body comes close to filling the available space.

Ambient lighting is a major feature and we just loved the way the interior could be adjusted to personal taste.

Mercedes-Benz_S_Class_2The big-torque V8 turbo engine provides nearly instantaneous urge for safe overtaking. Its torque is seemingly endless and gives a satisfying feeling that’s sure to impress all those who love their cars to have plenty of grunt. You barely realise the car is climbing hills so well do the big torque and responsive automatic transmission work together.

Fuel consumption isn’t likely to be a real concern to someone with upwards of $300,000 to spend on the S 500 we have been reviewing for the past week, but low consumption directly relates to low emissions. On motorways fuel usage was in the eight to ten litres per hundred kilometres range. This soon climbed into the low teens when we drove hard or were stuck for extended periods in crawling traffic.

Mercedes-Benz_S_Class_1The stop-start system and Eco program certainly helped trim fuel usage and it doesn’t jar the driver’s senses the way some systems do.

All-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class is an impressive example of the latest in automotive design and technology, our week spent in the hot turbocharged V8 version was certainly very enjoyable.


S 350 BlueTec 3.0-litre turbo-diesel four-door sedan: $215,000 (automatic)
S 350 L BlueTec 3.0-litre turbo-diesel four-door sedan: $222,500 (automatic)
S 500 4.7-litre turbo-petrol four-door sedan: $285,000 (automatic)
S 500 L 4.7-litre turbo-petrol four-door sedan: $310,000 (automatic)
S 63 AMG 5.5-litre turbo-petrol four-door sedan: $385,000 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Mercedes-Benz dealer for driveaway prices.

ABS Brakes: Standard in all models
Automatic Transmission: Standard in all models
Cruise Control: Standard in all models
Dual Front Airbags: Standard in all models
Front Side Airbags: Standard in all models
Electronic Stability Program: Standard in all models
Rear Parking sensors: Standard in all models
Reversing Camera: Standard in all models
USB/Auxiliary Audio inputs: Standard in all models
Bluetooth: Standard in all models
Steering wheel mounted controls: Standard in all models

SPECIFICATIONS (Mercedes-Benz S 500 4.7-litre turbo-petrol four-door sedan)

Capacity: 4.663 litres
Configuration: V8
Compression ratio: 10.5:1
Bore/Stroke: 93.0 mm x 86.0 mm
Maximum Power: 335 kW @ 5250-5500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 700 Nm @ 1800-3500 rpm

Driven Wheels: Rear
Manual Transmission: Not offered
Automatic Transmission: Seven-speed
Final Drive Ratio: Not supplied

Length: 5116 mm
Wheelbase: 3035 mm
Width: 1899 mm
Height: 1496 mm
Turning Circle: 11.9 metres
Kerb Mass: 1995 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 88 litres
Boot Capacity: 530 litres

Front Suspension: Three link, coil springs, gas shocks
Rear Suspension: Multi link independent, coil springs, gas shocks
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Ventilated disc

0-100 km/h Acceleration: 4.8 seconds

Type: 95RON
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/01): 9.1 L/100km

Greenhouse Rating: 6/10
Air Pollution Rating: 7.5 /10

Three years/ unlimited km

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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