£68,870 - £183,560 Price range
23 - 100 MPG
A select band of cars have regularly laid claim to the title “best car in the world”. It’s said of cars that, money no object, one would choose for its ability to offer things that no other car has yet achieved.
Rolls-Royce cars have often been recipients of the title, as have game-changing supercars like the McLaren F1. Another regular claimant is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class – and as the most refined, technologically advanced model yet, the new S-Class could once again be worthy of that title.
2014 carwow best luxury car award
The S-Class has a cast-iron reputation for blowing rivals out of the water with the luxury tech on offer. It’s more of the same with this generation with an opulent interior and equipment including video-based adaptive suspension and an array of sensors to ensure the driver is driving safely.
Cheapest to buy: S350d AMG Line diesel
Cheapest to run: S500e AMG Line hybrid
Fastest model: S65 AMG petrol
Most popular: S65L AMG petrol
“Everything you expect it to be and more”, says one tester. That pretty much sums it up – whether you’re looking at quality, refinement, clarity, comfort, space, equipment or more, the S-Class is essentially class-leading. Passengers in the back – where many owners will end up – get seats that recline to nearly 45 degrees in some models, and others offer a Chauffeur Pack, which moves the front seat out of the way and extends a foot rest.
In the front, the driving position is spot on and the unusual design – a complete departure from other Mercedes – is widely praised. Testers like the ambient lighting and the attention to detail. Armrests are heated as well as the seats, for example, and regular bulbs have made way for 300 LEDs around the cabin. Two huge TFT (digital) displays dominate the dash – both as clear as day, as you’d expect.
A car as vast as the S-Class will never be a traditional drivers car, but here the rewards are different. Even the “basic” air sprung, adaptive damped setup delivers a ride as good as anything on the market today – perhaps better. You simply don’t feel bumps. A Jaguar XJ “doesn’t come close” (even if it’s more fun to drive), while even the Rolls-Royce Phantom and Ghost “have a fight on their hands”.
S500 models and above have the option of Magic Body Control, that reads the road surface ahead. These ride even better – even speed bumps “are dealt with almost as if they aren’t there”.
The S-Class also handles predictably, and while not as sporty as a Jag XJ or BMW 7-Series, it’s as agile as most owners will ever need. Refinement is the car’s main strength – you’ll barely hear a rustle of wind even at “autobahn speeds”. Well into three-figure speeds, in other words.
Engine choice include the diesel S350 Bluetec and S300 diesel hybrid, the 4.7-litre S500, the 6.0-litre S600, the S400 petrol hybrid, and the 577hp S63 AMG.
Most will choose the S350 in the UK, with hybrids also expected to be popular for their low tax ratings. The diesel unit is as quiet as diesels get yet still offers “effortless performance” – if not on the scale of the larger units. The S500′s twin-turbocharged unit is a real performer, but equally refined and still capable of 32 mpg to the diesel’s 50. As for the S63, it’s “devastatingly rapid” and a little thirstier still, at 27 mpg.
Displacing 3-litres and in a V6 configuration, the S350 is expected to be the highest-selling S in the UK with combined economy of over 50 mpg and a useful 148 g/km CO2 rating.
Better than that, it's as near to silent as you're likely to find in a diesel car, even by today's lofty standards. The cabin is "whisper quiet" at motorway speeds, while progress is "unflustered". The seven-speed auto is good too - with "virtually imperceptible" changes. Many owners will no doubt have the required folding to opt for one of the more powerful S-Class models, but there's little to be missed picking the frugal diesel.
With a 4.7-litre V8 and 449 bhp, the S500 is certainly a large-engined luxury car. And while it can't match the S350 diesel, 32 mpg isn't bad - so maybe it'll find buyers after all.
It'll certainly find those looking for refinement. Helped by the S-Class's uncannily quiet cabin, refinement is "impeccable" and performance "absolutely effortless". If fuel costs aren't a concern, don't let the extra dosh put you off the S500.
It’s a luxury saloon competing with some of the world’s most exclusive cars. As a result, the S-Class makes no pretentions of being cheap, nor is it in reality. The cost of an “entry-level” car is described as “palatable”, provided you don’t lose yourself in all the options.
By luxury car standards the retained value won’t be bad either, and owners could see real-world MPG figures in the 40s for the diesel. The upcoming S300 Hybrid will be a real running costs star, its 53 mpg rating enough to seal it free first-year car tax and just £30 a year thereafter. Expect this to be popular with chauffeur firms!
Best car in the world? You’d have to think long and hard before claiming otherwise, and while the Mercedes-Benz emblem isn’t for everyone the car will be a pleasure for those reclining in the back or tasked with driving it alike.
That most UK sales will be diesels hardly matters given even the basic diesel’s incredible refinement and admirable performance, but there’s enough variety in engines and spec to ensure the buyer gets exactly what he or she desires.