The S-Class takes cues from the smaller C and E-Class saloons but bumps desirability up to 11. It’s a shame the same can’t be said for its rather frustrating infotainment system
Put simply, the Mercedes S-Class has one of the most elegant, luxurious interiors of any car on sale but it lags behind alternatives from BMW and Audi in terms of high-tech features.
Its stylish dashboard comes with cold-to-the-touch aluminium air vents and some high-gloss wooden inserts that make it look much more interesting than the BMW 7 Series’ staid black and grey cabin.
The man-made Artico faux leather trim on the dashboard might not be genuine animal hide but it looks and feels just like the real deal and the laser-etched metal speaker grilles for the optional Burmester stereo look absolutely fabulous. Unlike the dashboard, all Mercedes S-Class seats come with full leather upholstery and you get comprehensive electric seat adjustment across the range.
If you plan to spend more time in the back seats than behind the wheel you’ll want to consider the £4,330 Executive Pack. It comes with electrically adjustable rear seats with both heating and cooling functions and electric window blinds to keep the sun off your face.
Hand over an extra £1,740 and you’ll be treated to even plusher Nappa leather interior trim and a panoramic glass roof that floods the Mercedes S-Class’ cabin with natural light will set you back £1,430.
The row of switches on the dashboard might be okay in the cheaper E-Class but they feel a little cheap in this flagship limousine – especially when you compare them to the futuristic touch-sensitive display in the latest Audi A8. Similarly, the Audi’s triple-screen infotainment system makes the Mercedes’ unit feel a bit old fashioned.
In the Mercedes you get a digital instrument display in place of conventional analogue dials as standard but it’s not quite as slick as the the 7 Series’ configurable screen or the Audi A8’s high-resolution Virtual Cockpit display.
This trend continues in the back seats. Both the BMW and Audi can be had with removable touchscreens that control the seat adjustment and climate control settings but the S-Class makes do with conventional physical controls.
The S-Class’ cabin might have felt like an Aladdin's cave of high-tech features not so long ago but its tech is starting to feel a touch dated in the company of newer alternatives
All Mercedes S-Class models come with a dual-screen infotainment display that’s so large it stretches more than halfway across the dashboard. You’ll use the central screen to control the satellite navigation, music playback and tweak the car’s settings while the display behind the steering wheel replaces conventional analogue dials – just like in the 7 Series and A8.
Unfortunately, neither display’s quite as sharp as those in the BMW or Audi and the Comand Online system’s bewildering number of menus makes adjusting its more detailed settings a pain – especially on the move. Changing the cabin temperature using the toggle switches on the dashboard feels pretty old-fashioned compared to the new A8’s high-definition touchscreen display, but on the upside you don’t have to take your eyes of the road.
You interact with the S-Class’ infotainment system using a big knob and touchpad arrangement on the centre console – it’s reasonably easy to use but the BMW’s iDrive unit is both more intuitive and a touch more comfortable. The Mercedes S-Class’ bulky touchpad is handy for writing in letters of a postcode but it’s so large you can’t rest your hand comfortably over the scroll wheel.
The standard sat nav is reasonably intuitive and gives clear, easy-to-follow directions but you can mirror your smartphone’s sat-nav apps on the car’s built-in display using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto features instead if you prefer.
If you’re serious about sound quality you’ll want to consider one of the upgraded Burmester stereos. Even the £1,130 upgrade comes with 13 speakers and a powerful nine-channel amplifier while the range-topping £5,300 system gets a hefty 24-speaker setup to really blast away those cobwebs.