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Mercedes-Benz S-Class review (2013 onwards)
Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2013: summary
The Mercedes S-Class was already the best: the all-new 2013 version is even better – the best car on sale.
What: Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Where: Toronto, Canada
Date: July 2013
Price: £62,650 - £88,130
Available: on sale now, arriving October 2013
Key rivals: Audi A8, Bentley Flying Spur, BMW 7 Series, Jaguar XJ, Lexus LS, Range Rover, Rolls-Royce Ghost
We like: a remarkably accomplished car that sets new standards in refinement, safety, technology, passenger comfort and driver appeal: it’s back to being the best car in the world
We don’t like: mainstream engines and gearboxes haven’t yet caught up with the rest of it, the fact it renders nearly all of its direct rivals null and void
Find out how much a used Mercedes-Benz S-Class costs on Auto Trader
New Mercedes-Benz S-Class: is this the best car in the world?
Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2013: first impressions
Audi, BMW and Jaguar, stop reading. You don’t have time: you must start working on your challengers to the 2013 Mercedes-Benz S-Class now. This all-new model, on the road in the UK from October, is superb, pushes boundaries, and makes all your luxury four-door challengers look decidedly second-rate in comparison.
The new S-Class simply wows from the moment you set eyes on it
To discover this didn’t surprise us. After all, the outgoing S-Class already beats the existing Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Jaguar XJ. What is surprising is the new car’s sheer level of superiority. It can rightly claim to truly be the best car in the world.
From the off, the sleek, contemporary lines suggest modernity (shapely lines and an impressively coupe-like rear, making an A8 and 7 Series appear dull and staid), and an incredible arsenal of technological advances (Mercedes says it’s the most advanced car in the world), detailed in a 145-page press kit AND an entire DVD, bear this out.
And then you step into it for the first time: feel the fantastic seats, see the magnificent dashboard, enjoy the supreme space and sheer depth of detailed design. The S-Class simply wows from the moment you set eyes on and sample it. No wonder the competition has run and hidden – perhaps they don’t want to find out if it is just as good in action. But we did…
Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2013: performance
You can have a petrol S500, or a diesel S350 BlueTec. A petrol hybrid S 00 Hybrid, or (in time) a super-low CO2 diesel hybrid S300 Hybrid. You’ll even soon get an S500 petrol plug-in hybrid, with even more amazing emissions and economy figures. Five engines, then – yet in the UK, 9 in 10 of them will be the 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel S350 BlueTec.
Mercedes has set new automotive standards for the way the S-Class drives
Frankly, this engine is the most disappointing part of the car. That’s relative disappointment: it’s still great, just not as brilliant as the rest of it. On paper, the engine sounds OK, producing 258hp, hitting 62mph from rest in a swift 6.8 seconds and offering 457lb ft of pulling power (although the 1,600-2,400 torque band is a bit narrow).
It revs with rotary smoothness uncommon to a diesel – press on and it’s a real peach. It’s more than quick enough when you dig deep, too. Trouble is, at lower revs, it’s just that bit more gruff and rumbly than it really ought to be in such a brilliant car. Its presence is felt here, literally, when really it shouldn’t be.
The gearbox doesn’t help. Mercedes’ seven-speed transmission is getting on a bit now, and doesn’t offer the ratio spread nor the seamless shifts of the ZF eight-speed auto used by most of the competition.
The gap between the overdrive seventh and the kickdown into sixth disrupts the flow and adds a bit of discontinuity into the drive – you can override it (and tap into the engine’s higher-rev sweet spot) with paddleshifts, but the car really should do it for you.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2013: ride and handling
Mercedes has set new automotive standards for the way the S-Class drives. That’s how brilliant the chassis of this car is.
Centrepiece is the exceptional ride quality, which absorbs bumps with crushing authority and almost fully filters out the nibbly irritation you get in rivals. It’s rich, supple and is good enough to exceed expectations of how a luxury car should ride: when some of the competition disappoints here, this is a significant achievement.
It’s a whole new level of comfort: there is no more decadent automotive experience on earth
It hasn’t achieved this through being soft and squidgy, though. The Airmatic suspension is supple, yes (reduce the amount of lean by pressing a single button from Comfort to Sport – no multi-configuration confusion here) but it doesn’t lollop into corners either: that’s the power of computer control and advanced suspension systems.
Mercedes has improved the steering too. It’s still lacking in the response BMW demands around the straightahead, but it’s much quicker and more crisp when steering through bends. There’s positivity to it that you didn’t get before. It’s easily the best blend of luxury car ride and handling of all.
World-first safety features are available. The Distronic Plus radar cruise control in particular amazed us: it now has steering assist and can ‘stop and go’ – it’s jerk-free and smooth, systems combining to literally offer hands-free motoring on the motorway.
The car steers, stops and goes, doesn’t drive into anything: true autonomy. That’s why Mercedes is obliged to fit a buzzer that instructs you to keep your hands on the wheel. Bothersome legal issues apart, there’s no other reason why – that’s how good it is.
You can even get ‘Magic Body Control’, which uses a 6D stereo camera to read the road and detect bumps – setting up the suspension to adjust and, literally, ensure they can’t be felt.
Sounds otherworldly? Yes, but it works: we drove over a speed hump at 30km/h with it turned off, and felt a thud. Then turned it on, and felt nothing. The speed hump simply disappeared. It’s as staggering as it sounds: pity, for now, it’s on eight-cylinder S-Class only…
Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2013: interior
If the interior looks a bit plain in the pictures that’s partly because lots of it is electronic and isn’t fully appreciated until you see it switched on.
But it’s mainly because images don’t portray the sense of cohesive and world-class quality, craftsmanship and tactile brilliance, the sheer satisfaction of touching the leather, looking at the LED light patterns at night or simply sitting back and pressing your head into the cushion-like rear head restraint.
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the best luxury car on sale
It’s the onboard technology that wows as you familiarise yourself with the S-Class. Most of it is accessed through twin tablet-style screens in the dash, one displaying instrumentation and the other navigating infotainment and navigation (two more freestanding tablet screens are mounted in the rear).
There’s onboard wi-fi, LED headlights, Attention Assist that watches for sleepiness and automatically finds the nearest service area if it thinks you’re tired, Night View Assist Plus that can now automatically pick out pedestrians in the dark, and flash a few pulses of light exactly where they’re standing.
The space and practicality is ample, naturally in the long-wheelbase car this has been designed around but also in the short-wheelbase model that will take the other half of sales here in Britain.
Both have stretch-to-tiptoes legroom potential, particularly if you fold the front seat into the front dash at the push of a button – the pricier of the five rear-seat options give you an aircraft-style recline bed to savour it.
Rear seats, like those in the front, are fulsomely adjustable and there’s now a fascinating ‘hot stone massage’ option – using 14 air pads that can be heated to pummel and massage your back accordingly. It’s a whole new level of comfort: close your eyes, turn up the 3D Burmester stereo and wonder if there’s a more decadent automotive experience on Earth.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2013: economy
The new S-Class is up to 20% more fuel efficient than the outgoing one – and that’s despite essentially using the same engines and gearboxes. The improvements are all down to efficiencies and design improvements elsewhere.
Big improvements such as reducing the aerodynamic drag factor Cd to 0.24 and cutting weight by 100kg blend with smaller improvements throughout to help the S350 diesel now return 51.4mpg and emit 146g/km CO2.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2013: the MSN Cars verdict
Why is this the best car in the world? Because it has a staggering array of tech-leader features. Rides brilliantly. Handles well. Looks great. Has a stupendous interior. Makes its occupants feel special. Defies the odds in its environmental credentials. Moves the game on.
Only the engine and gearbox don’t achieve the same highs as the rest of it. That’s fine: pretty much everything else is beyond reproach. A car that was already ahead of every rival now leads them by an even more commanding margin.
You may not agree that it’s the best car in the world, but nobody can argue that the 2013 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the best luxury car on sale.
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