When asked what we’d score the Mercedes-Benz S 500 out of five, we replied: “Probably a 20.” So we’ve given it our maximum five-star rating only because the scale doesn’t go any higher.
This is the 11th generation of the car which is not just the ultimate Mercedes-Benz model, but the vehicle which has set trends the entire industry has followed since…oh, well…about the start of the 1900s really. The S-Class remains the standard-bearer for full-size limousines and the world’s best-selling luxury car.
Mercedes-Benz S 500 Overview
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class is a full-size prestige sedan and the lineup kicks-off with the $215,000 V6 turbo-diesel S350 BlueTec but CarShowroom.com.au tested the almost range-topping S 500L which is priced at $310,000. The ultimate S-Class is the $385,000 S 63 AMG.
To contemplate what you get in this car we reclined in one of the individual rear seats which operates like a business class airline seat with the extras of a pillow-like head-restraint, massage function and sumptuously-soft soft (in our car cream-coloured) leather. Yes the Mercedes-Benz S 500L is one of those cars.
This twin-turbo V8-powered masterpiece has just about every bit of technology currently known to the automotive industry. To name a few: DISTRONIC PLUS adaptive cruise control with Steering Assist (the car can steer itself between lane lines for short periods) and BAS PLUS with Cross Traffic Assist, Night View Assist Plus, a 360-degree camera and even active seat belt buckles.
And there’s the latest Comand system to bring all of the functions together which, to be honest, we didn’t completely master in our one week with the Mercedes-Benz S 500L…it just has so much on offer.
What about the lights? The latest Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the world’s first car without a single light bulb – the whole lot is LED.
Bottom line? If it’s been invented for cars, chances are it’s standard fit for the Mercedes-Benz S 500L.
Mercedes-Benz S 500 Engine
This version of the Mercedes-Benz 32-valve 4.7-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine delivers 335kW of power between 5250-550rpm and peak torque of 700Nm from 1800-3500rpm. Drive is to the rear wheels via Benz’ 7G-GTRONIC PLUS seven-speed automatic transmission.
In the most economical transmission setting, the S 500L actually uses second gear for most standing starts and there’s also a wonderfully refined auto start-stop system – so fuel consumption (combined cycle) of 9.2l/100kms is very impressive for this almost 2.0-tonne full-size limousine.
Mercedes-Benz S 500 The Interior
The poshest apartment on New York’s Park Avenue? No, that wouldn’t cut it. A room in London’s Savoy Hotel? Not even close.
We can’t think of anything to rival the ambience and sheer ostentatiousness on display inside the Mercedes-Benz S 500L. The four seats are trimmed in the most spectacular leather we’ve ever seen in a car and all recline and offer leg support (the rear like an airline seat) as well as heating/cooling and massage functions.
The optional Burmester audio system’s tiny door-mounted speakers oscillate on engine start-up and their blue illumination harmonizes with the superb ambient lighting. Instrumentation is fully blackscreen LCD, the timber steering wheel is three-spoke and in the glovebox there’s even an electronic aromatherapy system.
Above is a roof lining which must use much of the world’s annual Alcantara production (Mercedes-Benz is the world’s biggest buyer of Alcantara).
In the back there are twin entertainment screens, first-class or even ‘exit-row’ dimension leg-room, individual electronic adjustment for both seats and privacy blinds for all of the rear windows (including the tiny ones just in front of the C-pillars).
Mercedes-Benz S 500 Exterior & Styling
A Mercedes-Benz S-Class is a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, can be traced back to the elegant saloons of the 1930s…and we hope that never changes. Put it this way: it would be bold car designer who stood-up at a Mercedes board meeting to present the design for an all-new S-Class and started the presentation with: “We’re dispensing with this long bonnet idea.”
Fortunately that hasn’t happened and the current S-Class has the timeless classic looks which are the model’s hallmark – yes, that long bonnet, flowing domed roof and slanting rear end. This time the timeless radiator grille is large, more upright and boasts a 3D-like appearance.
The profile view shows the classically-proportioned glasshouse and ‘Benz-unique ‘Dropping Line’ character line which descends from front to rear.
Horizontal lines run from the bootlid to the bumper to accentuate width and in the typical Mercedes-Benz way, the rear window cuts into the C-pillars.
And as for the exclusively LED lights – well there are 56 LEDs in each headlight, 35 LEDs in each tail-light (plus four for the rear fog light) and there are 300 LEDS inside (including the ambient lighting).
Mercedes-Benz S500 On The Road
The highlight of our week with the Mercedes-Benz S 500L was a family trip to Portsea, south of Melbourne on a brilliantly sunny autumn Sunday. It’s the Melbourne equivalent of Sydney’s Palm Beach so an appropriate place to take a $310,000 prestige sedan.
So appropriate in fact that to secure a park, we had to go to the dirt carpark out back of the dive shop and parked alongside…another S500 Benz. Would it be asking too much to give us some exclusivity on the rare occasions we drive a car like this? Not in Portsea mate!
Our trip to Portsea loaded our favourite music into the astonishing Burmester system and allowed the CarShowroom.com.au juniors to watch a movie or two on their individual rear seat screens. Otherwise the overwhelming impressions were the startling acceleration of the Mercedes-Benz S 500L and its astonishing quietness as we traversed different road surfaces.
Earlier in the week we put the Mercedes-Benz S 500L through our high-speed mountain roads test loop and this was enlightening to say the least. With seemingly more technology than the Space Shuttle (Mercedes now has a system called Magic Body Control which uses twin cameras mounted at the front to identify changing road surfaces and prepare the air suspension), the S 500L just galloped through our test route with ridiculous poise and precision.
In fact it’s often hard to remember you’re driving a massive full-size luxury sedan which provides scant change from 2.0-tonnes in weight – logic says the steering just shouldn’t be so precise and the cornering stance shouldn’t be so flat. But that’s the beauty of the S 500L...everything is just so damn well engineered.
Around town we can’t recall any car which so isolates its occupants from the bustle of the outside world…while at the same time delivering projectile-like acceleration to snare those gaps in peak-hour traffic. And with all of those cameras, despite its considerable dimensions, our Mercedes-Benz S 500L conquered the confines of our tight CBD carpark – displaying gladiatorial disdain to its walls paint-scarred from lesser vehicles whose drivers have pushed too close.
Mercedes-Benz S 500 Issues
Some suspension firmness is the flip-side of the excellent chassis dynamics in every German car, but for a full-on luxury vehicle like the Mercedes-Benz S 500L we were a tad surprised at the jiggle over the speedhumps outside the primary school in our street.
Mercedes-Benz S 500 Verdict
As we said at the outset, the Mercedes-Benz S 500L is the current pinnacle of automotive everything…delivered in one car. Sure there are Bentleys and Rolls-Royce (and there used to be Maybachs) but their limited production numbers rule them out of direct comparisons (and in any case the Benz is so fully loaded it probably still sees them off specification-for-specification).
Mercedes says the ‘S’ has been and always will be its flagship model and history shows this model has ushered-in countless innovations and technologies which others have copied and which have filtered down to mainstream production models.
So the point is, there is no downside for the latest Mercedes-Benz S 500L. Snare one and you can rest easy the $310-large invested will:
(a) Buy the best car in the world
(b) Deliver you countless hours of enjoyment
(c) Be a good investment
Oh, and should the unthinkable happen and you …ahem…shunt your S 500L well this car probably has more safety technology than any other car money can buy so you will in all likelihood walk away unharmed.
Is there anything more you can ask for of a car?
No, no there isn’t.
Mercedes-Benz S 500 The Competition
Audi A8 runs the superb 258kW/800Nm 4.2-litre turbo-diesel, eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive and in comparison seems a bargain at $248,700. Visit a five-star hotel in Germany and this is probably the limousine they’ll send to meet you at the airport (the quiet and economical turbo-diesel preferred to petrol engines). On current models we reckon Audi has jumped BMW in the styling department and the A8 to us presents a better look inside and out.
BMW hasn’t offered us the latest 750Li but we know the 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 is a shade down on the Merc (330kW/650Nm to 335kW/700Nm) and so is the price ($298,300 for the ‘Beemer’ to $310,000 for the S 500). For out tastes the interior ambience of the latest S-Class seems a tad more upscale.
And here’s something which may surprise you – of this bunch the Lexus LS 600hL ($250,314) actually delivers the sportiest look (aided by the black ‘Spindle’ grille and massive alloys). All the luxury and space buyers in this league demand, but - good as the 290kW/520Nm 5.0-litre V8 is - we’re still a little unsure about petrol/electric hybrids in this exclusive jetset league.