A state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense.
If that is the textbook definition of luxury—according to someone named Oxford—the S-Class fits the bill to a tee.
It’s comfortable, it’s elegant, and it’s very expensive. Check, Check, Check. But most people already know that and I could end right here. Makes my job easy. But that question kept popping up in my mind. What defines luxury in an automobile?
Is it leather seats? Gizmos?
Could it be power?
Maybe it’s a little bit of everything.
The Sonderklass (German for special class) first introduced in 1972 has been one of the best selling luxury sedans in the world and has for a long time been the benchmark in its segment
Back in the 80’s the skunk works at Toyota worked feverishly day and night, spending untold sums of money, to create a world class luxury sedan that would rival the best America and Europe had to offer. But the cars they were really blueprinting were the S-Class and 7 Series – Cadillacs and Lincolns of the era were particularly woeful.
They even came up with a new name – Lexus. And it would soon go on to outsell its rivals. The fact that this new disruptor of a sedan from Nagoya closely emulated the Mercedes S Class and BMW 7 Series, was not a mistake.
Not a people to stand idly by, the Germans entered a veritable arms race of car technologies and advancements that haven’t stopped and continue even today.
For 2018 the current generation S-Class gets a mid-cycle refresh and a bevy of changes. It would take somewhat of a Benz aficionado to spot them on the outside. But they are there—I promise.
The Active LED headlamps get a big update and are impressive looking, especially when powering up the car, putting on a light show in front of your eyes. They are exceptional on the road, and some of the best I’ve used.
More interesting – to me anyways – are the new engines. Constantly downsizing, Mercedes’ 4.7L V8 makes way for a new cleaner, leaner, 4.0L biturbo V8. The number on the back of the trunk changes to 560. The correlation between engine size and badge hasn’t existed for a long time, and doesn’t appear to be coming back anytime soon.
No matter, the engine itself is smooth and I was surprised with the mileage I was getting. This is a big 2.5 ton vehicle, which I expected to be a bit thirstier. The V8 now sports cylinder shut off and claims to be one of the most efficient on the market.
Putting my foot down brought a swell of torque and a hushed shove of acceleration.
The new motor makes a nice noise but sounds like it’s in another room at the end of a long hallway. There is no sonic trickery, just the sound of smooth progress.
My anthracite blue S560 tester was very quiet. I mean eerily quiet. If you’ve been in an electric car, it’s kinda like that. Not an easy trick to pull off, but then again this is an S Class, and you expect this level of refinement. There is the AMG S 63 or S 65 should you require your land yachts to have a more audible exhaust—and much more power.
I like the quiet though, and I very much appreciate a car that knows what it is. Case in point, the sport Drive mode on the car did very little. It stiffened the steering rack, artificially, and beefed up the suspension but neither inspired any confidence in the bends. Not that you’d want to throw many bends at a car like this. It can handle it sure, but you feel the weight and it really isn’t that fitting with what I consider luxury.
Best then to leave it all as is when you get in. Besides, the steering in the default comfort mode was so creamy, it felt like it was set in a very well engineered jar of Brylcreem. Perfectly accurate and coupled with one of the best rides I’ve ever felt, this is a long distance cruiser that will get you to your destination relaxed, massaged, and feeling coddled.
Is this luxury then? It’s not a bad case so far.
If there were S-Class commandments “thou shalt go for a long drive,” must be the first one, so I recruited the wife and child and we headed to the Niagara region sticking to the QEW. Yeah it’s not that far from Toronto but still a great test of this sedans comfy comfortness if that’s a thing and a chance to try out one of the most advanced autonomous driving control systems on the market.
And try it I did, because heading west on the QEW at 5:30 is never a good idea. But when you’re in this class of car, quite a rareified realm truly, it really isn’t so bad. In fact with the autonomous controls set to take over the steering, the brakes and the gas I had nothing to do but watch the ultra high definition view of some of the silliness that occurs on this highway at this time.
Now this is normally a frustrating thing for me—traffic. But when you’re not actually doing anything, just watching, it’s almost relaxing. Did I just say that?
The S-Class even changes lanes by itself when you signal. Provided of course it’s free of obstructions. Now I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to take control back on numerous occasions, but left to its own devices, what it can do is amazing. You have to actually learn to trust it. There’s a bit of a learning curve there, but these systems are getting better and better.
I tried it off the highway and while it works, it’s limited and doesn’t understand many situations you’re likely to encounter—like construction and grid lock to name a few.
I wouldn’t really recommend it off the highway.
Also I felt like I was much better at anticipating traffic patterns and knowing what to do. The car seemed a few steps behind what was going on in my mind. Sorry Mercedes. I think I’m still a much better driver than your robot behind the dashboard. He does come in handy though. Traffic mainly, as I mentioned earlier.
On the way back I drove myself, which was still relaxing in every way. Mercedes has a new “energizing comfort” system, which ties in fragrances, different music; massage functions and more into a ten-minute program. The idea is to, you guessed it, energize you and even though my tester wasn’t equipped with it I was just as happy selecting the hot relaxing back massage, playing my own music on Spotify, and I didn’t have any fragrances but I did shower that morning so it was all good.
Taking in the beautiful and cavernous interior and all its little details sprinkled within and it starts to make more sense. That space, the smell (of the leather), it feels expensive without even touching anything. The simplicity of the dashboard at first frustrated me due to the lack of buttons, but I quickly got used to it. The Command system is much easier to use than I remember but overall there’s an understated elegance to the way everything in there looks and works.
Unlike the BMW M760 I tested a little while ago—which is a Jekyll and Hyde type of car with the sport mode turning it into a fire breathing beast with jerky fast shifts and a brilliant but un-characteristic exhaust note—the S560 is comfortable being what it is.
And it is one of the best examples of luxury in the business. To me luxury is space, it’s warmth, it’s ease of use, it’s supreme comfort and quiet above all else but most of all it should make you feel special and this Special Class Benz sure does fit that bill.
Images © Kunal D’souza
2018 Mercedes S560 4Matic Long Wheelbase
BODY STYLE: Full-Size Luxury Sedan
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, All-wheel drive.
ENGINE: 4.0 L Biturbo V8 (Power: 463hp @5200-5500rpm, Torque: 516 lb-ft @2000-4000rpm)
TRANSMISSION: 9-speed automatic
CARGO CAPACITY: 530 litres
FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium) 13.5/8.6/11.3 L/100 km city/highway/combined.
PRICE: $124400, as tested $141,450.
WEBSITE: Mercedes-Benz Canada