When it comes to flagship offerings from luxury automakers, the benchmark of the luxury class is generally considered to be the Mercedes-Benz S Class. Known for its refinement, understated elegance and pioneering safety innovations, the S Class is the full size luxury sedan against which all others are judged.
To be fair, the S Class lineup spans seven distinct models, ranging from the S350 BlueTEC 4MATIC diesel, to the S400 Hybrid to the performance variant, the S65 AMG. Whether you’re a captain of industry or the captain of an NFL football team, there’s likely an S Class model that meets your needs and expectations. Expect the range to grow even more complex with the upcoming refresh, due next year, as Mercedes-Benz will position the S Class to fill the void left by Maybach’s shuttering.
While all seven S Class models differ in powertrain details, all share the same tastefully-penned exterior. Organic in design, it’s not exactly cutting-edge, but it is more memorable than the exterior styling of the rival Lexus LS. Inside, the inviting cabin of the S Class, regardless of model selected, surrounds occupants with classic upscale touches like soft leather and rich wood trim.
The most affordable models (which begin at $93,255) will likely be of interest to those concerned with fuel economy. The range begins with S400 Hybrid, which delivers 25 mpg highway fuel economy while still clocking a 0-60 mph run of seven seconds. Next up is the S350 BlueTEC 4MATIC, which blends the fuel economy of its diesel engine (rated at 31 mpg highway) with the all-weather sensibility of Mercedes’ 4MATIC all-wheel-drive. At the opposite end of the spectrum, however, lies the S65 AMG, powered by a 621 horsepower, 6.0-liter V-12 that can get the big sedan from 0 - 60 mph in a mere 4.2 seconds.
In between these extremes lie more mainstream models, like the S 550 and the S 550 4MATIC, which likely make up the bulk of S Class sales in the United States. Regardless of which is best suited to your tastes, each comes with ample head and leg room for both front and rear-seat passengers, since all U.S. models are built on the long wheelbase platform. Ride quality is exceptional with either the base air suspension or the optional active suspension, yet the S Class never manages to wallow or feel numb behind the wheel.
Befitting of a flagship sedan, the S Class comes with an impressive array of standard or available equipment, including Active Body Control for a more composed ride; active multicontour front seats to aid in both comfort and cornering; a panoramic sunroof; a power rear sunshade; Keyless Go; parking guidance and a rearview camera.
If safety is a priority, the list of available features for the S Class includes things like an infrared night vision system, PreSafe braking (which works with the adaptive cruise control to automatically apply the brakes when a collision is detected) and mbrace emergency telematics to notify first responders if a crash is detected.
For a more complete look at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz S Class range, see our comprehensive review on The Car Connection