The S-Class is famous for being a tech leader in the car industry, as well as a core model for Mercedes. It’s used as a test bed for the brand, as features filter down into lesser models over the years.
To stop the S-Class from falling behind, Mercedes has updated it with new equipment and an updated look. We first drove the more powerful S 400 d in Europe back in July, but now we’ve got the entry-level diesel in the UK.
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A new set of bumpers, lights and a fresh grille are the main exterior changes that help the car to look a little newer, but there’s nothing revolutionary about those differences. The main difference with this new S-Class in terms of engineering is its straight-six diesel engine, which replaces the V6 in the previous 350 d model.
While the old engine was smooth and powerful, this new unit is an even better fit. It’s extremely quiet and there’s only a faint rattle at idle. In fact, you’ll sometimes think the stop-start system has kicked in, even when the engine is still running. It’s not totally silent as the revs rise, but it’s still a great fit and feels suitably luxurious.
There’s plenty of power too; with 282bhp and 600Nm of torque (the latter available from just 1,200rpm), the S 350d is a genuinely fast car. It was built for motorway cruising, and the torquey engine means overtakes are never stressful or drawn-out. The nine-speed automatic gearbox shifts smoothly, so even when it does need to kick down, there’s little hesitation.
It’s a fantastic powertrain, even as the entry-level model in the range – it’s hard to see why you’d want to shell out the extra for the S 400 d (due in 2018), or an additional £10,000 for the S 500 petrol – especially with the diesel’s claimed 52.3mpg fuel economy. Still, as a flagship model, saving money won’t be the main reason to buy this car.
A range of updated tech adds to the car’s appeal, too. The Active Distance Assist Distronic (£1,695) automatic cruise control system can use sat-nav data to look far ahead and prepare for obstacles such as toll booths. It’s also able to use ‘car-to-x’ functionality to avoid traffic jams reported by other cars. It’s clever, but something already done by the likes of Google Maps, which are also now available on the car via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality.