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Review: 2018 Mercedes Benz S560

Driven July 2017

Review: 2018 Mercedes Benz S560

Ever since the new E-Class was introduced to us earlier this year, there have been several questions about the importance of the S-Class. Yes, the long-wheelbase version of the E350d that comes with the three-pointed star does do plenty, and it does pretty well too. However, it isn’t by accident that it has always been the S-Class and not one of the smaller pretenders that lays claim to the title of ‘best car in the world’. And, as luck has it, just as we were questioning its relevance, Mercedes has gone ahead and given us a taste of a properly upgraded version of the S-Class and the list of changes is a pretty lengthy one. Six-thousand five hundred parts long to be precise. And it isn’t just skin deep, there is a whole lot that has changed on the inside and under the hood too.

This isn’t a usual nip and tuck job, yes, the designers have chipped in with redesigned front and rear bumpers and the AMGs get further more scooped out versions with carbon fibre construction and diffusers, but there aren’t any staggering changes to the exterior design of the car. It carries over the imposing front grille and the visual mass that a long-wheelbase S-Class possesses, however, it does get redesigned headlamps. To avoid further confusion with the C, E and S looking more similar than ever in design and proportion, they have decided to make the day-time running lamps distinctive. Now, the C gets a single brow, the E – a double and, yes, you guessed it, the S gets a triple brow. However, it is the rest of the car that has changed much.

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There aren’t too many changes on the inside, but the dash does get a perforated sort of leather finish, which looks more like the Maybach’s now and the steering wheel has been reworked too. You get machined aluminium buttons on the steering to control various functions with the left side dedicated to the cruise control. Both panels of buttons get touch pads too. The humongous screen spans more than half the length of the dash and can be customised in various ways to suit your convenience. The stack of buttons on the centre console remains the same and there is still no touch functionality directly on the screen. It does recognise Andriod auto and Apple CarPlay when you connect your smartphone via USB. More interestingly, the bank of buttons that sit behind the steering and allow for autonomous driving has a wider range of functions now. But more about that later.

The other big change in the updated S-Class is under the hood. Three new engines are now available now with one diesel and two petrols to choose from. More interestingly, the six-cylinder motors are now straight six’s for both the petrol and diesel and roughly 3-litres each while the V8 is a 4-litre unit – all of them featuring turbocharging. I had the chance to sample the 2925cc, in-line six diesel that will power the S400d and the 3982cc, V8 that will power the S560.

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First things first, the 3-litre diesel that is likely to be the popular option in India will be available in two states of tune for the S350d and S400d and will make 278bhp and 330bhp respectively. The short drive that I did manage on the 400d introduced me to the incredible refinement characteristics of this new motor. With 700Nm of torque at hand and nine-ratios in the gearbox, the S-Class moves effortlessly with power flowing seamlessly. Despite making this current engine more powerful they have managed to make it more efficient too, with a host of technologies in play to reduce friction, heat loss and recover more energy while braking. Even when you choose to put the drivetrain in ‘Sport’ and put your foot down, the S400d drops a few gears and shoots forward with Mercedes claiming that 100kph is possible in just over five seconds.

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We, however, are likely to be offered the S350d which offers a slightly more modest 600Nm of torque and is claimed to hit 100kph in six seconds. It was the S560 that I had a chance to sample extensively though and while it is perfectly gentlemanly at a cruise it needs only a tiny bit of provocation to bare its 456 horses with a bit of a snarly top-end to match it. Forced induction through a bi-turbo set up sees this 4-litre engine make 700Nm of torque which combines with a 9-speed gearbox to propel it to 100kph in under five seconds. However, the more mind boggling number comes from the AMG tuned version of the same engine that you get with the S63 now. 595bhp and 900Nm of torque is what the hooligans at their performance division manage to squeeze out of the same engine. Combine that with a new 4Matic system and a tweaked gearbox and the S63 is good to have a showdown with 100kph in 3.5 seconds. Ahem. Yes, you read that right.

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Get past the mind bending numbers of the S-Class and there is even more on offer. The autonomous driving technologies that I spoke about earlier have an extended functionality now. There is the usual lane departure warning and blind-spot warning and a gentle bit of steering assist, but engage all of these functions with cruise control and you can almost be a passenger in the drivers seat. You can choose the distance you would like to maintain to the car in front and let the cruise control pick up the speed limit on the particular stretch of road and adjust accordingly. Moreover, it will not only slow down with traffic, but also come to an absolute complete halt when required and if the you are stationary for less than 30 seconds, it will also follow traffic once the car in front starts moving. The system will also combine information from the maps to determine what the appropriate cornering speed for the next turn should be. In fact, that too changes with the mode that you have selected to drive in – slower in ‘Comfort’ and slightly quicker in ‘Sport’.

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If you need to make a lane change – indicate – and the S-Class will find a suitable gap and execute it. Add to this front seats that will adjust bolster support automatically every time you go into a corner and a new ‘Enerergizing Comfort’ functionality to make driving as stress free as possible in the current day. While we have seen massage functions earlier, Energizing Comfort goes a step further and combines that with music and temperature control in the seat to give you a warm or a cold massage. You could, of course, choose not to have the standard playlist and carry on listening to your own music.

In fact, this new car probably has too many things to take your mind off the driving. It is quite a challenge to let the car take over and trust it to do everything properly (you still do need to watch for pedestrians walking across the road), but once you begin to trust the systems, it feels incredibly easy. There is more that you can do and tend to pay less attention to the road. The scenery and in some cases, the cellphone, may become too much of a distraction and I am not quite sure how good that will be, especially given that the steering assist is happy to function even if you have just one hand on the steering wheel.

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You could always take control back and do things yourself, after all there are some cracking engines under the hood that make these cars even better to drive than before. Or you could just hand it all over to your chauffeur and lounge in the reclining lounge style seat in the back. Either way, this S-Class makes a great case for itself and no, the E, as good as it may be, is not a replacement for the S with all of its wizardry thrown in. How much of it is made available on our shores remains to be seen, but the ‘best car in the world’ sure packs in new tricks.

Verdict: Loads of autonomous driving aids and new engines make this a proper upgrade.

Specifications:
LxWxH: 5255mm X 1899mm X 1491mm
Wheelbase: 3165mm (LWB)
Fuel tank: 70 litres; Boot space: 510 litres (max)

S350d 4MATIC
2925cc, in-line 6-cyl, turbo-diesel; 282bhp, 600Nm; AWD, 9A

S400d 4MATIC
2925cc, in-line 6-cyl, turbo-diesel; 335bhp, 700Nm; AWD 9A

S560 4MATIC
3982cc, V8, turbo-petrol; 463bhp, 700Nm; AWD 9A



Debabrata Sarkar

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