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Mercedes-Benz S-Class

9/10
Overall verdict

The Top Gear car review: Mercedes-Benz S-Class

£74,480£181,055

Driving

What is it like on the road?

Mercedes-Benz S-Class front quarter

Happily, that clever adaptive cruise control we mentioned earlier does work. Well, to a degree. The thing to bear in mind is that the system isn’t watching for other cars that might be on the roundabout you’re approaching. It will slow you down to a speed where you could take the roundabout, assuming it’s not following anything that might dictate its speed and if there are no cars to give way to. But if there are, you have to bring things to a stop yourself. 

It all worked pretty well when an engineer demoed the system on country roads around one of Merc’s places in Stuttgart, but when we tried it for ourselves in the UK it wasn’t quite as effective. It’s a bit ‘last of the late brakers’, which isn’t what you want in a luxury limo. Chauffeurs are trained to look as far ahead as they humanly can, anticipating upcoming junctions and the behaviour of other motorists, because that’s how to drive smoothly.

Nonetheless, on motorways it’s great. It maintains a gap to the car ahead – which varies by speed and setting, all the way down to a stop – and keeps the car in its lane. It’ll also adjust the speed you’ve set to whatever the speed limit is, because it recognises road signs. Remember it’s long-journey driver support, not autonomous self-driving.

It goes without saying the S-Class is not an especially engaging drive when you take full control yourself. It’s all about astounding quietness and ride suppleness, and it delivers both of those in spades. Adaptive dampers tauten it where needed, but the steering has no feel – its hallmark is immense directional stability at high speeds, and thoughtful control weights that allow it to be driven exceptionally smoothly with minimal effort. There are few cars more suited to cross-continental drives or long motorway commutes than the S.

The diesel is a great engine, and is perfectly capable of getting along smartly. It’s our choice, but our inner hooligan will always prefer the S63 with its 4.0-litre V8 – an engine that feels at home in the big S as it does in any other AMG.

Of course the Maybach’s V12 is lovely too. A quarter-throttle is all you’ll ever need, even for joining motorways or emerging from busy junctions, thanks to 738lb ft of torque and 621bhp giving 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds. It’s so quiet that most of the time it may as well be electric – indeed it’s only when you really bury the throttle that you actually remember there are 12-cylinders hidden under that expansive bonnet, complete with three-pointed star reticle. 

Wildcard

How about something completely different?

Wildcard

7/10

Maserati Quattroporte

£73,830£113,760
Not as pretty or exciting as it used to be, but saying 'let's take the Maserati' will never lose its appeal.

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