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Long-term review

Mercedes-Benz S-Class S500 4Matic - long-term review

£110,325 /£110,325 as tested / £1,841pcm
Published: 17 Mar 2022
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SPEC HIGHLIGHTS

  • SPEC

    S500L 4Matic Premium Plus Executive

  • ENGINE

    2999cc

  • BHP

    435bhp

  • 0-62

    4.9s

Reflections on four months with the Mercedes S-Class

Elon Musk and I go our separate ways on many things, but I’m with him when it comes to AI as a potential agent of the apocalypse. And it’s not just because I watched Terminator: Salvation the other night (the one with Christian Bale).

Of course, he’s recently announced that he’s developing a humanoid robot, dubbed the Tesla Bot, so maybe he’s changed his mind. Anyway, the fact is I just don’t get on with a lot of the tech that now dominates/enriches our lives, and four months living with the S-Class hasn’t really persuaded me. 

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Not least because the stuff this car does so well is all the old-school car stuff. Around 80 per cent of S-Classes sold in the UK are the long wheelbase version, ergo most of them are used for ferrying important – and I use the word advisedly – people about.

Chinese owners tend to give their chauffeurs the weekend off and drive themselves, so they’ll know how good a driving tool this car is. As previously noted, it’s 5.3m long and it weighs just over two tonnes, yet it’s so agile it’s easy to forget how big it is until you drive a normal-sized car again, although it’s worth noting that most of the larger EVs are considerably heavier than the S-Class. 

So it’s magnificent to drive. But some of the tech here drives me nuts. See if you can spot a theme: Traffic Stop Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Evasive Steering Assist… Actually, the intervention on the last two is less intrusive than on some other cars, but even so.

Does the whole interior need to flash red when you inadvertently cross the white lines? And the emergency braking when an obstacle is spied is borderline terrifying, too. Maybe that one time out of 30 when it saves you from stuffing it on the motorway is justification enough. 

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There’s also facial recognition to monitor driver drowsiness, which triggers one of the on-board well-being packages (this happened to me when the S500 decided my reaction to a 4am two-junction closure on the M25 was a bit… intemperate). It’s surely only a matter of time before cars start grassing us up to the police, or booking errant drivers into the nearest Premier Inn and enforcing the required number of hours’ sleep.

In other news, the S-Class and I visited my friend Jonathan Hackford recently, owner of the original Lotus Esprit TG borrowed a while ago as part of our huge Bond cars celebration.

Jonathan is a man of exceptionally good automotive taste and his Esprit keeps company in the garage with an Essex-liveried Esprit Turbo, a Fiat 130 Coupe, Porsche 928, and early Jaguar XJ-S. I suspect he has a thing for the Seventies, and a guided tour of Swiss crazy man Franco Sbarro’s HQ during a family holiday in the early Eighties has definitely left its mark.

The Fiat also happens to be one of my favourite car designs of all time, and I’m pleased to say it drives just as well. On its tall tyres and tiny wheels it even rivals the Mercedes for ride comfort. Progress, huh. What say you, Elon?

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