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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: 27 Apr 2022
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SPEC HIGHLIGHTS

  • SPEC

    S500L 4Matic Premium Plus Executive

  • ENGINE

    2999cc

  • BHP

    435bhp

  • 0-62

    4.9s

Let's talk about the Mercedes S500 spec

The new Range Rover is arguably the S-Class’s numero uno luxury car nemesis, even if it is a lofty SUV. More than ever, the big Brit is pushing into trad S-Class territory; having driven it last month, technology, refinement and interior quality are clearly the RR’s guiding precepts. With that and internecine strife from the EQS – whose pure-electric MO ramps up the refinement to an amazing level – the S-Class is beset on all sides. Can it keep its head?

Honestly, KW21 GYD frustrated me on an unexpectedly regular basis, but now that it has returned to its maker, boy do I miss it. Mercedes’ products are like that; I’ve owned several (still do, a mouldering W123) and lived with many more, and they get under your skin. But a 5.3m-long ultra-limo, enemy of multi-storey car parks, petrol stations and the politically correct, could have been a car too far.

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You can guess the good bits. I didn’t personally dig the cream-coloured interior, but every journey in an S500 is a capital E Event. The 3.0-litre turbo six is unobtrusively powerful and impressively efficient. I rarely stretched it, but it’ll explore the outer reaches of its rev range with surprising enthusiasm. And that largely aluminium chassis has the handling chops to go with it.

This car also has the best user-interface of the lot, the 12.8in OLED touchscreen a miracle of intuitive, ergonomically advanced technology. I’m a graphic design obsessive and the typography used here is easy to read, the illumination a visual balm. The Apple CarPlay connection was constantly on the fritz, which drove me nuts, but that apart this is where the HMI bar currently resides. And the new Range Rover, for one, can’t match it.

But it feels better made. You’d imagine the development budget on the S-Class to be virtually limitless, but all that AI, autonomous capability and the big screen seem to have diverted funds away from traditional Mercedes strongholds, such as perceived quality. The little floating panel on the door felt flimsy, and there was too much give in the interior light binnacle. The S-Class is also witness to some odd decision-making: the aero-efficient pop-out exterior door-handle, which needs the gentlest touch to trigger the mechanism, was often unpredictable. Why introduce something that makes you second-guess how you even get into a car?

Then there’s all the safety tech. This is more contentious, I know, but every sensor on the S500 seems to be in a state of permanent high anxiety. From the time the car informed me it had been driven into with medium to high severity – it was a parking bump that left barely a scratch – to the proximity radar that triggers full braking if it thinks you’re about to hit something, it’s all a bit much. If the S-Class was a bodyguard it would be dangerously quick to jump on any potential assailant.

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The software guys need to recalibrate this stuff, but Mercedes isn’t the only one finding its way towards the new automotive paradigm. Fortunately, it still knows how make a brilliant car, in the traditional sense. And this is one well worth maintaining full control over yourself.

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