The elegant and powerful Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the benchmark for full-size luxury cars. It has some of the most advanced safety technologies on earth and is one of the most lavish and classy displays anywhere of wealth and exclusivity. It was last redesigned for 2014.
The 2017 S-Class brings two new models, the Mercedes-Benz S650 Cabriolet and the long-wheelbase S550 4MATIC. The 2017 Mercedes-Benz S550 gets a paddle-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission, and all 2017 S-Class models get the mbrace2 Connect infotainment package.
The S550 uses a twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 making 449 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel drive or 4MATIC all-wheel drive is available for sedans, 4MATIC comes on all S550 coupes. Air suspension is standard.
The S63 AMG models use a 5.5-liter twin turbo V8 making 577 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque with 4MATIC. They will accelerate from zero to sixty in 3.9 seconds. The rear-wheel drive S65 AMG, and the Maybach S650 use a twin-turbo V12 making 621 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque. The S600 models have a 523-horsepower V12.
The Mercedes-Maybach models go off into Rolls-Royce territory, with all the technology and features wrapped into a limo-like body that’s eight inches longer.
Standard S-Class safety equipment includes front, front side, rear side and curtain airbags; inflatable rear seat belts; adaptive brake lights; and adaptive head restraints. Optional safety equipment includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with following and steering ability, approaching autonomous driving functions in limited environments, blind-spot monitors, a surround-view camera system, and night vision with obstacle and pedestrian detection.
Fuel mileage for the popular S550 sedan is an EPA-estimated 18/26 miles per gallon City/Highway, or 21 mpg Combined, not bad for a car this heavy and with this much power. The 4MATIC Coupe drops one mpg. The AMG and V12 models get about 16 to 18 combined.
There is an S550e Plug-In Hybrid model that gets an EPA-rated 26 mpg combined. It can go 12 miles on just electric power, using a an 8.7-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack in the trunk, giving it a rating of 58 MPGe. It’s powered by a turbocharged V6 with an 85-kw electric motor tied to the transmission, making a combined 436 horsepower. It accelerates from zero to sixty in 5.2 seconds.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class includes sedans, coupes, and convertibles in several models from high-performance AMGs to uber luxury Maybachs. There’s the S550 sedan, S550 4MATIC sedan and Coupe, S550e Plug-In Hybrid sedan, S600 sedan, long-wheelbase Maybach S550 4MATIC sedan, Maybach S600 sedan, S63 AMG 4MATIC sedan, Coupe and Cabriolet; and S65 AMG sedan, Coupe and Cabriolet.
Standard equipment includes everything. Optional equipment includes things like a 24-speaker surround sound system, warm-stone massaging seats, perfume scents released into the cabin, a rear-seat refrigerator, and a neck heater for the convertible.
The sedan is graceful but the coupe with its arching roofline is stunning. The lines are crisp, taut and horizontal. The sedan’s grille is and broad and the LED headlamps angular, while the Coupe’s nose is slimmer and lower. The sedan looks more athletic, while the Coupe’s rear end is more tucked.
The dash is horizontal and has two tiers, glamorous in quilted leather with silver trim. The materials have high contrast, and there is a lot of shiny accents over the basic wood or leather trim, with carbon-fiber accents on the AMG models. The cabin boasts beautiful craftsmanship that’s impressive to the eye. It reeks of splendor. The fit and finish are on a level few cars can equal.
Yet the function is simple, with dual 12.3-inch hi-resolution screens for the driver and passenger that extend across the instrument panel, to control the car’s many operations and infotainment choices. The S-Class uses the latest COMAND connectivity system, called mbrace2. It comes with five years of service and includes Facebook, Pandora, voice-to-text email and text messages, a mobile app, non-streaming apps, web services, roadside connection, and diagnostics data.
The climate control system is wondrously complex.
The front seats are superb, with big cushions and a lot of adjustment, although the ergonomics are occasionally fiddly. The seats are something between plush and supportive.
The sedan’s rear seats are also wide and comfortable, at least the outside seats. The Coupe’s tapering roofline takes up some space, but there’s still good shoulder, elbow and hip room, at least when the middle seat isn’t occupied. The standard rear seat splits and folds and passes through to the trunk, which is roomy enough.
Bucket seats in the rear are available, or also, for the sedan, an Executive Rear Seat Package Plus option that includes reclining seats with footrests, a central console with airplane-like laptop trays, a hot-stone massage function, and heated armrests: the ultimate Lazy Boy. With the rear video option it’s all there.
The Cabriolet’s excellent soft top has three layers, and the Airscarf system blows sweet hot air on your neck.
The S-Class is athletic but it isn’t a sports sedan, and it’s too big and heavy to handle like one. The steering lacks driver feedback.
The S550’s twin-turbo 4.7-liter V8 is as strong as most anyone needs, but the S63 AMG and S65 AMG are kings of the universe of luxury power. The S63 AMG coupe and sedan use a fierce twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8, and a firmer tuned suspension that makes the big S-Class come alive in ways uncommon to a car this size. They carve corners with grace and pace. Zero to sixty in 3.9 seconds!
Or maybe the real master of the universe is the S65 AMG, just because it’s a V12 and makes 621 horsepower. But it’s not quite as quick because it’s only rear-wheel drive. And the 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 takes a seven-speed automatic, not the new nine-speed. The S650 Cabriolet gets this powertrain. Clearly a movie star’s car: a Mercedes V12 convertible with 621 horsepower.
There’s another version of the V12 making a tamer 523 horsepower, used in the Maybach S600.
The ride is impeccable, and the brakes get the heavy car stopped true and without drama.
That smooth-as-glass ride is produced Magic Ride Control, using a stereo camera to look at the road and set the suspension for the upcoming surface. In Comfort mode, it feels like magic.
Master of the Universe, the ultimate sedan, coupe, or convertible, the big, powerful, luxurious, expensive and built-like-a-tank Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Magic ride, and it actually handles. Supercar acceleration from a big twin-turbo V8 or V12.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.