The Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan has been substantially revised for 2018.
The flagship of the marque, the S-Class is the benchmark for all luxury sedans. It’s one of the most lavish and classy displays anywhere of wealth and exclusivity, with graceful and athletic styling, effortless power, an exceptional ride, plush interior, and sweeping standard and optional equipment.
The 2018 S-Class, the fifth year of its generation, raises that mark by some 6500 new parts, including one new V6 and two new V8 engines, along with the returning V12.
For 2018, only the sedans will be updated, among them the S450, and two Maybach uber-luxury models.
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz S450 uses a new 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, while the S560 takes a new 463-horsepower twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8.
The AMG S63 high-performance model makes an awesome 603 horsepower with its new turbo-boosted V8. The V12 in the S65 is a twin-turbo 6.0-liter makes even more horsepower: 621 hp with 738 pound-feet of torque.
A 9-speed automatic transmission comes in the V6 and V8s, while the V12 takes a 7-speed automatic, and the S63 uses a wet starter clutch instead of a torque converter. The S63 also gets a new 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive system that can transfer 100 percent of the power from rear to front wheels.
For 2018, the available Magic Ride Control suspension is improved with the ability to lean the car to the inside in corners, by as much as 2.65 degrees. This is designed to reduce centrifugal forces on the passengers and quicken handling. Changes in the cabin include higher resolution infotainment screens, and programs for the climate control system.
Autonomous driving features have been increased for 2018, as well. Intelligent Drive has improved cameras and radar sensors, and uses more GPS data. The system already can steer and brake for the driver, and now it changes lanes after the driver puts the turn signal on. We don’t really like the idea of taking the decision regarding the moment of lane-changing out of the driver’s hands. The system also slows down for tight turns and intersections, freeing the driver from thinking, another thing we don’t see being good.
Standard 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.
You can get into a Mercedes-Benz S-Class for a mere $89,900 for the rear-wheel-drive S450 with a V6, or you can pay $229,500 for the AMG S65 V12, also known as Master of the Universe.
In between are the S560 V8 for $99,900, and the AMG S63 for $147,500. The 4MATIC all-wheel drive system is $3000 more in the S450 and S560, and comes standard on the AMG S63.
Optional equipment includes things like a 24-speaker surround sound system, warm-stone massaging seats, perfume scents released into the cabin, entertainment and fridge in the rear, and two executive rear seating packages that include airline-like tables and a right-side footrest.
The Maybach models go off into Rolls-Royce territory, with the technology and features wrapped into a limo-like body that’s eight inches longer. The S560 Maybach 4MATIC is $168,600, while the S650 Maybach V12 with rear-wheel drive is $198,700.
Few of those 6500 changes are to the exterior. There’s a new grille and bumpers, and new LED headlamps that project a wide display and provide autonomous functioning. The AMG models have a low wing-like front fascia with big air intakes, and a rear diffuser with four exhaust tips.
The cabin reeks of splendor. It boasts beautiful craftsmanship that’s impressive to the eye, with fit and finish that few cars can equal.
For 2018, the two 12.3-inch screens, one for gauges and one for infotainment, are combined into one big screen, with higher resolution. A new system called Energizing Comfort can be set for five separate 10-minute programs to soothe the driver. The programs combine climate control, seat heating or cooling, seat massage, music, ambient lighting, and fragrance diffusion. Sounds perfect for a relaxing nap behind the wheel, while autonomous driving takes you to your destination.
The horizontal dash has two tiers and is glamorous in quilted leather with silver trim. The materials have high contrast, and there are a lot of shiny accents over the basic wood or leather trim, with carbon-fiber accents on the AMG models.
The front seats are superb, somewhere between supportive and plush, with big cushions and a lot of adjustment, although the ergonomics are occasionally fiddly. The rear seats are also wide and comfortable, at least the outside seats.
The COMAND connectivity system is upgraded for 2018. 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 S-Class sedan ride is impeccable, while the brakes get the heavy car stopped true and without drama. It’s not athletic. It is too big and heavy to handle like a sports sedan. The steering lacks feedback.
Air suspension with adaptive dampers is standard, while the available Magic Ride Control uses hydraulic springs. Its glassy ride comes via a camera that views the road ahead and sets the suspension for the upcoming surface. In Comfort mode, it truly feels magic.
The new S560’s twin-turbo V8 is 4.0 liters, smaller than the previous S550 with 4.7 liters, but it makes 14 more horsepower. Its 463 hp is as much as anyone needs.
The AMG S65 with a V12 making 621 horsepower is rear-wheel drive. Don’t let the horsepower fool you; it’s not as quick as the AMG S63 V8. The V12 has other virtues. And it’s mated to a seven-speed automatic, not a nine-speed. The Maybach S650 V12 makes less horsepower.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class is truly the ultimate sedan. Powerful, luxurious, taut ride and handling, built like a tank. The S560 with the 463-hp V8 seems the appropriate model to us.
Sam Moses contributed to this report, with staff reports.