The name’s a long one, but the heart of it - the Mercedes S-Class - is a simple tale of the ultimate German executive saloon, which stretches back to 1954, and the first Sonderklasse, the W180.
Mercedes’ aim was simply to make the best car in the world. The first version, the Ponton, had a monocoque construction and individual heating controls for the driver and passenger, no less. The first recognisable S-Class appeared in 1972, with the introduction of ABS, too.
These days, the S-Class still outlines its nearest rivals, the BMW 7 Series and Audi A8, in terms of a pure luxury specification (there’s a good argument to be made for BMW still having the better dynamics and Audi the better tech).
Our test S-Class was the “L” version – i.e. the limousine, and arrived in AMG-Line specificaiton, which is not the full AMG tuning beans but some performance-bred styling touches. 450 denotes the powertrain – a 3.0-litre, twin-turbo in-line six-cylinder engine together with a mild hybrid system – and shows it sits below the megatron S63 AMG.
This is the S-Class’ major strength. Our test car had individual screens, remote controls and Bluetooth headphones in the rear, as well as pillows on the head rests, individually reclining rear seats and footrests which rise at the touch of a button for an almost flat-out lying position.
It also featured Mercedes’ new “Energizing Control”. The car’s various comfort systems (heating, ventilation, massage, lighting and music) talk to each other “to enable a specific wellness set-up” to suit the mood of the occupants, which sounds like a day trip to a spa, especially when you can specify hot versions of the seat massages. Yes please.
There’s also Mercedes’ fabulous multicolour LED mood lighting strips all round the car which you can adjust via the central screen to a multitude of different tones and shades. It’ll keep the kids quiet, if nothing else.
It is, of course, sublime, so as not to ruffle the rear occupants. The L version is a long, heavy beast but spirited driving is not the point when you have executives in the back trying to send emails.
The 3.0-litre engine whisks the occupants to 62mph in 5.1 seconds, via 367 horsepower and 500Nm (370lb ft) of torque. It’s not the sort of acceleration that shoves you in the back, but, combined with Mercedes’ sublime air suspension, it takes you to your destination in Rolls-Royce style comfort and with astounding ease. Under such circumstances, bold acceleration would be deeply unnecessary and perhaps a little vulgar.
The mild hybrid, called EQ Boost, constitutes a 48v generator and a lithium-ion battery, and recovers energy lost under braking to recharge the system. When the driver lifts off the throttle, the engine is capable of shutting down completely. It’s a small gesture towards fuel saving but every little helps, and we achieved about 30mpg which isn’t bad at all.
There’s an understated understanding about man and S-Class. It has remained quietly at the top of the C-suite tree for decades now; see a black S-Class turning slowly into your street, with privacy glass and that emblem pricking the air at the front of the long bonnet, and the spine tingles with unspent power. The S-Class has had an illustrious history of political owners, both good and not so good, but it remains, if you will, the Washington DC of the car world, broking deals, sealing status and forever in search of the ultimate power lunch. We can’t see that crown slipping any time soon.