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DRIVEN: Mercedes' facelifted flagship S-Class/Maybach launched in SA

2018-01-29 13:11

Charlen Raymond

Image: Supplied

Durban - One of the automotive world's best creations is undoubtedly the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The craftsmanship, attention to detail and pioneering of new technologies places it at the forefront of what is possible vehicle engineering.

For Mercedes, the S-Class has been the epitome of its model range; the torch bearer that can compete with anything and everything the automotive world can throw at it. The S-Class, with all its credentials of being a world-leader for luxury cars, has been a monumental success for the German automaker.

Since its launch, the flagship has sold in access of four million units. And buyers, before signing on the dotted line, would select a number of optional extras from a vast list of extra add-ons to make their S-Class as unique as possible. Hence the expression that no two "S-Classes are the same".

At the turn of the decade Mercedes-Benz also acquired Maybach: the ultra-luxury sedan with features that's fit for oligarchs. For 2018, the automaker maker's latest arm, Mercedes-Maybach, also came under the knife to make both it and the "standard" S-Class formidable challengers for the next phase of their respective life cycles.

Similar features

The S-Class received a number of changes over the outgoing model, none of which are insignificant in any way. In each of the headlamps are three LED strips and the lights too are LED units.

The grille at the front is larger across the range and at the back is a newly designed diffuser for improved airflow underneath the car. The interior of the S-Class is virtually identical to that of the Maybach models, with only a few comfort features separating the two cars. The Maybach models, interestingly, boast 6500 changes to the outgoing units.

Two huge, tablet-sized screens make up the instrument clusters and users can toggle the different features with the command system between the front seats. Speaking of the seats, both the S-Class and Maybach are strictly for four passengers, with the middle rear seat acting as cup holder and fridge for glasses and (drinkable) liquids, respectively.

All seats feature massage function, as well as heaters and cooling. The rear seats can recline as far back as possible for those needing to stretch-out and, thanks to the extra legroom, one does not have to worry about knocking your knees against the front seats.

Mercedes-Benz says that they will only bring the "Long" models to market, because buyers are opting away from the standard-length models in order to find something different and unique.

Advanced technology

What Mercedes-Benz has always tried to do with the S-Class, is to put it at the forefront of automotive advancements.

Then Top Gear presenter, Jeremy Clarkson emphasised this when he said that the S-Class is indicative of what technologies will filter through to mass-production cars in the coming years. And it is no different with Mercedes' latest flagship.

One of the new features is “Curve”, selectable through the car’s dynamic settings. Along with Eco, Comfort and Sport (Sport+ in AMG models) driving modes, users can add Curve as an optional extra. Some models feature this as standard, though.

What Curve does is to read the road and any imperfections there might be and compensate with lateral forces by tilting the vehicle’s body up to 2.65 degrees. This gives occupants an as stable as possible experience from within the car.

The Bluetooth system has also been upgraded and allows for two phones to be connected simultaneously. Phone calls can now be transferred between front and rear passengers. This is especially handy for businessman being chauffeured from the backseat. 

A new Concierge service can be called upon by pressing the ‘Info’ button on the overhead control panel.

If registered, the service allows users to connect to the Concierge service and ask the operator on the other side for directions to a destination, or information on cultural and sporting events happening in an area. Upon request directions can be sent to the car directly, after which it will be imported into the car’s navigation.

The S-Class and Maybach models also allow for users to park and perform driving manoeuvres via an app.

Models and engines

The S-Class and Maybach models now comprise of eight petrol models and two diesels, with Maybach covering 560 and 650 models. Mercedes-Benz also opted to forego its V6 engines, instead replacing them with in-line six-cylinder units. These being more powerful and economical than the engines they are replacing, according to Merc.

Power outputs for the S450 and S500 are 270kW/500Nm and 320kW/520Nm, respectively. These being the two petrol engines comprising six cylinders. The S560 with a V8 engine boasts with a power figure of 345kW/700Nm. The S600 and Maybach S650 both use the same V12 engine, but the Maybach has more power (463kW/1000Nm) as opposed to the S600’s 390kW/830Nm.
For the diesels there is the S350d producing 210kW/600Nm, as well as the S400d developing 250kW/700Nm. Fuel consumption is rated at 5.1 and 5.2-litres/100km, respectively.

As is customary, two AMG models are also part of the model line-up, comprising V8 and V12 models. The V12 engine in the S65 AMG is the same unit used in the Maybach S650, whereas the S63 AMG’s V8 has a meaty strike of 450kW/900Nm. Performance-wise the S63 will leap from 0-100km/h in 3.5 seconds and the S65 in 4.3sec. Both vehicles have an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h. The V12 is coupled with a seven-speed automatic gearbox, and the V8 with a nine-speed.

Driving traits

That the S-Class and Maybach models have utterly brilliant suspension is not a gimmick and Mercedes-Benz has gone to extreme lengths to make it one of the automotive world’s best. Its from the rear, however, that the experience of Mercedes’s two grandest saloons is sublime. Though it’s also rewarding from behind the steering wheel. Around town and at national speeds there's virtually no talk of road imperfections upsetting the car’s road holding and comfort, with the suspension and architecture adapting with every passing moment to deliver the best possible experience.

At high speeds, however, the vehicles displayed a fair bit of steering numbness and a delay in immediate steering input. Around sweeping bends the S-Class/Maybach has virtuattly no body roll, but at times it can feel as if the cars, given their size, are floating in and through a corner instead of gripping around it. All engines have a powerful thrust and gear changes are assured, but it is perhaps the S63 AMG that brings the entire package together.

The V12 Maybach/AMG does have the power and enough force to rip a hole in the earth, but it does not have the character of the AMG V8. The diesels and other V8 models also offer just enough of everything to warrant not being given a miss.

The revised S-Class and Maybach models have again encompassed the very best of Mercedes-Benz and positioned the car almost out of reach of for the BMW 7 Series and Audi A8. Almost. It remains one of the benchmark vehicles in the automotive world and will continue to do so, at least until the new model arrives in a few years’ time.

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