Self-driven leader

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents -

SUCH is the com­plex­ity of the range and op­tions avail­able on this facelifted S-class, that MercedesBenz claims no two cars built will be iden­ti­cal. When the up­dated ver­sion of the clas­sic Ger­man lux­ury sedan goes on sale in Aus­tralia in De­cem­ber, it will of­fer six sep­a­rate en­gines across a smor­gas­bord of mod­els: S350d; S400d LWB; S450 LWB; S560; S560 LWB; AMG S63 LWB and, fi­nally, the S650 May­bach – the only V12 to sur­vive a cull of mod­els at the very top end of the sedan range.

Un­der­neath the fa­mil­iar ex­te­rior ap­pear­ance, re­freshed by a prom­i­nent chrome grille, mod­i­fied bumpers, and new LED head­lights and tail-light graph­ics, is a sub­tly up­dated ver­sion of the pre­vi­ous S-class’s MRA plat­form shared with the smaller C- and E-classes, with unique S-class struc­tural com­po­nents at the rear.

While the S-class gets Air Body Con­trol air sus­pen­sion as stan­dard, un­like the three­cham­ber sys­tem un­veiled in the lat­est E-class, the S-class main­tains the sim­pler sin­gle cham­ber air sus­pen­sion set-up of the old model. In­evitably, the S-class’ elec­tri­cal ar­chi­tec­ture has been sig­nif­i­cantly up­graded, and pre­dictably, it now sup­ports the widest range of driver as­sis­tance sys­tems of any Mercedes.

We drove a va­ri­ety of en­gines at the in­ter­na­tional launch, but with the 400d LWB – boast­ing a 3165mm wheel­base, 130mm more than the stan­dard-bod­ied ver­sion – ex­pected to be the lo­cal best seller, we fo­cused on its new 2.9-litre twin-turbo in­line six-cylin­der diesel that re­places the old 3.0-litre V6. All S-class mod­els sold in Aus­tralia are reardrive, as the 4Matic in this test car is lim­ited to left-hand drive set­ups (at least un­til the next-gen model).

The new pow­er­plant de­liv­ers 250kw (up 10 per­cent) be­tween 3600-4400rpm and a mighty 700Nm across a range from 12003200rpm. It fea­tures a stepped bowl com­bus­tion process, mul­ti­chan­nel ex­haust gas re­cir­cu­la­tion sys­tem, and, for the first time, vari­able valve lift con­trol.

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