FIRST DRIVE New engine and facelift make brilliant limo even better
THE Mercedes S-class is famous for being a tech leader in the car industry, as well as a core model for the brand. It’s used as a pioneer for new systems, which then filter into lesser models over the years.
To stop the S-class from falling behind, Mercedes has updated it with new kit and a fresh look. We drove the powerful S 400 d back in July (Issue 1,482), but now we’ve got the cheaper S 350 d in the UK.
A new set of bumpers, lights and grille are the main exterior changes. Under the bonnet, the new straight-six turbodiesel engine replaces the V6 unit in the previous 350 d.
The old motor was powerful and smooth, but this new one is an even better fit. It’s extremely quiet – with only a faint rattle at idle. In fact, you’ll sometimes think the stop/start system has kicked in even when the engine is running. It’s not totally silent as the revs rise, but it isn’t too far off.
There’s plenty of power, too; with 282bhp and 600Nm of torque (the latter available from just 1,200rpm), the S 350d is a fast car. It was built for motorway cruising, and that torquey delivery means overtakes are never stressful. The nine-speed automatic gearbox shifts smoothly, so even when it does need to kick down, there’s little hesitation. It’s hard to see why you’d want to shell out the extra cash for the S 400 d (due in 2018), or an additional £10,000 for the S 500 petrol – especially with the diesel’s claimed 52.3mpg fuel economy.
Even on bumpy British roads, the big Mercedes is one of the most comfortable ways to travel as well. It’s neither floaty nor bouncy, and the suspension soaks up bumps as if they weren’t there.
Better still, the sublime comfort doesn’t take a huge toll on the driving experience. The S 350 d’s accurate steering and suspension that’s surprisingly resistant to body roll combine to make fast, flowing roads good fun. It’s no sports car, but it does have some driver appeal.
Here, we’re testing a long-wheelbase model, and unsurprisingly there is a vast amount of rear legroom. The seats are also comfortable and build quality is superb.
In terms of tech, the new Active Distance Assist Distronic (£1,695) automatic cruise control system can use sat-nav data to prepare for obstacles such as toll booths. It’s also able to use ‘car-to-x’ functionality to avoid jams reported by other vehicles. It’s clever, but the tech is already offered by the likes of Google Maps, available via Android Auto and Apple Carplay.