FIRST DRIVE New en­gine and facelift make bril­liant limo even bet­ter

Auto Express - - New Cars - S Sam Nay­lor Sam Sam_­nay­lor@den­ @Sam­nay­lor_ae

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.


New en­gine is both punchy and al­most com­pletely silent

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