BMW 7 Se­ries vs Mercedes S-class

These nearly new lux­ury lim­ou­sines have plum­meted to just £34,000

What Car? - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy: Luc Lacey

The BMW 7 Se­ries and Mercedes-benz S-class im­merse their own­ers in lux­ury but also shed value rapidly.that’s good news if you’re buy­ing used

DIS­AS­TER: YOUR STOCK has tanked, sup­pli­ers are putting their prices up and, to top it all off, the Bank of Eng­land has raised the in­ter­est rate, so the monthly pay­ments on that mort­gage you’ve just taken out have gone through the roof. All this means the shiny new lux­ury car you promised your­self is now no longer vi­able.

But all is not lost, be­cause while you may not be able to af­ford a brand new BMW 7 Se­ries or Mercedes-benz S-class, prices of their used equiv­a­lents have fallen faster than a lift with the cable cut, bring­ing them into the fi­nan­cial grasp of a much broader group of peo­ple.

Un­be­liev­ably, the two ex­am­ples you see here have lost as much as half their orig­i­nal value in just two years. This makes them a tempt­ing al­ter­na­tive to a fac­tory-fresh ex­ec­u­tive car from the class be­low; just think how much bet­ter it would look to have one of these for­mer plu­to­crats’ runarounds on your drive.

The 730Ld and S350d SE Line L vari­ants tested here are long-wheel­base cars that al­low their rear pas­sen­gers to stretch out even more, and both have pow­er­ful 3.0-litre six-cylin­der diesel en­gines that en­able them to waft ef­fort­lessly down the road while only sip­ping fuel. Au­to­matic gear­boxes, rear-wheel drive and adap­tive air sus­pen­sion are also com­mon fea­tures. But which is bet­ter as a used buy?

DRIV­ING Per­for­mance, ride, han­dling, re ne­ment

Ride com­fort is a cru­cial fac­tor, and here the S-class has the edge. The 7 Se­ries glides over big­ger in­tru­sions, such as speed bumps, just as

serenely as its ri­val, but it tends to shimmy around a lit­tle more at low speeds, par­tic­u­larly over scruffy town roads, both­er­ing oc­cu­pants with the odd sus­pen­sion clunk. It doesn’t ride as smoothly on the mo­tor­way, ei­ther.

Our 7 Se­ries is fit­ted with the op­tional four-wheel steer­ing set-up and Ex­ec­u­tive Drive Pro, which in­cludes ac­tive anti-roll bars. The re­sult is that it cor­ners with less body lean than the stan­dard S-class. How­ever, the 7 Se­ries’ light steer­ing isn’t as sat­is­fy­ing and nat­u­ralfeel­ing as that of its ri­val, even if it’s marginally more ac­cu­rate when you’re cor­ner­ing quickly. It’s enough of a dif­fer­ence to make the S-class more re­ward­ing, not just through bends but also when in town traf­fic and ma­noeu­vring.

The 7 Se­ries gets one over the S-class in terms of per­for­mance, though, ac­cel­er­at­ing from

30-70mph in 5.9sec, com­pared with 6.8sec. And while both are ef­fort­lessly smooth and re­spon­sive when you ask for a surge of ac­cel­er­a­tion, the 7 Se­ries’ eight-speed gear­box shifts more pre­cisely and with­out the dither­ing that af­flicts the S-class’s seven-speeder when pulling out of junc­tions or onto round­abouts.

Both cars are supremely hushed, but the S-class has a smoother-sound­ing en­gine and sup­presses wind noise bet­ter, mak­ing it qui­eter at 30mph. The 7 Se­ries suf­fers from no­tice­ably less road noise at 70mph, though, so it’s a slightly qui­eter com­pan­ion on the mo­tor­way.

BE­HIND THE WHEEL

Driv­ing po­si­tion, vis­i­bil­ity, in­fo­tain­ment, qual­ity

These are the finest in­te­ri­ors you’ll find in what can only ten­ta­tively be called main­stream cars. Both have broad driv­ers’ seats that elec­tri­cally ad­just in ev­ery way you could ask for, in­clud­ing the lum­bar re­gion, side bol­sters and tilt, as well as the usual back, forth, up and down. It’s just a shame that the 7 Se­ries’ steer­ing wheel doesn’t drop low enough for some driv­ers and the seat­belt height can’t be ad­justed.

Huge, sweep­ing screens dom­i­nate both cars’ dash­boards. Both have ro­tary con­trollers for their in­fo­tain­ment and in­ter­mit­tently ef­fec­tive voice con­trol, but the 7 Se­ries’ idrive sys­tem is much eas­ier to use. If you pre­fer to keep your hands on the wheel, both also have con­trols thereon for most of the im­por­tant fea­tures.

SPACE AND PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY

Front space, rear space, seat­ing ex­i­bil­ity, boot

These ex­tended-wheel­base mod­els have long rear doors and around 10cm more rear leg room than their stan­dard coun­ter­parts. Our 7 Se­ries has the Com­fort Pack for its rear seats, which adds re­clin­ing and mas­sag­ing func­tions, a rear en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem with two 10.0in screens and an up­graded Har­man Kar­don stereo. The sculpted seats are wide, sup­port­ive and sat­is­fy­ingly squishy, and there’s masses of room – more head room than in the S-class and an equally in­dul­gent amount of leg room. Our S-class is also equipped with a sim­i­lar op­tions pack, mak­ing it just as lav­ishly com­fort­able, if slightly less spa­cious and airy.

The 7 Se­ries has the longer boot, which broad­ens to a use­fully wide area be­hind the in­trud­ing wheel arches, while the square boot in the S-class is nar­rower but has an un­der­floor well in which you could stow a bot­tle of de-icer and the chunky owner’s hand­book. Both have large boot aper­tures by saloon stan­dards, so load­ing a heavy suit­case won’t be too dif­fi­cult.

BUY­ING AND OWN­ING

Costs, equip­ment, re­li­a­bil­ity, safety and se­cu­rity

The S-class was slightly cheaper to buy new, and the same is true on the used mar­ket. A 2016 S350d SE Line L that has cov­ered around 10,000 miles could be yours for £34,000, while an equiv­a­lent 730Ld will cost around £2000 more. How­ever, the 7 Se­ries has lower ser­vic­ing costs and, go­ing by the of­fi­cial fig­ures, is slightly more fru­gal. It will also cost less in road tax, at £120 an­nu­ally com­pared with the S-class’s £155.

Stan­dard kit is pre­dictably ex­ten­sive; LED head­lights, front and rear park­ing sen­sors, a full leather in­te­rior, heated front and rear seats, adap­tive cruise con­trol, cus­tomis­able am­bi­ent light­ing, 18in al­loy wheels and the full gamut of in­fo­tain­ment func­tions – in­clud­ing sat-nav and a wi-fi hotspot – were stan­dard on both cars.

Soft-clos­ing doors, a pow­ered bootlid and rear cli­mate con­trol were op­tional on the S-class but all stan­dard on the 7 Se­ries, while it’s the in­verse

‘The 7 Se­ries has lower ser­vic­ing costs and of cially is slightly more eco­nom­i­cal’

for adap­tive head­lights. A head-up dis­play and a panoramic roof were op­tions on both, although all 7 Se­ries got an open­ing, sin­gle-panel sun­roof.

Nei­ther car has been tested by Euro NCAP, but both have front, side and cur­tain airbags. The S-class has rear side airbags, too, plus traf­fic sign recog­ni­tion and more ad­vanced ac­tive safety sys­tems. Traf­fic sign recog­ni­tion and au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing were op­tional on the 7 Se­ries.

Both cars can be had with a year left on their war­ranties and Euro­pean road­side as­sis­tance. They get sim­i­lar cover if you buy through the of­fi­cial ap­proved used schemes, although BMW guar­an­tees its cars will have a full ser­vice his­tory, whereas Mercedes doesn’t. Thatcham highly rates both cars for re­sist­ing break-ins and theft.

They should be fairly re­li­able, too. Although Mercedes fin­ished well be­low BMW in our lat­est Re­li­a­bil­ity Sur­vey (26th against 16th out of 31 brands), the S-class it­self has a good track record.

STATS, SPECS AND RAT­INGS BMW 7 Se­ries

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