Those of you who have followed my previous blogs during the motor sport season will know that I explore the areas that the average spectator or man in the street might be interested in, but cannot access, and this article is no different.
I have driven Mercedes cars now for around eight years and have just taken delivery of my fourth, moving from a C-class to an E-class. I am under no illusion that I am at the bargain basement end of the Mercedes range, but nonetheless the service and customer care I have received has been of the highest order. Recently when my car was in for service and I was offered an S350 Bluetec AMG Line Executive for a couple of days, I jumped at the chance. It’s not every day that you get to drive a car that costs more than a small house and one that is designed more for the comfort and convenience of the passengers than the driver.
The S-class is top of the Mercedes range, the last stop before Maybach. You need a car, but do you need an S-class? An S-class is a lifestyle choice. It can also be a statement but if you can afford an S-class you don’t need to make a statement. You have arrived. All of this was spinning around in my head as I approached my courtesy car.
I settled into the sumptuous leather seats which wouldn’t look out of place in a luxury furniture showroom. Despite the amazing comfort, the seats offer the support expected of a race seat. Surveying the cabin was daunting, it was like sitting on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. But as the ‘kid on Christmas morning’ the feeling began to fade. I started to see similarities with my first C-class. The positioning of switches and controls all felt very familiar, there was almost a sense of déjà vu, although there are a lot more switches and controls in the S-class. And the move from analogue to digital means that some of them aren’t so obvious and can only be found buried deep in menus, and revealed in the instrument display.
The options list runs for pages and pages, all of which add to the driving pleasure of this amazing car, making it one of the safest places I have ever been.
As I summoned the courage to start this piece of automotive art and engineering, I pushed the ‘push to start’ button and the 3.5l diesel woke from its slumber. Engaging drive, the car started to move almost imperceptibly and quietly as though floating on air, the airmatic suspension working with silky precision.
The steering was perfectly weighted and accurate, the balance of this car, in my view, is perfect with just a hint of over steer. Just how a well behaved rear-wheel drive car should be. Going round a tight slip road onto a fast flowing dual carriageway the car was perfectly balanced slotting easily into the traffic flow. All the drama apparently was going on under the bonnet and within the electronic circuits and systems, things like Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Collision Mitigation, Traffic Sign Assist, the list goes on!
This car handles the same at low speed as it does at high speed. The steering feels just the same, smooth yet responsive. The suspension is like a magic carpet and the sound level in the cabin remains the same, serene and quiet. This car is so well tuned that you could almost forget to steer or brake expecting it to be done for you.
This is a big car, five metres long almost two metres wide, and weighing in at almost 2.5 tonnes, but it drives like a C-class and accelerates into good-bye licence territory remarkably quickly and easily. The brakes are reassuringly more than equal to the acceleration.
Fuel economy was remarkably good, a round trip commute of 100 miles with a mixture of roads, motorways and traffic queues returned a respectable 40mpg. Pottering around town, the consumption was never worse than 30mpg.
This car is a great place to be, comfort and efficiency all rolled into one. The quality of the finishes are spot on, the stitching of the leather is perfect, the machining of the aluminium is precision engineering at its best.
Sitting here, the journey ends too soon, everything works as it should and everything is where it should be, as any Mercedes owner will know.
Is this car better than my previous C-class cars or my current E-class? Definitely, loads better. It’s like driving a high performance sports car whilst playing on your X-Box, sitting in your favourite armchair wearing noise cancelling earphones.
Is it worth the price tag? You get a lot of car for your money, you get a lot of quality for your money, you get a lot of attention to detail and a lot of ergonomic engineering. The S-class is the gift that just keeps giving, the feel-good factor of this car is immense.
Are there any downsides to this car? On a practical note, it is a big car so multi-story car parks and supermarkets are a nightmare, but I guess if you own an S-class you wouldn’t visit such places! For me the biggest downside to this car was getting out at the end of the journey. Giving it back at the end was like leaving your favourite all-inclusive 5-star holiday resort.
Thanks to Tim Irons at Inchcape Mercedes Derby, for giving me the chance to experience such an amazing vehicle.
Written by: John Mountney