Mercedes’ 2.9-litre turbocharged diesel 400d engine is a good fit for the S-Class, proving torquey, quiet (except when working hard at revs) and real-world frugal, too (40mpg at a fast cruise). All it lacks is much in the way of alluring audible charm.
Pedal response is ever gentle and progressive, and the car’s outright performance level greater than most will regularly tap. Handling is secure, contained and very predictable, delivered through fairly light, filtered, medium-paced, easy-going steering. Although the S-Class will tolerate being hurried along, close body control and particular cornering agility don’t really feature among its dynamic strengths. Frankly, nor should they.
However, more so than the car’s size or how it rides or performs, it’ll be your reaction to the S-Class’s new ‘digitally enriched’ cockpit that will likely decide whether you’ll really get on with it or not. Between its 3D digital instruments, its busy, extra-large augmented-reality head-up display, and its looming 12.9in MBUX touchscreen infotainment system (the first two are options), the car seems to broadcast information at you in something of a distracting onslaught at first.
The 3D instrument display may be novel but it can also be a challenge to focus on, depending on what it’s actually displaying at the time. (It’s actually got two separate overlaid screens that target your left and right eyes independently.) Meanwhile, the navigation arrows that appear on the head-up display to indicate which exit you need to take at a roundabout, or which side road you’re aiming for, aren’t always as helpful as you might imagine they’d be.
Once you’ve learned to configure the car’s various displays to your preference, the effect is less full on and more intuitive; but while some of its digital display features can be useful, others certainly seem faddish and superfluous. They’re there for the wow factor, without question.