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2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class

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2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Expert Review

By Matt Degen

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the flagship of the German luxury brand, and arguably the benchmark full-size sedan to which others aspire. For decades the S-Class has served as the transportation of choice for the world's wealthy, with each generation building on its reputation of impeccable quality, hushed manners and ample power. Prestige comes standard. Known mostly as a sedan, the S-Class is even more over the top in 2-door form as a massive coupe or cabriolet. Mercedes-AMG variants (reviewed separately) bring substantial performance, while those seeking extravagance on another level will get it in spades in the ultra-luxurious Maybach variants. A new V6-powered base model arrives for 2018 with a lower price, but at nearly $91,000, it's anything but cheap.

You'll Like This Car If...

You know you've arrived. If the rest of the world hasn't caught on, they surely will when they see you in a new S-Class. This flagship Mercedes is a rolling testament to monetary success. Aside from prestige, the 2018 S-Class remains a fantastic car both to drive and to be driven in.

You May Not Like This Car If...

If the S-Class' nearly 6-figure cost gives you pause, you might consider the all-new Lexus LS, Genesis G90, Acura RLX or Volvo S90, all of which can be had for far less. The S-Class' archrival BMW 7 Series also begins about $10,000 less. Also all-new is the Audi A8, which promises a higher level of self-driving capability.

How It Ranks
2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Low/wide front photo What's New for 2018

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class lineup gets a mid-cycle refresh for 2018 that includes a new V6 base model called the S 450, while S 560 models receive a new, more powerful V8. A host of active safety and driver-assistance features also come to the S-Class, bringing Level 2 autonomous-driving capabilities. All models receive interior and exterior updates, and the world-first Energizing Comfort system that aims to bring comfort, vitality and even joy to the driver via climate, fragrance and seat massage.

Driving the S-Class
2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Front angle view photo
Driving Impressions

No matter which S-Class you choose, it's like piloting prominence on wheels. The question is to what degree do you want it? Starting with the new S 450, even in...

... base form the 362-horsepower V6 has more than adequate muscle to hustle this full-size luxury sedan. The 0-60-mph mark arrives in just around five seconds, which not long ago was sports-car territory. Still, there's something natural about a V8 S-Class, and the 463-horsepower S 560 has all the scoot you'll likely ever need. Yet for those who need more -- in so many ways -- there's the V12-powered Mercedes-Maybach S 650, which drips with locomotive-like torque. Power aside, the non-AMG S-Class isn't all that lithe, and it's not for flinging about. It is at its best quietly shuffling driver and passenger about with serenity and stretching. Better yet, let it do the driving. We did just that escaping Manhattan. With the adaptive cruise and steering-assist systems on, the S-Class literally drove us up the Henry Hudson Parkway, pacing the vehicle ahead, even when it came to a complete stop, and steering as needed. As if that weren't enough, it gave a massage while doing so. Later, in higher-speed situations and along narrower roads in Connecticut, the S-Class tended to drift in lanes more than we liked, so we intervened. We're not quite at the point where the cars can replicate human drivers, but the S-Class is another step forward in that march.

ENERGIZING COMFORT CONTROL
Called a world-first feature, this system aims to refresh, relax or invigorate the driver through six programs. Select one, and the S-Class plays mood music, adjusts the climate control and in-cabin fragrance system optimal settings, and activates the seat massage. One of them even guides you through stretching exercises behind the wheel.

4-PLACE SEATING
If you're more inclined to be chauffeured in an S-Class sedan, this is the option for you. It replaces the 3-person rear bench with two individual seats with power adjustment, including a footrest for the right seat. Similar to first-class seating in a jet, each seat has a folding tray table and even heated and cooled cup holders.

2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Details
2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Dashboard, center console, gear shifter view photo Interior

Ultra-luxury sedans from Rolls-Royce and Bentley withstanding, the S-Class cabin remains one of the most opulent available. (And in Mercedes-Maybach form, it can even make a case against those fabled British land yachts.) Just about every touch point is covered in quality material made from leather, wood or metal. Even the aroma of the cabin itself is special, thanks to the standard Air Balance fragrance system with a replaceable vial of olfactory serum in the glove box. The standard 12.3-inch central display is impressive, and doubly so if you add the twin screen next to it as the instrument cluster. The 2018 S-Class sedan offers laudable rear-seat room, and even more can be had in the long-wheelbase Mercedes-Maybach, which boasts two individual rear seats. By their nature, the S-Class coupe and convertible are tighter in back but still respectable for a 4-seater. One of the few complaints we have is the lack of sliding sun visors.

Exterior
2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class photo

The S-Class receives minor exterior updates for 2018, but as a whole retains its stateliness-on-wheels motif. It's big, elegant and still relatively conservative -- not a bad thing in our eyes. Not one for huge grilles or unnecessary exterior extravagances, the S-Class' remains handsomely understated. New for 2018 are freshened bumpers, "triple-torch" headlights and LED taillights with what Mercedes calls a "stardust" effect. All models receive a new grille that was formerly reserved for V12 S-Class models. At 206.5 inches in length, you'll want to make sure the garage has been adequately prepared for this Mercedes’ arrival. At just under 200 inches, the S-Class coupe and Cabriolet are slightly smaller yet still grand for a 2-door car. Larger still is the Mercedes-Maybach, whose extended wheelbase translates to a total length of nearly 215 inches.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

In its least expensive state as the S 450, the Mercedes S-Class sedan boasts a lot of car for what is still a lot of money. Included are air suspension, heated 16-way-power front seats, leather upholstery, power trunk operation, soft-close doors, dual-zone climate control and five years of Mercedes' mbrace Connect service that lets you check on and control certain functions via your phone. Standard infotainment includes a 12.3-inch central screen, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a great-sounding Burmester audio system. A host of safety features comes standard, including lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking and a system that monitors for driver drowsiness.

Optional Equipment

From a rear-seat refrigerator to in-car Wi-Fi and massaging seats, there's barely enough room on the Internet to list the available options for an S-Class. We'll attempt to highlight some of the most relevant, such as the Driver Assistance Package that bundles a host of semi-autonomous driving features that will pace the car in front of you and even steer. Another recommendation is the Premium Package that bundles surround-view camera, ventilated and massaging front seats, hands-free trunk opening, power rear sun blinds and parking assistant. Other options range from heated steering wheel and armrests to sporty AMG-line styling.

Under the Hood
2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Engine photo

Three engines are available for the 2018 S-Class, not including the AMG performance models (reviewed separately). Starting with the new S 450 is a twin-turbo V6 that comes standard in rear-wheel-drive (RWD) form or optional all-wheel drive (AWD), which Mercedes calls 4Matic. S 560 models receive a new V8, a twin-turbo 4.0 that replaces the previous 4.7-liter V8. Those, too, can be had in RWD or AWD form. A V12 engine remains available in the Mercedes-Maybach 650, which is rear-drive only. No diesels are in the offering, but a new plug-in hybrid S-Class is in the works. That model, the S 560e is set to go on sale in mid-2019.

3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 (S 450)
362 horsepower @ 5,500-6,000 rpm
369 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/28 mpg (RWD), 18/28 mpg (AWD)

4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 (Mercedes-Benz S 560 and Mercedes-Maybach S 560)
463 horsepower @ 5,250-5,500 rpm
516 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/27 mpg (AWD, S 560), 16/25 mpg (AWD Mercedes-Maybach S 560)

6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 (Mercedes-Maybach S 650)
621 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
738 lb-ft of torque @ 2,300-4,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: N/A

With the introduction of the new S 450, owning a Mercedes S-Class just got a little less expensive but by no means easy. With a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just under $91,000, the S-Class' starting price remains farther out of reach than the starting prices of rivals such as the BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS and Jaguar XJ. Costs climb significantly as you climb trims and add options. The V8-powered S 560, for example, starts around $100,000, while an S-Class Coupe is upward of $120,000 and an S-Class Cabriolet will set you back over $130,000. Then there are the ultra-luxurious Mercedes-Maybach models, which start around $170,000 for an S 560 sedan and nearly $200,000 for the V12-powered Mercedes-Maybach S 650. Whichever model you're thinking of, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Mercedes. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class' resale value is expected to be fair, but trail the higher residuals of the Lexus LS and Porsche Panamera.

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