The latest S-Class is the most technologically advanced luxury car in the world. Pictures: Denis Droppa.
The latest S-Class is the most technologically advanced luxury car in the world. Pictures: Denis Droppa.
The twin-turbocharged V12 delivers 390kW and 830Nm with a silky punch.
The twin-turbocharged V12 delivers 390kW and 830Nm with a silky punch.
Interior mood lighting can be set to different colours and brightness.
Interior mood lighting can be set to different colours and brightness.
You can stretch out your legs in the back like in a business-class seat on a plane.
You can stretch out your legs in the back like in a business-class seat on a plane.

ROAD TEST:

Mercedes-Benz S600L

Johannesburg - The S600L is pretty near the top of the Mercedes-Benz family tree. Only the S-Class AMG versions are more powerful, and only the upcoming S-Class Maybach version will have more legroom.

While the 20cm extra length to be offered by the Maybach will no doubt please status-obsessed plutocrats who believe bigger is better, there’s little need for more legroom than that found in this long-wheelbase S600, which already measures 13cm longer than the standard-wheelbase S-Class. In the S600L you can stretch out your legs in the back like in a business-class seat on a plane – the only thing the seats don’t do is fold flat into a bed.

Rear passengers are given the royal treatment with comfy pillows on the headrests, fold-out tray tables, a DVD entertainment system, heated and cooled cupholders, and lazyboy-style reclining seats that can give you a massage.

Five rear-seat variants (static bench seat or individual seats with 37-degree adjustment) are available for the long-wheelbase S600. But whilst chauffeur-driven tycoons are the main focus of attention, the driver and front passenger are similarly well cared for with plush seats that, like the rear chairs, can be heated, cooled, and set to several different massage programmes.

It’s all presented in an environment of self-indulgence to suit a magnate or a monarch, and plush leather is matched with rich-looking wood and metal veneers. Opulence and high tech are skillfully blended, for instance in the way that the finely-finished metallic front tweeters twirl out of the doors when you switch on the sound system.

PLEASANT TO DRIVE

The S600L’s disarmingly pleasant to drive. The mammoth sedan has a shrinking effect when you’re behind the wheel, with the responses and demeanor of a lighter car. It wafts along with a sense of gravitas and solidity, but without the big, clumsy feel usually associated with such a big piece of hardware.

Air suspension with Magic Body Control makes the big Benz glide along like a swan but take corners at a very swift pace too.

It always has a calm and unruffled grace even when it’s being thrown through a fast curve at speedtrap-triggering speeds.

With its air suspension it’s like driving a Sealy Posturepedic. Magic Body Control is the amazing new bump-flattening technology in the new-generation Mercedes S-Class. It works by scanning the road ahead for bumps and pre-setting the adjustable air suspension accordingly. Watch a video of how it works here.

With maximum torque available from just 1 900rpm, the big limousine zooms off with effortless and graceful V12 power. The twin-turbocharged six-litre displays no trace of hesitation as it unleashes 390kW and 830Nm with a silky punch though its seven-speed auto gearbox.

FAST, YET EERILY SILENT

This Merc stretches its graceful V12 legs in almost eerie silence, and the car’s a cocoon of soothing reverie in the madness of busy traffic.

It’s fast too. At sea level Mercedes claims a 4.6 second 0-100km/h sprint time for the S600L, and our test car dispatched it in 5.3 seconds at our Gauteng-altitude test. An impressive burst of athleticism for a car weighing 2.2 tons.

Our test car averaged around 16-17 litres per 100km, quite a lot higher than the claimed 11.1, but a turbocharged V12 can be forgiven for being a tad thirsty.

The S600L is a technological marvel that comes standard with most of the high-tech safety that’s sometimes only offered optionally in lesser S-Class models such as an LED Intelligent Light System, a head-up display, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, BAS Plus with Cross-Traffic Assist, Distronic Plus with Steer Control and Stop&Go Pilot, Pre-Safe Brake and Pre-Safe Plus.

Translated, it has the ability to keep a following distance and stay in its lane without driver intervention, and also activates the brakes when errant cars and pedestrians enter its path.

It’s as close as a car comes to driving itself.

Also standard is night vision, a “third eye” which displays objects and pedestrians on the digital instrument panel long before you’d spot them with the naked eye. The only glitch with this system is that your eyes have to keep flicking down an uncomfortably long distance to the instrument panel to see it; night vision would be handier as a head-up display on the windscreen just below your line of sight.

One of my favourite features of this car isn’t one of its most high-tech, namely the ability of the doors to stop in any open position, rather than in preselected slots where the doors can get bashed. They “suck” closed too when you’ve only partially shut them.

VERDICT

The Mercedes S600L competes for the honour of the world’s best luxury car. Yes, there are sportier AMG versions of the S-Class, but for the ultimate in cocooned luxury this here’s your Benz, Mr Tycoon.

It can’t match a Rolls-Royce or a Bentley as a status symbol, but in terms of luxury and technology it’s right at the top of the heap.

And for just under R2.2-million it’s a relative bargain too compared to the British behemoths. -Star Motoring

FACTS

Mercedes-Benz S600L

Engine: 6-litre, V12 turbopetrol

Gearbox: Seven-speed automatic

Power: 390kW @ 4900 - 5300rpm

Torque: 830Nm @ 1900 - 4000rpm

0-100km/h (claimed): 4.6 seconds

0-100km/h (Gauteng test): 5.3 seconds

Top speed (claimed): 250km/h

Consumption (claimed): 11.3 litres per 100km

Price: R2 184 774

Warranty: Two-year/unlimited km

Maintenance plan: Six-year/100 000km

ALTERNATIVES

Audi A8 L 6.3 W12 quattro (368kW/625Nm) - R2 018 000

BMW 760Li (400kW/750Nm) - R2 029 276

Jaguar XJ L 5.0 SC (375kW/625Nm) - R2 145 990

Maserati Quattroporte GTS (390kW/710Nm) - R2 244 000