The Mercedes-Benz S-Class needs no introduction.
For decades it has been the go-to model for those that seek the absolute best in luxury and technology, with the German manufacturer leading the race in creating the model revered by billionaires, dictators and diplomats alike.
This is technically the seventh-generation (W223) Mercedes-Benz S-Class but in reality, the model has its lineage dating back to the W180 from 1954, making this the 12th generation and undoubtedly the best.
In saying that, the S-Class has a reputation of bringing new technologies to market that then filter down the rest of the Mercedes-Benz range, but the fact that this generation of S-Class is not fully electric says a lot.
One could argue that the upcoming Mercedes-Benz EQS might be taking some of the shine of the old boy, but it takes a few minutes inside the S-Class to realise it’s still one of the nicest and most luxurious cars money can buy.
Buying an S-Class is a very considered decision. Firstly, you have to not want one of many excellent Mercedes-Benz SUVs that have a higher ride point and easier access to get in and out. You then need to decide if you’re going to drive yourself or have a chauffeur (for the long wheel base tested here).
If we look at brands like Rolls-Royce, Australia has one of the highest self-driving customer bases in the world, so you are really entering a super-niche market for the long-wheel base model that is – without doubt – best experienced from the back seat.
From the outside the S-Class has never been an imposing design like a Rolls or Bentley, but the new-generation model does tend to go out of its way to play down its significance, with a very curvy shape that cannot be mistaken for anything but the latest and greatest Mercedes-Benz.
Our initial thoughts were that we would have loved a slightly different rear-light design to give it a ‘happier’ overall appearance, but it grew on us pretty quickly.
To test out the new Mercedes-Benz S580L, we came to Sydney for a roughly six-hour round trip down to and back from the Bathurst 12 hour race, which Mercedes-AMG coincidentally dominated.
Mercedes-Benz has moved to an agency model where its vehicle pricing is set. So the prices below are a full reflection of the vehicle’s cost including luxury car tax regardless of which ‘dealer’ or ‘agent’ you go to.
In other words, there is no haggling but there is also no possibility of paying more than somebody else.
2022 Mercedes-Benz S-Class pricing
- Mercedes-Benz S450 4Matic: $244,700
- Mercedes-Benz S450L 4Matic: $269,300
- Mercedes-Benz S580L 4Matic: $333,100
- Mercedes-Maybach S680 4Matic: $565,800
As you can see, jumping up from the base S450 (review here) to the L long-wheelbase costs another $24,600 and for that you get an extra 110mm of wheelbase which goes almost directly to the rear-wheels for a more luxurious rear seat experience.
The main difference between the S450L and S580L is the addition of the V8 engine over the six-cylinder unit. Do you need? No. Is it nice to have? Absolutely.
The S-Class is the best Mercedes has to offer in terms of luxury interiors but perhaps falls a little short of that mega wow-factor you get from the upcoming EQS with its super gigantic screen.
The long-wheelbase S-Class is best enjoyed from the rear seats, where the noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) transmitted from the road surface in to the cabin is absolutely minimal. The rear seats are so quiet you can easily fall asleep in there with heavy traffic going on outside.
With or without the optional exclusive package, the LWB S-Class is made for long distance drives on the autobahn and it would, in our opinion, be wasted spending the majority of its life doing short distance trips around suburban Australia.
The front seats are also super supportive (the headrests are unreal) and despite driving it for more than six hours, we felt as fresh as when we started thanks to numerous messaging and heating functions.
We did find the seat controls on the side (for all seats) a little annoying as they don’t actually move like the switches of old, but rather feel your touch and pressure for adjustment. They are a little finicky to use but again, you will likely setup your favourite position, put it in memory and never have to worry about it again.
The infotainment system is rather exhaustive in its options and capability and while the wireless Apple CarPlay integration works well, we found the native system to be almost as good and better integrated. The menus are easy to navigate and utilising the system’s many functions is also logical.
It’s worth noting though that on our trip back, one of our cars had a tech meltdown and refused to start the infotainment system until we did a shut down and restart, but we suspect it was a one-off issue.
The steering wheel is a delight to hold and the array of buttons and controls allow you to get away with doing most of what you will ever need to do without ever reaching for the central screen.
The head-up display is without fail the best in any car we have ever used, but the augmented reality navigation system that projects arrows and guides onto the road (using the HUD) can be a little confusing at first. However, once you get the hang of it, brings a far safer experience to using navigation as the driver never has to take their eyes off the road.
In terms of interior trim colours, we really should advise against a black interior given the chauffeur car vibes it brings. With nine options available, our favourite is Siena Brown in either Nappa or Exclusive Nappa but we have no doubt it will look great in regular leather as well. Otherwise, the Macchiato Beige is also a more pleasant option than the regular black
Overall, the S580’s interior is an amazing place to be and for the roughly $330,000 cost, it’s hard to think of another car that can match it for its technology, elegance and craftsmanship.
In fact, we drove the Maybach S680 ($600,000 on-road) at the same time and we can tell you the S580 is almost as good, minus a few features that you can definitely live without for the cost difference.
The Mercedes-Benz S580L’s party piece is the tried and tested 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 that has been the staple of AMG and high-end models since 2015, now coupled to an ‘EQ Boost’ mild-hybrid system.
These next few years will see it go down as the last ever V8 engine from Mercedes-Benz, so best we enjoy it while we can.
The M176 V8 has plenty of applications in other Mercedes and AMG models, but in the S580L it develops 370kW of power and 700Nm of torque, driven via a nine-speed ‘9G-TRONIC’ automatic through all four wheels.
The electric motors add 15kW of power on top and help propel the big Merc from 0-100km/h in 4.4 seconds (quicker than the V12 Maybach S680L).
Mercedes-Benz claims fuel economy figures of 10.8L/100km but if you spend a lot of time in heavy traffic on inner city driving with a preference for using your right foot liberally, expect that figure to be closer to 14L/100km.
There is no hiding the S-Class is a big car, but add the LWB option and it’s even longer (1503mm in height, 5290mm in length, 1921mm in width with a 3216mm wheelbase) but it definitely doesn’t feel its size.
We feel Mercedes-Benz should have unequivocally made the rear-wheel steering system standard across all LWB versions because with 10 degrees of movement, the turning circle is actually less than its smallest car, the A-Class.
With that option ticked, you can imagine getting in and out of car parks is not going to be an issue and the S-Class feels much more at home in inner-city environments than you would otherwise think possible.
The ride quality and general driveability of the S580 is top-notch.
The suspension is excellent at minimising the poor quality of roads and if you tick the pricey E-Active Body system it becomes even better at adjusting to changing surfaces with an ability to read the conditions at around 1000 times per second and adjusting the damping and level control per wheel.
The V8 engine is punchy and has a heap of usable torque when in motion. There is never a moment where you might feel the need for more power or torque.
We did, however, occasionally find its take off to be a bit more unsettled than expected with the transmission perhaps thinking it’s in an AMG rather than an S-Class, which is nice to see but also slightly out of character.
On that same token, this would have to be the quietest application of the monstrous V8 engine Mercedes-Benz has ever pulled off. You can barely hear the engine roar even under full acceleration, which we suppose is a good and bad thing depending on how you think about it. Perhaps we will have to wait for the S63 for that full experience.
Despite not being a sporty model per say, we did find the active front seat bolsters a great addition that help keep you settled when going around corners at pace.
On long highway drives one can easily set the Mercedes up with the right speed- and lane-keep parameters and almost stop paying a great deal of attention to the road ahead (not recommended of course), such is the car’s ability to keep its distance from nearby vehicles and its environment.
It brings a Tesla-esque style capacity to detect nearby vehicles with a very accurate portrayal of what the external environment at large displayed in the instrument cluster.
Overall the driving dynamics of the S580 are very much in-line with expectations. A big car at heart that feels anything but.
The S-Class carries an incredible array of features from the base model S450 all the way to the insane Maybach S680. For a good breakdown of what that entails check out our S-Class specification guide here.
In terms of what you get for jumping from the S450L to the S580L apart from the V8 engine, the list is not as big as you may think given the $65,000 difference.
- Digital Light headlights with Adaptive high-beam Assist
- Nappa leather upholstery
- Cylinder shut-off (to save fuel when coasting)
- MBUX Augmented Reality Head-Up Display
- Active Multi-contour Seat package
- Heat and noise insulating glass
- Infrared reflecting laminated glass for the front windshield
Other features include:
- 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster
- 12.8-inch MBUX touchscreen infotainment
- Wireless smartphone mirroring with wireless phone charging,
- power-closing doors,
- Adaptive air suspension,
- 15-speaker Burmester sound system
You will still need to pay more for the optional (but incredible) 31-speaker Burmester 4D surround sound system. The E-Active Body Control active air suspension (with 48-volt anti-roll stabilisation) is also a very expensive $16,900 option that we feel should be standard.
Rear axle steering is $2700 and a must. Tyre pressure monitoring is $850 and should absolutely be standard on a car like this. Some other options that should be standard should be the Exclusive Package ($7600) that includes upgraded Nappa leather, powered rear-seats, sun protection package and the handles and boot in chrome.
The new Mercedes-Benz S-Class hasn’t been tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP but it would be fair to say it’s likely one of the safest car money can buy right now, given there is not a single Mercedes-Benz vehicle for sale right now that doesn’t have the highest five-star safety rating, the S-Class should be no different when it gets tested.
With 12 airbags in the long wheelbase thanks to its standard rear-seat, forward-facing airbags (10 in the standard) and autonomous emergency braking with extended stop/go restart, blind-spot monitoring, evasive steering assist and active lane-change assist with pre-safe plus, the big S-Class is jam-packed with features.
So much so that in Europe, its light system is allowed to spotlight pedestrians or animals with light graphics for extra notability while having the capacity to drive itself up to 60km/h without human intervention. Two features that we hope will come to Australia in due course.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class is backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Maintenance is required every 12 months or 25,000km – whichever comes first.
Several pre-paid service plans are available:
- Three years: $3200
- Four years: $4300
- Five years: $6200
If you want the absolute best in luxury motoring in sedan form, the S-Class is hard to go past unless you’re willing to spend two or three times more with the likes of Rolls Royce or Bentley.
Nonetheless, we do feel that the upcoming Mercedes-Benz EQS will also pose a very credible alternative to the S-Class if extra rear-leg room isn’t a huge part of the purchasing criteria. Regardless of how you go about it, or which S-Class you have your eyes on, it’s almost impossible to feel disappointed by what is on offer.
There is no doubt this will be the last S-Class with the option of V8 or V12 and if that means as much to you as it means to us, that alone is reason enough to buy one.
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