- Forceful, smooth powertrains
- A true first-class seating experience
- Attention to the finest details
- Available all-wheel drive
- More safety features than ever
- Steering lacks feedback
- Hybrid drives heavy
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class lineup is more diverse than it's ever been and is still the benchmark by which all full-size luxury cars should be measured.
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is no longer the flagship of the German automaker's lineup; it's a complex set of flagships, with coupe, cabriolet (convertible), and sedan body styles, rear- all-wheel drive, high-performance AMG versions, ultra-luxury Maybachs, and even an S550e Plug-In Hybrid.
We rate the the S-Class very highly. It scores a 9.0, earning points for ultimate ride quality and comfort, effortless power, a wide variety of standard and optional features, and elegant styling inside and out. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
For 2017, the S-Class adds two new Mercedes-Maybach models, the S650 Cabriolet and the extended-wheelbase S550 4Matic. It also upgrades to a 9-speed automatic transmission in S550 models, adds a new Magic Sky Control sunroof option, and gets the mbrace2 Connect package as standard equipment.
Although not everyone will pick the same model, or the same build, the S-Class remains the one to get when you value technology, engineering, and some of the most advanced active safety and occupant protection in the world. It is one of the automotive world's most lavish, hand-crafted displays of wealth and "bespoke" exclusivity.
Styling and performance
The S-Class sedan wears its lines with grace, but the coupe is the real stunner, flaunting a striking profile and a unique roofline compared to the sedan. Details are familiar but bolder, with arching character lines that look crisper, and a tauter, more horizontal look to the rear styling. In front, the S-Class Coupe gets details that are much like those of the sedans, with a more upright, broad-set grille, angular full-LED headlamps (which can host 47 Swarovski crystals), and large air intakes.
Inside, all body styles are in sync, though they're not identical. We'd say it's the same design in the coupe and cabriolet, only mapped to a slimmer form. In all cases, there is a clean, twin-tier horizontal look adorned with high-contrast materials, round vents, and plenty of brightwork and accents.
The S550 models have a twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V-8 engine, teamed to a 9-speed automatic with paddle shift controls and a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive (dubbed 4Matic) for sedans, or all-wheel-drive only for coupes. These models make 449 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. This is the epitome of a luxury-flagship powertrain, an effortless performer, in tandem with the standard air suspension.
One of the best—among the S-Class' many features—is Magic Ride Control. It uses a stereo camera that predicts the road surface ahead, giving it adaptive control over the ride quality in a way that works so well (provided it's in Comfort mode) that it feels rather, well, magical.
The S63 AMG models get a larger, 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8, making 577 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque (and all-wheel drive)—and the quickest 0-60 mph acceleration in the lineup, at 3.9 seconds—while the rear-wheel drive S65 AMGs, and the Maybach S650, have a twin-turbo V-12 making 621 hp and 738 lb-ft. The S600 models have a 523-hp V-12.
The S-Class Coupe in particular emphasizes driving enjoyment, though its luxury-first nature dissuades you from sports car-style shenanigans.
The Mercedes-Maybach models take off in a dramatically different direction. They bring an opulent look aiming at Rolls-Royce, push all of the technology and feature buttons at once, and add 7.9 inches in total length for a truly limousine-like cabin.
Meanwhile, the S550e Plug-In Hybrid offers a fresh take on the S-Class family, to please those who might want to impress their dinner guests with all-electric motoring, if for short distances. The S550 will go for 12 miles in all-electric mode, and with an 85-kw electric motor system packaged with the transmission, its powertrain makes a combined 436 hp and it can dash to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds. Or in "normal" driving, it'll return 26 mpg combined.
The primary gasoline version in the lineup, the S550, scores 18 mpg city, 26 highway, 21 combined, according to the EPA. Add 4Matic all-wheel drive and the score drops just slightly to 16/25/20 mpg for the sedan; the S550 4Matic Coupe rates 17/25/20 mpg. The AMGs and V-12s come in at 16-18 mpg in the combined cycle.
Interior, safety, and features
It takes a real cynic to find fault with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class' passenger comforts. The ergonomics are occasionally fiddly, yet you'll find superb front seats, easy access for those in back, and a fillip of first-class accoutrements. If anything, the finishes used in the S-Class are more beautifully crafted than ever. The tiny knobs that control its round vents aren't as sensually pleasing as the chrome pulls in a Bentley, but the quilted leather dash and silver-toned trim are as glamorous as anything Mercedes has ever made.
From blind spots to surround-views, there are camera and/or radar sensors for everything, it seems. The adaptive cruise control can steer its way along in stop-and-go traffic, or order a stop from a brisk pace when it senses a pedestrian or an animal in the road. Don't expect the S-Class to be tested by either of the U.S. safety agencies, but do expect these models to have some of the best real-world records for protection, as it's always been.
The whole Mercedes lineup has become less and less clinical. Instead, it's become very plush. The S-Class' pillowed, scented, remote-controlled, app-enabled, silver-graced cabin is its most sensually appealing ever. Every cubic inch is filled with systems to nurture passengers, and it's optionally fitted with reclining rear seats, airline-style work trays, and dual 12.3-inch high-resolution screens for the driver and the car's infotainment systems. The seats offer a warm-stone massage mode; Burmester sound systems are a pricey but achingly gorgeous upgrade.
For those who would rather be driven, the Executive Rear Seat Package Plus option for sedan models is as close as you'll come to the front of the plane while you're riding in the back of the car.
The S-Class Cabriolet features an excellent three-layer soft top, a wondrously complex climate-control system, and the much-loved Airscarf system, which wafts just the right amount of warm air to your neck, allowing you to enjoy chilly yet beautiful spring or fall (or winter) days. And yes, even the Cabriolet can be equipped with all-wheel drive.