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- 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 2018 Mercedes-Benz continues to push the envelope for comfort. safety, and autonomous driving aids, while improving upon its effortless power and dignified road manners.
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the full-size flagship of the brand and the car against which other luxury vehicles are measured. This generation made its debut for the 2014 model year and for 2018 it gets an update that includes 6,500 new parts, not including three new engines. It returns just as a sedan for the time being, with V-6, V-8, and V-12 power. The coupe and cabriolet (convertible) body styles will have to wait momentarily, as will the plug-in hybrid.
We give the S-Class high ratings, noting its exceptional ride quality, cosseting interior, effortless power, elegant styling, and generous array of standard equipment and optional features. In our rating system, it scores an 8.4. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Exterior changes for 2018 are minor. They include new front and rear bumpers, a new grille with Maybach or AMG lettering for the appropriate models, and new intelligent wide-beam LED headlights. The AMG models also have a jet-wing lower front fascia with large air intakes and a rear diffuser insert and quad exhaust outlets.
Under the hood, the S-Class gets a new V-6, two new V-8s, and a carry-over V-12. The base engine is a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 in S450 models. The new S560 models feature a 463-horsepower twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8. A rowdier version of that engine is found in the AMG S63 model, where it makes 603 hp. The returning twin-turbo 6.0-liter V-12 in the S65 spins out 621 hp and 738 pound-feet of torque.
The V-6 and V-8s use a 9-speed automatic transmission, and the version in the S63 has a wet starter clutch instead of a torque converter. A 7-speed automatic is paired to the V-12. The S63 also gets the new 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system that can vary power front to rear continuously and completely.
A four-corner air-suspension with adaptive dampers is the standard suspension for the S-Class, but buyers can choose the Magic Ride Control system that switches to steel springs and active hydraulics. For 2018, it adds a curve tilting function that tilts the car 2.65 degrees inward in corners to fight gravity. This improves passengers’ comfort and makes this big car feel sportier.
Inside, the S-Class has two 12.3-inch screens, now with higher definition, one for the instrument cluster and the other for infotainment, to form one big screen. A new Energizing Comfort system utilizes the climate control, seat heaters/coolers, seat massagers, music, ambient lighting, and fragrance diffusion system to create five 10-minute programs aimed at helping the driver relax.
Not that the S-Class didn’t let occupants relax already. It has great space, comes loaded with features, and offers options that border on opulence, including massaging and heated and cooled front and rear seats, rear entertainment, a rear-seat refrigerator, and two executive rear seating packages that include airline-like tables and a right-side footrest.
On the technology front, the S-Class’ Intelligent Drive suite of Level 2 autonomous driving features is upgraded with improved cameras and radar sensors and greater use of map and GPS data. This system, which can brake, steer, and control speed for you, now slows down for tight turns and junctions, and changes lanes automatically after you activate the turn signal. Combined with a full suite of active safety features, Intelligent Drive likely makes the S-Class one of the safest cars on the road. Unfortunately, as a low-volume, high-priced luxury car, the S-Class doesn’t have the crash-test data to back up that statement.