2019 Mercedes-Benz S Class Review

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2019
The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
March 12, 2019

Buying tip

A new S-Class sedan is due for the 2020-2021 time frame.

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz S-Class delivers effortless power, sublime handling, scads of safety features, and the incontrovertible impression of wealth, tastefully applied.

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz S-Class doesn’t look like a yardstick, but it’s one of the most convenient measures of luxury-car credentials we know. Save your millimeters and newton-meters: We’ll take the S-Class’s savvy mix of scintillating power, form, and function.

After a 2018 model year update, the 2019 S-Class returns in sedan, coupe, and convertible form, with V-6, V-8, and V-12 power, with a plug-in hybrid still promised yet this model year.

As a group—but biased toward the S450 sedan—we give the latest Benz flagship a rating of 7.8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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Last year’s updates didn’t fundamentally alter the S-Class shape. Across all its body styles, the latest S-Class wears harmonious lines that cut a particularly good-looking outline in coupe and cabriolet form. Whether it’s the wide, slatted grille of the four-doors or the vertical ribs with an LED-lit three-pointed star on a convertible, the S-Class uses its front end to tell the world it’s arrived, and so have you. Inside the cabin, flowing shapes wrapped in quilted leather and incised wood burnish the Benz reputation for design in a new vector; it’s maybe the most British German car ever built, and that’s a compliment.

To unpack the S-Class performance puzzle, you’ll want a flowchart. Don’t want a 382-horsepower twin-turbo V-6, good for a 0-60 mph run in 5.4 seconds? Then steer toward the twin-turbo V-8 and its 463 hp, good for 0-60 mph times in the mid-four-second range. A V-12 might seem like overkill—and it’s actually slower than the V-8 AMG S-Classes—but its buttery power delivery may not be around much longer to savor, so why stop before you’ve reached its 738 pound-feet torque pinnacle? In all S-Class cars, what might be a loping ride and queasy ride quality gets damped and contained by electronically controlled shocks and air springs, except for those fitted with even more exotic hydraulic damping for pitch-perfect luxury-car ride quality. Get amped and order an AMG, and be prepared for an assault on the senses that seems silly given the S-Class’ size; we assure you, the nearly 200-mph top speeds and 0-60 mph runs of as few as 3.4 seconds are no joke.

Spend enough time in the 2019 S-Class sedan—standard or Maybach—and the focus might understandably drift toward riding shotgun or better yet, in the back seat. Ample space is just the beginning with the S-Class. Outfitted with multi-contour seats that change their grip on front passengers on winding roads, the S-Class can be fitted with an executive rear seat group with four-way power buckets, a power footrest, twin entertainment screens, and a refrigerator cabinet with custom silver champagne flutes. It’s all swathed in soft leather in cardinal red or brioche beige, with many choices among paint and trim combinations, including $12,000 two-tone Maybach paint.

No crash-test data has been published, but the S-Class has automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and adaptive cruise control. A wealth of safety systems knit together to permit the car to change lanes with just the tap of the turn signal, among other functions.

Every S-Class has twin 12.3-inch displays, leather upholstery, a fragrance dispenser, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and at least 18-inch wheels and tires. Performance cars can get 20-inch wheels and carbon-fiber trim, while Maybachs can wear that dazzling paint while they stream content to twin back-seat screens.

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2019 Mercedes-Benz S Class

Styling

The S-Class family of cars wears its flagship status on its sleeves.

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class caps a lineup of expressively shaped cars and crossover SUVs. More than any of its Benz family, the S-Class sets a styling tone, and since its 2014 redesign, the current family of coupes, convertibles, and sedans have done just that.

The S-Class wears pretty lines that somehow emphasize its status without playing up its size. The cabin? It’s a few degrees beyond spectacular.

We give it a 9 for styling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

For 2019 the S-Class family includes the cabriolet, the coupe, and the sedan body styles, with Maybachs spun off from the familiar four-doors.

In the S-Class sedan, dramatic LED lighting frames a wide grille that once was so ostentatious it was reserved for V-12 models. Now, Mercedes spreads it across the lineup, and caps it with an LED-lit three-point star, if you like. AMG versions cut more deeply toward the road with a jet-like lower fascia and big air intakes. In profile, the S-Class blends a fair amount of formality with an athletic stance and plenty of eye-catching details. In particular, today’s S-Class has subtle stampings and curves in its door panels that draw our eyes back to the rear end; former S-Class cars have looked more fussy and upright and less eager to drive.

Among the derivative models, Maybachs bear the sedan imprint, with several inches of extra roofline stitched in behind the pillar that separates the front and rear doors. Coupes have a delicate upkick toward the tail, and wear mesh or vertical ribs on the grille instead of horizontal ones. Convertibles may have the best overall appearance; the coupe’s sleek roofline disappears, and the long, low S-Class two-door’s proportions make perfect sense.

Inside, the voluptuous S-Class cockpit glows with twin 12.3-inch displays that form a band across the dash, framed by a flowing design that wraps the driver and front passenger inside a clean, gorgeously finished cocoon. It’s formal and elegant and tech-forward all at once, with the brightly lit displays set among some staggeringly pretty materials, from aluminum to colorful contrast-stitched quilted red leather to medium-toned wood incised with horizontal lines.

The S-Class incorporates many complex systems, but the interior avoids some of the pitfalls of design with those controls through its console-mounted controls. A round knob with a touch-sensitive surface takes away some of the buttons and switches that would otherwise be necessary. Steering-wheel and voice controls back up those functions, which leaves the interior design room for fancy touches such as round air vents, quilted dash stitching, even an analog clock nestled in the middle of the dash. The latest S-Class hits a new peak for German sedan design and did it with the faint whiff of British car culture.

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2019 Mercedes-Benz S Class

Performance

The 2019 S-Class cruises, hustles, charges, and scorches, depending on the model and drive mode.

The S-Class can’t defy gravity, but it surely can warp it.

From the entry-level S450 to the AMG S63, the 2019 Mercedes S-Class lineup piles on scalding acceleration to go with finely tuned big-car handling. Computerized systems play a major role, but the S-Class doesn’t deliver its performance robotically: It leaves us with all the feels.

We give it an 8 for performance, with extra points for its excellent powertrains and ride and handling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The lineup is vast, so first, a spec-sheet survey. The base 2019 S450 draws power from a marvelous twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 with 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. It’s the entry-level car, and yet Mercedes promises 0-60 mph times of 5.4 seconds. Power issues to the rear wheels through a 9-speed automatic that shifts smoothly, while the muted engine note opens into a warm ripple when the gas pedal’s matted.

It’s a silent, smooth performer with all the power you think you need. That is, until you drive the V-8 cars. For more thrust, the S560 models have a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 that makes 463 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, and are good for 0-60 mph times of 4.6 seconds (4.5 seconds with all-wheel drive, or as a coupe). The muscular engine note sounds perfectly absurd in such a one-percenter machine.

And then, there are the AMG editions. The S63 AMG dubs in a version of the twin-turbo V-8 with its dials spun to 603 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque; 0-60 mph takes just 3.4 seconds. The S65 is sheer lunacy, and likely in its final model year on the planet—it has a twin-turbo 6.0-liter V-12 that huffs out 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque, which Mercedes pegs in the 0-60 mph run at 4.1 seconds (4.2 seconds for the coupe, 4.0 seconds for the cabriolet). The V-12’s silky and outrageous, the twin-turbo V-8 a thunderclap under full throttle. Both get a 9-speed automatic with a wet-starter clutch for its ability to handle launch power better. V-12s are slower because, without standard all-wheel drive, they can’t put power down as well.

As for ride and handling, the S-Class lineup draws superlatives. On base cars, air springs at all corners and adaptive dampers work in concert with driver-selectable modes to filter out road imperfections, while never allowing the S-Class to bob or float with uncontrolled ride motion. Flip the dampers and springs into a sport mode, and it screws itself down to the road with an assured grip.

Step into more expensive models, a system dubbed Magic Body Control takes over. It’s suspended with an active hydraulic damper system that can even lean into turns slightly—like a cross-country skier—to keep the car flatter through corners while it absorbs bumps better. It doesn’t make the S-Class a canyon runner of the first order, but that’s what the new AMG GT sedan and coupe are for, anyway.

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2019 Mercedes-Benz S Class

Comfort & Quality

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz S-Class sports a beautiful interior with excellent space.

The latest Mercedes S-Class has been a benchmark since it was new for the 2014 model year. Now at the end of its model life—a new S-Class is in the works—it’s still a fabulously finished space with exemplary use of leather and wood and metal, not to mention digital displays.

We give it a 10 for comfort and quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

All versions of the S-Class come with at least 12-way power-adjustable front seats. S-Class sedans up the ante to 16-way adjustment, with heating and available cooling, plus an option for multi-contour seats that pump up and deflate their cushions to grip drivers better while cornering. Even the base seats deliver the long-distance comfort we’d expect from an expensive luxury car; they’re superb, with long and wide cushions, and plenty of range of adjustment. Upgrade them and swathe them in semi-aniline leather, with those dynamic bolsters and cooling and a heated armrest to lean on, and the driving position in the S-Class is one to be envied.

The regally outfitted back seat in the S-Class sedan and the Maybach leaves nothing on the table—the fold-out tray tables found on the exhaustive S-Class options list, we mean.

Whether it’s a standard S-Class or a longer Maybach, passenger space is excellent, and fit and finishes border on astounding. The S-Class sedans can be fitted with executive seating with four-way power bucket seats with massaging, heating, and cooling built in, and with a refrigerated compartment filled with silver champagne flutes nestled between them. Fold-out footrests and twin entertainment screens turn the back seat into a two-seat rolling movie lounge, one spritzed with faint scents from the in-car fragrance dispenser. Those fold-out tables won’t hold a real laptop, but which Maybach back-seat passenger really needs to check email that way?

The S-Class’s slight shortcoming in trunk space—it’s just 16.3 cubic feet—are overcome on most four-doors models with a fold-down rear seat. So pedestrian. Coupes and convertibles, of course, have more confined rear seats, particularly the convertible. Those hurt feelings will be soothed with the finery that surrounds passengers, everything from open-pore wood to semi-aniline leather to a system that knits climate, audio, lighting, and the fragrance dispenser together to deliver moods such as Joy or Well-Being. They’re meant to relieve stress or to help drivers stay alert.

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2019 Mercedes-Benz S Class

Safety

The S-Class never has been crash-tested.

The IIHS and the NHTSA have not crashed an S-Class in recent memory, so we can’t offer a safety rating here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The extensive safety equipment found in every 2019 Mercedes S-Class provides some reassurance. It includes rear-seat side airbags, inflatable rear seat belts, and adaptive head restraints, as well as automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitors.

Advanced safety options include night vision, a surround-view camera system, and a driver-assistance suite that weaves together cameras and sensors and satellite data to help the S-Class perform lane changes at the flip of the turn signal, helps it steer away from oncoming obstacles, and alerts drivers when they exceed the speed limit.

Outward vision in the sedans and convertible S-Class is fine, but the thick-pillared coupe has a more limited rearward view.

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2019 Mercedes-Benz S Class

Features

The extravagantly equipped 2019 S-Class drapes itself in crystal, champagne, and carbon-fiber trim.

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz S-Class lineup includes sedans, cabriolets, and coupes, from the S450 sedan to the S560 plug-in hybrid, to S63 and S65 coupes and cabriolets, to the Mercedes-Maybach sedan.

It’s an extraordinary lineup that merits an 8 here. It grabs all the extra points for standard and optional features, but it’s only a value of a very extreme kind, and its warranty coverage is competitive, but not game-changing. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The least expensive S-Class is the $92,245 Mercedes-Benz S450 sedan. It comes with Burmester surround sound, navigation, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, 18-inch wheels, 16-way power front seats, keyless ignition, soft-close doors and trunk lid, twin 12.3-inch display screens, and a cabin fragrance system. Mercedes’ older version of its infotainment system comes standard, and it’s a complex system that involves a touchpad controller, voice commands, steering-wheel controls, and a long time digesting the owner’s manual.

Options include an AMG line body kit, multi-contour front seats, cooled front seats, heated and cooled rear seats, a surround-view camera system, an executive rear seat package with folding tables, a refrigerator box between the rear seats, a head-up display, a photochromic roof, Burmester sound, and a CD player. Also available are night vision, adaptive suspension, active steering assist with safety features, and lane-change assist.

In the two-door range, we’d take the $126,945 S560 4Matic Coupe. It carries most of the sedan’s standard equipment and gets 19-inch wheels and the fabric roof, as well as a cabin-air purifier and ambient lighting. Options include 20-inch wheels and Swarovski crystal headlights.

Twist our arm and we’d drive the $254,545 AMG S65 Convertible. It gains 20-inch wheels, the Burmester 3D surround-sound system, multi-contour seats, ambient lighting, heated front armrests, wireless smartphone charging, an AMG head-up display.  Options include a carbon-fiber or night exterior package, a performance steering wheel, red brake calipers, carbon-ceramic brakes.

We’ve spent the most time recently in the $200,895 Mercedes-Maybach S650, and would pick it above any other S-Class, and not just for its exclusive leather and paint choices, which include $12,000 two-tone paint. It gets most of the S-Class luxury touches as standard, including multi-contour front seats, power rear seats with memory, four-zone automatic climate control, wireless smartphone charging, adaptive suspension, and 3D Burmester sound. Options include a rear-seat package with heated and cooled rear cupholders and folding tables, silver champagne flutes, the photochromic roof, and rear-seat wireless smartphone charging.

Mercedes offers a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty on the 2019 S-Class. Rivals meet that and include at least two years of maintenance.

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2019 Mercedes-Benz S Class

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy’s an S-Class strength, all things considered.

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class covers an exhaustive range of body styles and powertrains. Fuel economy’s consistent among them all, save for the AMGs and Maybachs.

We give it a 4 for economy. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

S450 sedans have the best EPA ratings, at 19 mpg city, 28 highway, 22 combined in rear-drive form. With AWD, the ratings are 18/28/22 mpg.

In the V-8 range, S560 rear-drive sedans come in at 17/27/21 mpg; AWD S560 sedans are the same, while V-8 Maybach sedans earn EPA ratings of 16/25/19 mpg.

V-12 Maybach sedans are rated at 13/21/16 mpg.The AMG S65 sedan’s pegged at 13/22/16 mpg.

On the coupe and convertible front, the S560 Coupe sits at 17/26/20 mpg. AMG S63 Coupes are rated at 17/27/20 mpg. The S65 Coupe comes in at 13/21/16 mpg.

Finally the S560 convertible’s rated at 17/26/20 mpg; the S63 Convertible, at 15/24/18 mpg; and the S65 Convertible, at 14/21/16 mpg.

The EPA has not yet rated the coming S560e plug-in hybrid, or confirmed Mercedes’ estimated 25-mile electric-only operating range.

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$91,250
MSRP based on S 450 Sedan
 
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7.8
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 9
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 10
Safety N/A
Features 8
Fuel Economy 4
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2019 Mercedes-Benz S Class Pricing Insights

  • 2019 S-Class is on sale
  • Unadvertised incentive gets a huge update
  • Lease: From $1,159 for 36 months
  • Financing: APR deals still not available
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