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Mercedes-Benz S-Class review: Still a class above?

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has always been the gold standard of luxury limousines, but as rivals try to catch up, can a facelift keep it on top of the game?

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MERCEDES-BENZ S 450 L

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MERCEDES-BENZ S 450 L

BT_20180309_BENZ9402A_3342739.jpg
MERCEDES-BENZ S 450 L

Singapore

IF you want to show others that you've made it, Singapore-style, you can do two things: Wear a Rolex or drive a Mercedes-Benz.

The watch would undoubtedly be a Datejust, and the car, an S-Class luxury limousine.

It would take a lot more space than we have here to explain the whys and hows of it, but the S-Class has become unshakably ingrained as a symbol of having made it big in the world.

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That accounts for its popularity among older businessmen, but unlike the Rolex, the S-Class has evolved considerably to keep pace with the times, as this latest update shows.

The latest sixth-generation S-Class debuted here in 2013 and was facelifted last year. Traditionally, most Singaporean buyers have opted for the model with the smallest petrol engine and price tag, but the sole conventional petrol model until now was the S 400, powered by a 333hp, 3.0-litre V6 engine.

With this facelift, Mercedes gives buyers more choice by introducing two petrol variants: an entry-level S 320 L, and a more powerful S 450 L. Both cars feature the same 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 engine with power outputs of 272hp and 367hp, respectively.

The volume seller will no doubt be the S 320 L, priced at S$418,888 with COE. While the S 450 L driven here is the more expensive car, it offers a good compromise: Buyers who want a little more oomph no longer need to opt for a more costly V8 engine.

On the outside, it's business as usual, as far as auto nip-tucks go, with new look headlights and a different lower front section under the grille, featuring a square motif and chrome styling.

The cabin's more lounge-like than ever. As a long-wheelbase luxury limousine, there's enough space to stretch out your legs in the back, while the new interior surfaces of satin chrome and open-pore wood are lovely touches and nice to look at.

There's no doubt it's a cabin meant for the era of smart devices: Updates include a wireless charging cradle for smartphones and lighting zones whose colour and brightness can be customised.

The widescreen glass cockpit with sharp, responsive graphics is retained - consisting of two 12.3-inch display screens - and is still the centrepiece of the driver's view.

But unlike a smartphone, Mercedes' Comand infotainment control scheme (using a touch pad and rotary dial) isn't as intuitive to use and is still menu-dense.

That aside, the S-Class has always been a car whose main purpose is to make you feel better than everyone else on the road, and it still achieves that with imperious ease and regularity, no matter whether you're sitting behind the wheel or behind the driver.

The 367hp V6 engine and new nine-speed gearbox are so smooth that they seem to simply imbue the car with forward motion, while the air suspension eases away all kinds of road imperfections.

If a driver fancies a little more speed, that's also executed with deceptive ease.

The S-Class is the type of vehicle that makes a 200km/h autobahn commute completely unintimidating with its whisper-silent cabin. Singapore's lower speed limits seem hardly a strain, and even if you crack on and corner hard, the S 450 squeals its tyres a little and gets on with it.

Whatever the pace, it's clear that the S 450 L continues the S-Class tradition of imbuing you with the imperious feeling of never needing to rush.

Even if the crush of the commute does get to you, Mercedes trumpets a new onboard feature that's supposed to help assuage stress.

Called Energizing Control, the new feature uses the onboard lighting, sound system, climate control, massage seats (if opted for) and fragrance dispenser to create certain moods, such as Vitality and Freshness. It can even lead you through a few in-seat exercises, presumably to loosen up any sore muscles.

A car helping you to chill out sounds downright bizarre on paper, but somehow the S-Class' lounge-like atmosphere makes this work, and it complements the historical mission of an S-Class, which is to get you to your destination with minimal fuss.

So much for history, though. This new S-Class might make you feel better on arrival than at departure.

MERCEDES-BENZ S 450 L

Engine 2,996cc, V6, twin-turbo
Power 367bhp at 5500-6000rpm
Torque 500Nm at 2000-4000rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
Top Speed 250km/h
0-100km/h 5.4 seconds
Fuel efficiency 8.2L/100km
Price S$468,888 with COE
Agent Cycle & Carriage
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