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PG

Merc S class 350 diesel (aka "the whale")

This was the like for like replacement from the insurers while the XF was in the bodyshop. My initial thoughts in the original thread were -

ďSo what has turned up is a 63 reg Black S class Merc (a 350 bluetec diesel). I have to go to London for two days this morning, so that'll be an interesting journey. Compared to the XF it feels vast. My 20 miles done in it so far has confirmed it vastness; that the Command rotary menu driven malarky will take some getting used to (especially as I keep trying to change it into park and drive as that is where the Jag rotary gearknob is); that the steering wheel is a hideous thing to hold; it has headlights that turn night into day; gathers momentum quite impressively; has comfy seats; and some very odd blue mood lighting inside at night (perhaps the designer was a fan of 70's disco?).  

I'll take some photos of "the whale" (as Mrs PG has christened it) over the next few days and do a fuller write up in due course.Ē

Followed by a few thoughts on the way to London -

ď It is impossible to avoid parking like a cunt. In the motorway services today, it overhung the back of the parking space by about 3 feet when on the white line at the front. Bonkers.

An ideal limo service car and you could probably get a couple of bodies in the boot if required.

But it's sheer enormity and almost "fuck off out of the my way, you plebs" size is weirdly alluring. But on the downside, I was so busy clearing the outside lane of the M40, that I didn't see the camera van on the bridge until very late.  They may have got me. Damn, damn, damn. ď [update - no ticket so far, so my late lunge behind a lorry could have worked].

The view for the plebs youíre moving out of the way:


Did my views change over the two weeks and nigh on 800 miles I spent with it? No and yes.

It remains vast. There does not appear to be a short wheel base S class any more. The only other car Iíve been in with as much rear legroom was a Skoda Superb taxi. But the S class is rather better appointed and finished.

In terms of spec and price, it appeared pretty standard. The only option fitted was the rear window blind (electric of course), which option also gives you nice black headlining that makes the interior feel a bit more cosy.  

Specs and prices




The comfort setting on the suspension (the car was running on 18ís) felt too soft and almost wallowy. It needed to be left in sport all the time (the only other choice). Fine on 18ís, but I reckon on bigger wheels it would have been a bit too crashy.  But on my rare B road trips in the car, it did go roud corners surprisingly well in sport mode, as long as you had the guts to hang on in there.

The gearbox in comfort is quite slow witted (itís a Merc 7G Tronic). And the paddles are pretty lethargic to react as well if you need them. But in sport, it holds gears and revs way too long, which does not really suit the engine. So the gearbox stayed in comfort. I could not find a way of reprogramming individual things via the command menus, so canít help feeling that an intermediate ďnormalĒ setting might help for both the suspension and the gearbox.

The engine has a good turn of speed. 0-62 says 6.8 secs in the spec sheets. So quick enough. If delivered in a remote and quite distant manner.

The steering wheel really is not a nice design. The smiley chrome effect bottom half looks very cheap and nasty. A decent round leather wheel would make a big difference.

The seats are very comfortable though. Full marks for that, though I'm really not sure if it is real leather or man made leather (as it were) in base spec. Of course the wood is a you'd expect. Plasticky.

The stereo is good. Not as good as the XF's, but that'd got the 400W B&W, whereas this is the standard fare and not the hugely expensive optional one. Connection to iPod and phone was easy-peasy.

Initial conclusion after two days then? If youíve got north of £60k to spend and the answer is an S class diesel saloon, then youíre maybe asking the wrong question. Unless youíre a limo firm.

I did get to grips with the command rotary controller and menus. And my view now is that the perfect thing is to be able to use both a touch screen and rotary set up. For flicking through iPod tracks; changing radio stations, adjusting the car settings (the disco blue interior lights were changed to a way more subtle red once I found that menu) and such things, the rotary, or the numerical keypad that sits above it under a cover, were excellent. And the car has separate heating controls from the Command so thatís good too. But for using the sat nav, it was crap. Scrolling through every letter of the alphabet every time and having to find the spot on the map to click to change things was about 5 x more time consuming than a simple tap on the screen. And itís favourite trick, if you clicked wrong, was to freeze the arrow where you were. Very useful. So, my challenge to manufacturers is to design workable rotary and touch screen systems. I think Mazdaís new systems is like that.

But back to the car in general. On day three, my views started to soften. On my trip home from London (after a day spent with my grieving Dad and seeing the undertakers for my motherís funeral) on a Friday evening, the traffic was awful.  The M25 was a hardly moving car park; the M40 was blocked. I knew all this from the sat nav activated live streamed traffic service. I took a detour off the M40 and went via A roads, joining back onto the M42. In the end, my journey home took six hours. And apart from a twenty minute wee and coffee stop, I had just kept going, music on the iPod connection, climate control at 21C and had not ever felt tired, stressed or uncomfortable. And the LED headlights really are amazing. Night does become almost day. Easily the best dipped headlights Iíve ever used. After them, the XF ones feel like two candles. But the Merc auto-full beam software is slow and I switched it off after getting flashed a few times as the full beam stayed on too long. And all this at over 40 mpg average, with a huge range from the big tank. And itís vastness is weirdly alluring and formidable, much like a Panzer tank might be.  

I did a couple of other longer journeys and this was where you started to really respect this car. As a tool for covering vast distances, or for spending long periods in Ė as a driver or passenger Ė it is peerless. The best car Iíve probably ever driven for that. Just so long as you donít want to ever feel emotionally involved in your car, or that you ďloveĒ your car. I canít imagine anybody ever gets out of an S class and gives it a backwards glance (unless itís to check just how far they are overhanging that parking space they tried to get into). Yet when you come back to it and have a six hour journey to do, you know it will deliver and keep you safe and healthy. I guess for the execs who buy these Ė as a driver, for a driver, or as a passenger Ė that is probably the most important thing.  

Surprise and delight? Well, non-delight first. There are no cupholders in the front for driver or passenger. WTF? Probably to stop the chauffeur getting coffee on his uniform. But delight Ė you can get a bottle of wine in the cubby box between the front seats and the aircon has an outlet in there. Perfect for the rear passengers' tipples.

And so the much hyped question. Is this really the best saloon car in the world? In this spec, I guess not. It is technically excellent; exceptionally efficient. It will get the job done. But youíd never love it, even with a huge engine in front. It would be just too much like a limo with a bloody great engine in the front.

As a driver, it you want a diesel Merc saloon, I suspect the E/CLS 350 Bluetec does 99% of the above (the CLS with more style).  As a petrol head, the CLS / E63 AMG is probably the way to go. Me? Iíd like to try some Jag XJís now.....

But if you want to do thousands of motorway miles, donít really ďgetĒ cars and want to be safe, yes, get an S class diesel. And then just relax and drive.  











PR

Nice write-up. Sounds pretty much exactly as you'd expect. Not exciting but almost certainly completely fit for purpose. Not bad for a loan car, either. It isn't every day you get the opportunity to try out something like this!

Do I see from your pics that, in its short life, it has somehow managed to lose its fuel flap cover?

Otherwise, the most startling piece of your text was the bit where you had a twenty minute wee...
PG

PR wrote:
Do I see from your pics that, in its short life, it has somehow managed to lose its fuel flap cover?


It arrived like that. The cover was in the boot. I duly noted this on the hire paperwork before giving it back to the delivery driver.

PR wrote:
Otherwise, the most startling piece of your text was the bit where you had a twenty minute wee...
It was big coffee.
TreVoR

In terms of the gearbox, sport is the normal setting and it is adaptive to driving style. Comfort uses second gear to set off and also uses the higher of the two reverse gears while keeping the revs low and deliberately slurring the changes.  I use comfort on snow only.

The E's suspension on comfort is equally as wallowy. Useful in town on poor surfaces but annoys when the car is moving quicker. I tend to have it in Sport 1 which stops the blamange but keeps the ride nice and smooth. †Mine has a Sport 2 which firms it up even more.
Martin

Not a bad replacement car at all.  Really interesting write up, not a car most of us would want as their only car, but it sounds like it very good at what it's designed to do.  Some of the interior detailing is horrible though, chief culprit being that steering wheel.

I like big cars and would be keen to try a nearly new 7 series and XJ if I decided to buy my own car, but the S Class and A8 don't really appeal.
Big Blue

Trust me, Martin, when you sit in a A8 the appeal becomes obvious.

Back to the OP. I really like S-klassen (pretentious - moi?) and understand the km-crushing-in-remote-luxury ethos. It's not a car you buy to chuck about so a second car is always advised. I'm sure most S-class owner-drivers have a small fun car in the household. I know my exBIL had a new sports bike every six months and ran a Shakespeare speedboat to get his speed kicks.
Frank Bullitt

I think the interior is fairly grim to be honest - they don't appeal to me at all, unlike every model up to the last one which do.
Martin

Big Blue wrote:
Trust me, Martin, when you sit in a A8 the appeal becomes obvious.


I'm not a fan of the current model (colleague has an Executive SE so I have been in one), but I did like the previous two, especially the S8s.
Giant

There's something about it that's very 'Jumbo Rover 75' in those photos, might just be te colour and excessive chrome. The wheels look terribly undersized too.
PhilD

Giant wrote:
There's something about it that's very 'Jumbo Rover 75' in those photos, might just be te colour and excessive chrome. The wheels look terribly undersized too.


I think they look good in the metal (if not in those pics) and not 75 at all. Jumbo is right though! The styling is pretty clever as they kind of look sleek in isolation but parked up next to a previous gen S they dwarf them. Interiors of those I've seen look very plush and the design is ok, not great but not awful.
Roadrunner

TreVoR wrote:
In terms of the gearbox, sport is the normal setting and it is adaptive to driving style. Comfort uses second gear to set off and also uses the higher of the two reverse gears while keeping the revs low and deliberately slurring the changes. †I use comfort on snow only.

The E's suspension on comfort is equally as wallowy. Useful in town on poor surfaces but annoys when the car is moving quicker. I tend to have it in Sport 1 which stops the blamange but keeps the ride nice and smooth. †Mine has a Sport 2 which firms it up even more.


This all sounds very familiar, although I do use the comfort setting on the transmission more than you, since I do slip into effortless wafty mode when driving long distances. The comfort setting on the suspension reminds me of my Silver Shadow. Perfect for around town, but like a boat when on a twisty B-road. Sport 1 is, for me, the perfect compromise and gives a Jaguar-like ride and handling balance.
Bob Sacamano

Looks like a Korean copy of an S Class.
gooner

I'll take the XJ instead please.

I'm really not a fan of the styling of the latest Mercs. The new SL looks dreadful, and the facelift of the E class looks wrong. The angular pre facelift lights looks much better and go with the shape of the car. That SL just looks fat at the front. To my mind the latest 7 series us little better and the A8 looks like an inflated A4.

In this class the XJ and Quattroporte win hands down from a styling point of view.

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