2014 Mercedes S400 Review

The boss is back – the crown is reclaimed. Engineered like no other car

By Shahzad Sheikh

Mercedes-Benz S-Class S400 for Middle East

When it comes to the ultimate luxury saloon, Benz is best. It’s as simple as that. Okay, perhaps this hasn’t been quite as clear-cut over the last few generations, but after a few days of motoring decadence in a new 2014 Mercedes S-Class, it’s apparent a new bar has been reset.

So BMW, Audi and Lexus have to scurry back to the drawing boards and come up with fresh ideas fast. Bentley must retire to the smoking room and either succumb to a stagnant stupor in its finest dinner jacket or future-up fast. And even Rolls-Royce has to now pause and ponder, for it can either continue to waft around elegantly in denial or take a long hard look at the born-again Benz that’s demanding to steal back the coveted unofficial title of ‘Best car in the World’.

Road presence

I’m getting ahead of myself though. First, let’s drink in the appropriately effortless style. I still maintain that the most elegant, enduring and endearing S-Class saloons are the three generations between 1965 and 1992 (W108 & W109, W116, W126) – each of which remain imposing and iconic even today.

Having said that, this W222 is the best crafted, most cohesive, neatest proportioned S-Class we’ve had since the early 90s. There’s a flowing balance of poise seamlessly somehow melded to a solidity of stance. Yet there remains a natural emphasis on the sort of stature and purposefulness, that no flagship German car should ever be shy about broadcasting to the proles daring to share its tarmac space.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class S400 for Middle East

The front is perfectly conceived, the side swathes visually tighten up its waist and suddenly the portliness that’s blighted the previous cars is gone. My only criticism might be levelled at the substantial rear probably intentionally giving the car heft over the driven rear wheels. It’s a little spartan – almost as if the stylists arrived there at the end, exhausted and drained of ideas with recourse only to conventionality.

Interior luxury

Criticism could also be levelled at a sparkly and showy interior into which, it might be said, sleek black simplistic modernity has been forcibly shoe-horned. I don’t quite see it that way. Yes the spangly mottled 60s retro space-age Star Trek speakers, may clash with the swoopy swathes of finely finished perforated leather and deeply varnished wood; and yes, an expansive hooded binnacle sandwiches the largest combined widescreen TV thus far seen in a car, starkly contrasting with a dashboard as richly textured as an elaborate tapestry.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class S400 for Middle East

But sink into those deeply delicious soft leather and vented seats – nah that seems too mean a word, let’s call them caressers – and hit the big silver starter button and all the disparate elements mesh and mingle appealingly, and I guarantee fondness will grow with familiarity. Especially when the powerful climate control blasts an icy breeze into the cabin on a stiflingly hot day, the cooled seats start to tingle-dry the sweat off your back, and you spin the central controller through a variety of remarkably effective massage seat options.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class S400 for Middle East

Then your phone hooks up to the Bluetooth and your favourite tunes thunder forth from the deepest, crispest, and loudest stereo system I have ever experienced in a car. I don’t know much about Burmester but I know it’s good. How good? There are some lyrics in my own decades-old collection of favourite songs that I’d never been able to distinguish clearly until now!

Mercedes-Benz S-Class S400 for Middle East

And if you choose soothing silence, just switch if off and soak in the noiselessness of a cocooned cabin, whilst floating along on a magic carpet ride that thumbs its nose at pot holes and bumps, and maintains a comfy cushiness that marries the sublime to the serene.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class S400 for Middle East

It’s as much a car to ride in as it is a drive, perhaps moreso in fact. Rarely have the kids been as content and comfortable on a long drive as in this car. There are acres of leg room, adjustable rear seats (the right able to fully recline), separate climate control and of course a sense of well-being even children can relate to. ‘Can we keep this one forever?’ said the little one – not something she says often.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class S400 for Middle East

Gait and guile

The engine’s an odd one on this car. Other markets get a 400 hybrid, but we get this 3.0-litre V6 that does put out more power than the Hybrid’s 302bhp. For your $111,300 (AED409k) you get a 333bhp engine putting out 354lb ft. No performance figures have been revealed, but based on the hybrid’s figures and factoring in that this one has a big torque advantage, we guestimate 0-100kph in 6.5 seconds and a top speed limited to 250kph.

Being the lowliest of the S models offered in our region – the other two being the $137k S500 L with 455bhp, and the $187k S63 AMG L (AWD) with 585bhp – you might thinks that is the sluggard of the range. Not really, that term might be levelled at the Euro-market S300 and S350 with 200 and 255bhp respectively, but in the case of the S400 L (we only get the long-wheel base cars in our market), it has good long-range high-speed cruising ability, and around town it has more than an adequate spread of power.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class S400 for Middle East

For those quick surges though you need to really bury the throttle and wait for the engine to rise up to the audibly thrummy, though not unpleasant bit, to get any meaningful momentum. But most of the time progress with decorum, dignity and determination is easily achieved. For most owner/drivers, this is all the performance they’ll ever need.

Not needing it to have any sporty pretensions, don’t trouble yourself with trying out any modes other than comfort and economy. But even with the suspension in comfort, it’s actually in automatic, so if you do happen to find a corner you wish to take at a more hurried gait, it will demonstrate astonishing guile by quashing the initial hint of understeer, pulling the nose in and pivoting around whilst avoiding the expected sensation of corner dive. Instead the car momentarily shimmies, then squats down and regains its composure as it dispatches the direction change.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class S400 for Middle East

That is to say this very large saloon is happy to hustle if you need it to, and it certainly accomplishes with efficiency that old trick of shrinking the car around you so it seems a smaller more agile beast from behind the wheel than you’d think to behold it from without, or when you optimistically try to park in a space more suitable to ‘normal’ sized cars.

This is not a sports saloon, and I feel no necessary inclination to drive it in a sporty manner, nonetheless for me personally there is a desire, possibly a need, to drive the more potent editions.

Decree

Approved by Shahzadian decree, for what it’s worth, this automobile is a most impressive and delightful offering sitting right near, if not actually at, the top of the luxury car tree. I struggle to find anything to really criticise or quibble about with the S400, and the feel-good factor you imbibe the moment you look down the bonnet at the three-pointed star is simply off-the-scale.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class S400 for Middle East

Even the performance is not an issue at all, nor do you seem to want for anything in this car, in fact it offers you a quality and breadth of gadgetry and equipment that other manufacturers haven’t even thought about, and I include the fabled marques that typically claim the ‘best car in the world’ mantle in that.

It’s solid, it’s beautifully put together and presented, and it has an aura of confidence and invulnerability that pervades throughout,  and which has rarely been fully emulated even by Mercedes itself in recent times, let alone rivals. It’s a car for which you can actually fully justify an asking price that knocks on the half-mil mark. The Benz supremacy is back.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class S400 for Middle East

2014 Mercedes S400 Review – The Specs

Price: AED408,800 ($111k)
Engine: 3.0-litre Twin Turbo V6, 333bhp @ 5500rpm, 354lb ft @ 1600rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic, Rear-wheel drive
Fuel Economy: 11L/100km (Est)
Performance: 0-100kph 5.3 seconds, Top speed 250kph (Est)
Weight: 1945kg

Tell us what you think of this magnificent machine below – this or the Jag XJ, Audi A8, BMW 7 or something else?

3 responses to “2014 Mercedes S400 Review”

  1. yousuf Late noor uddin says:

    this car is very nice and super ,, no money to buy this car , but super i will try to buy this super car when i will have this much money , Insha ALLAH ,,

  2. Ahmed Siddiqui says:

    Nice location. Where is the place, the fort and the park? Also, try to minimize the distance from the lens to the object, this creates a visual bump! Good review as usual…

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