In the lofty realm of the ultra-rich, cars are seen as an effective way of proclaiming to the world how kind life has been to you and how different you are from the less fortunate mainstream.  While this is a world where the Spirit of Ecstasy and the Flying B are ornaments of choice, there’s one luxobarge that has remained a firm favourite in this exalted territory, affording its affluent owner almost the same level of nobility as his or her peers who drive the aforementioned British marques. And that is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Right from the early Seventies, this German flagship has managed to remain the undisputed standard bearer of the full-size luxury saloon category. While the Merc-AMG version powered by the brand’s 4.0-litre biturbo V8 block is the performance star and the S 650 Maybach with its biturbo V12, the luxury flagship, the ‘regular’ S variants are also in demand. Especially among those who are looking to make a relatively frugal entrance into the rarefied world of S-Class ownership.

 

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Photos: Stefan Lindeque

The latest ‘base’ model in the S-Class line-up is the S 450, powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre L6, which, mated with a nine-speed automatic transmission, puts out 367 horsepower and 520Nm of torque. It can propel the nearly two-tonne saloon from 0 to 100kph in just 5.4 seconds. That’s swift enough for you to forget that you have bought an S-Class with two cylinders less than the one owned by your wealthier neighbour. That is, as long as you don’t jump back into your car after driving his S 500. Despite being amply potent, the six-cylinder lacks the effortless surge of power that a V8 puts at your disposal. But if you do not draw a comparison between the two, you’ll find the six-cylinder to be graceful enough as it pull away from low speeds, in a manner fitting the S-Class mandate.

Unless you accelerate abruptly, the S 450’s cabin is supremely quiet from low, city speeds to highway speeds. Upon sudden acceleration, a somewhat raspy note seeps in to through the acceleration, taking away slightly from the completely isolated experience you would expect from an S-Class passenger compartment. Another factor that is not quite up to the mark in this class of vehicle is the coarse stop-start system that feels a bit rough when it temporarily shuts the engine off and starts it again at traffic lights. I found myself switching the feature off every time I started driving. Other than these, the overall insulation of the interior is right up there with any other model in the range, keeping road, and wind noise completely at bay.

 

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Photos: Stefan Lindeque

Ride quality is nothing short of sublime, just as you would expect in an S-Class. Climate controlled seats are also equipped with massage function, which is a great feature that helps keep long drives fatigue-free. Attention to detail and craftsmanship are to the same exacting standards that Stuttgart’s cars are known for, while standard features and driver aids are aplenty. These include a smartphone integration package, panoramic sliding sunroof, Active Distance Assist, Active Steering Assist, electric sunblind for rear windows, power closing doors and ambient lighting with 64 colours and 10 colour schemes. Additionally, our test car had a host of optional equipment specced such as AMG body styling, 20in AMG 10-spoke light alloy wheels, a Chaffeur package that includes electrically adjustable rear seats with memory function, individual entertainment system in the rear, folding tables wireless mobile charging and even a refrigerator!

On the whole, the S 450 is a great car, and remains the most economical means to becoming an S-Class owner. Of course this is relative, as the starting price is Dh427,000, which goes up to a significantly inflated Dh553,172 for the test car we had with all the optional equipment. If you have enough extra dosh lying around, it’s definitely worth upgrading to the V8-powered variants, but if half a million is the maximum you can stretch your budget to, then the S 450 is a great place to start.

 

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