There has been only one yardstick for large luxury saloons all these years, and it has been the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Ever since the W116 set the benchmark in 1972, Stuttgart’s flagship has remained the industry’s undisputed measure of ultimate luxury. So when the latest iteration of such a celebrated model is introduced as the best automobile in the world and a technological spearhead for automotive development as a whole, you expect nothing short of groundbreaking stuff. And groundbreaking stuff is what you get in the all-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class. But now there is stiff competition from the likes of the new Bentley Flying Spur and Maserati Quattroporte.
When it comes to sheer luxury, the 616bhp, W12 Bentley leads the pack. Apart from its highly comfortable and refined ride, the new Flying Spur is also more of a driver’s car than its predecessor. Which is all well and good, but in practice it doesn’t feel that much of a leap from the previous car. Its VW-sourced infotainment system makes most of the guys on the team shake their heads in dismay; it just feels a bit outdated in this company. It doesn’t make the top two either.
The new Quattroporte presents a compelling case for itself. With its lithe and graceful lines and the Ferrari-built 3.8-litre V8 turbo that takes it from 0-100kph in 4.7 seconds, the fastest Maserati four-door ever is quite a car. Although not as loud as the naturally aspirated 4.7-litre V8 from the previous model, the Quattroporte still sounds splendid and is engaging to drive, with a communicative steering and a balanced chassis. However, the Mercedes S-Class trumps the Maser with its glut of high-tech wizardry and decadence underneath its elegantly designed, evolutionary exterior.
The 4.7-litre V8 paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission delivers 455bhp and peak torque of 700Nm, and is arguably the smoothest operator in its class. The cabin, with its circular air vents and copious amounts of burl wood and leather, is a major step up from the previous S-Class and is as good as, and in some cases better, than that of any other car in the segment.
It’s as refined as the Bentley but with loads more technology. Speaking of which, the S-Class has once again set the standards high with groundbreaking features like Road Surface Scan, a camera-based damping system that detects bumps or ditches in the road ahead and adjusts the suspension accordingly, the “beltbag”, which is an inflatable seat-belt strap that minimises the risk of injury to passengers and so on. One of the safest, most technologically advanced and luxurious cars on the road today, the S-Class is still the irrefutable king.
The S-Class has been chosen by you, our readers, in an online poll as your favourite car. The Mercedes got the most votes from a list of 50 cars. It beat its closest rival, the Jaguar F-Type, with a staggering 20 per cent more votes.