Mercedes-Benz S-Class Review 2023

Written by David Ross

heycar ratingThe ultimate in luxury travel
  • 2020
  • Luxury
  • Petrol, Diesel, PHEV

Quick overview


  • Beautifully quiet and serene
  • Luxurious interior is the pinnacle of comfort
  • Plug-In Hybrid version is the pick of the range


  • Not a car if you want to stand out from the crowd
  • Best enjoyed from the rear seats rather than behind the wheel
  • Boot of Plug-In Hybrid is limited in space

Overall verdict on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class

"The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has long set the benchmark for luxury saloons, despite strong competition from its noisy German neighbours. The popularity of luxury SUVs means even more pretenders to the crown. But the latest Mercedes-Benz S-Class shows exactly how its done. It remains unrivalled among its peers."

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Review 2023 front

If you want arguably the best luxury car on the market, then step right this way. The Mercedes S-Class makes a case for itself as the ultimate luxury saloon thanks to a combination of cutting edge technology, impeccable comfort and incredible refinement.

Even in world where the likes of the Bentley Flying Spur and Range Rover exist, plus rivals like the Audi A8 and BMW 7 Series, the Mercedes S-Class still leads the way. Why? Read our in depth Mercedes S-Class review to find out why.  

There is an argument that big luxury saloons like this are now irrelevant but don't let Mercedes-Benz hear you saying that. True, they are not as popular as they once were - the rise of the luxury SUV has seen to that - but the S-Class remains the flagship in the Mercedes-Benz range and the innovations that debut here will filter down to the rest of the Mercedes range. 

The interior is a tour de force. The sleek design and impeccable build quality are everything you'd expect from a top of the range Mercedes-Benz and the seats are so comfortable you'd happily sell the house and move in. As you'd expect, it's incredibly roomy inside with the back seats of long wheelbase models feeling appropriately limousine-esque.

The MBUX infotainment system comes into its own in the tech and feature-laden Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Rather than having more buttons than a haberdashery, pretty much everything is controlled through the big screen on the dash. It's easy to use once you've mastered it and means a less cluttered interior layout.

On the move, the Mercedes S-Class proves it's one of the most comfortable cars money can buy with the refined suspension ironing out road surface imperfections with ease. We can think of no better car for covering long distances in. True, it's not the most dynamic of cars to drive - a BMW 7 Series is better - but the S-Class is reassuringly capable nonetheless.

The engine range includes two six-cylinder diesels - the S 350 d and S 400 d 4Matic - as well as an S 500 4Matic petrol - the quickest in the range. However, it's the S 580 e plug-in hybrid which really appeals thanks to an electric range of 65 miles and low running costs when it comes to VED. This would be our choice.

Whichever engine you choose, the Mercedes S-Class is suitably hushed at motorway speeds which makes for serene progress. It is of course fitted with pretty much every bell and whistle you'd want - and if not there's always the extensive optional extras list to keep you occupied.

While the latest Mercedes S-Class has hardly rewritten the luxury saloon rulebook, Mercedes-Benz has managed to refine and noticeable improve on the previous S-Class. It's not as brash as an SUV and while there is the whiff of the 'chauffeur driven', it's still the pinnacle of luxurious travel.

Looking for a used car for sale? We've got 100s of Mercedes-Benz Approved Used Cars for Sale for you to choose from, including a wide range of Mercedes S-Class models for sale. If you're looking for the older version, you need our used Mercedes S-Class (2014-2020) review.

If you want the ultimate in luxury and comfort - and don't want an SUV - then the Mercedes S-Class is the car for you. Big posh saloons like this may not be as popular or as desirable as they once were, but you still can't beat a Mercedes S-Class if you want a luxury car.

It's certainly a car that's best enjoyed from the back seats. This is something to be driven in, where you get to appreciate the sheer opulence and comfort. If you want an S-Class chances are you're successful, appreciate the finer things in life but find things like big 4x4s a bit too brash. Naturally. You probably have a long driveway too...

The stand out model in the Mercedes S-Class range is the S 580 e. This is the plug-in hybrid model which can cover 65 miles on electric power alone, making it the cheapest to run and tax. The one fly in the ointment here is the price. The S 580 e costs considerably more than the diesel-powered S 350 d, which while 'only' a diesel, is still an incredible bit of kit.

If you want the best the Mercedes S-Class has to offer, it has to the S 580 e. But if you want one without breaking the bank, go for the S 350 d.

The main rivals to the Mercedes S-Class are, drum roll please, the BMW 7 Series and the Audi A8 - both large luxury German saloons that come in long wheelbase versions. Who would have guessed. We'd also argue that the Porsche Panamera would fit the bill here plus there is also the Lexus LS - but the Jaguar XJ is no longer on sale.

Step away from saloons and there's a whole host of high end luxury cars that do a similar job to the Mercedes S-Class. Models like the Range Rover, the big BMW X7 and Mercedes own GLS

Mercedes also has an electric luxury saloon, the Mercedes EQS, possibly the poshest electric car around. It's essentially an electric Mercedes S-Class.

Comfort and design: Mercedes-Benz S-Class interior

"If you want comfort and style, you've come to the right place. We'd go so far as to say the Mercedes S-Class has the best interior of any car on the market."

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Review 2023 rear seats

Given how big and wide the Mercedes S-Class is, it's no surprise that there's plenty of space inside. There's generous leg and elbow room so even the tallest of drivers will be able to find a comfortable driving position thanks to almost endless electrical adjustment in the driver's seat and steering column.

In fact, getting in and out is made easier by a steering column that lifts out of the way while all the doors open wide. The rear doors are long, especially in LWB models so it pays to be mindful when parking in narrow spaces.

Once seated in the back, you'll find wonderfully sumptuous rear seats. You'd be hard pressed to find anything more comfortable even in an upmarket sofa shop. This is the best place to enjoy the S-Class from where you can enjoy plush and softly padded Nappa leather seats. 

There is of course acres of space in the back. No surprise given the Mercedes S-Class is the choice of car for many heads of state and VIPs around the world. There are three seats in the back but the S-Class is best for two with the big centre armrest folded down. 

Long wheelbase models get electric adjustment for the outer seats plus there's an adjustable footrest too. You even get padded headrests which are simply wonderful. It feels more spacious here than an Audi A8 or a Range Rover.

That's not to say those in the front are forgotten about. The seats here are just as comfortable yet also supportive and a massaging function is available with a whole host of massaging options for you to play with.

The elegant design is keeps things sleek and despite the huge number of functions and systems, the dash is surprisingly button free - most things being controlled via the huge centre screen and MBUX infotainment system. Elsewhere, it's very easy to work out how to operate everything with no hidden or bafflingly labelled buttons. 

Given this is flagship model in the the Mercedes-Benz range, it's no surprise to find impeccable levels of quality while the finish is simply superb. You'd be hard pressed to find anything here that doesn't feel like it belongs in a luxury car.

Everything you touch feels top notch, from the textured real wood veneers on the dash to the thick metal trim everywhere. There's plush Nappa leather everywhere and you only need to have a close look at the stitching to see the attention to detail in the finish.

The S-Class is simply a wonderful place to spend time, whether you're in the back seats or up front. It feels special too helped by the 64-colour ambient lighting which runs across the doors and dashboard.

The S-Class is fitted with the excellent Mercedes MBUX multimedia infotainment system, one of the best infotainment systems around.

It is controlled through either a touchpad on the centre console or the touchscreen itself. There are no less than two rows of steering wheel buttons too. These are touch sensitive but they're actually quite fiddly to use - we think standard scroll wheels are easier.

The dash is dominated by a large touchscreen akin to an iPad (other non-Apple tablets are available) which is used to control pretty much everything on the car. There are lots of menus and settings but usefully the climate is always displayed at the bottom.

It's a quick system that's responsive to inputs and once you're familiar with it, easy to use. We prefer it the layout to the BMW iDrive system and find it easier to navigate around. And talking of navigating, the MBUX navigation is an augmented system which displays arrows and directions on a live camera display.

Mercedes MBUX also includes Alexa-style voice recognition. Simply say 'Hey Mercedes' and follow that with a request. It controls plenty of functions but in reality it's far from perfect and we find it easier to just do things like turn the climate control up ourselves...

As you'd expect, both Apple Carplay and Android Auto come as standard plus there's wireless mobile phone charging, no less than eight USB-C ports and - on top models - a removable 7.0-inch tablet in the rear centre armrest. AMG Line Premium models and above get a great-sounding 710-watt Burmester system with 15 speakers.

The Mercedes S-Class isn't what you'd call practical. The rear seats don't fold and while there's a 'ski hatch', we doubt many people are off to Val d'Isere in this. 

That said, the S-Class has good boot space with 550 litres of carrying space - more than an Audi A8 - and you can get several large suitcases in there. It's just not great for anything more awkward like the grandchildren's pushchair.

The S 580 e has a significantly smaller boot due to the electric batteries for the motor. This cuts the carrying capacity to 325 litres and it feels small for what is a very big car. A Honda Civic has a bigger boot. Still, at least all models get an electric boot as standard.

As for practicality elsewhere, you get large door pockets, big cupholders for your takeaway Starbucks (other overpriced coffee providers are available) plus a large storage bin under the centre armrest. And speaking of which, the centre and door armrests are heated on top models. So your elbows don't get cold. Yes this is a thing.

Handling and ride quality: What is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class like to drive?

"The Mercedes S-Class is all about comfort. Look up the word 'serene' in a dictionary and there is probably a picture of the rear seats of an S-Class."

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Review 2023

In short, this is possibly the most comfortable car on sale today. Thanks to standard fit air suspension on all models, the Mercedes S-Class shows impeccable manners over pretty much any road surface. Even big potholes and sharp speed bumps don't unsettle it. 

As we've said, the best place to enjoy the S-Class is from the back seats, but from behind the wheel you'll appreciate just how stable the S-Class feels with not even a hint of vibration through the steering over rough roads.

Choose the S 580 e plug-in hybrid and you may notice the extra weight of those batteries when it comes to particularly big potholes, but it's still more comfortable than a BMW 7 Series. The Mercedes S-Class is a model whose real forte is effortless progress. 

While the Mercedes S-Class is pure joy on a motorway or dual carriageway, it's fair to say it's not the most dynamic of cars. If you want a big car for dynamic cornering times, look at a Porsche Panamera. 

That's not to say the S-Class isn't very capable and S 500 and S 400 d models come with 4Matic four-wheel drive for added traction when accelerating. 

The steering is precise and has a nice weight to it, giving you plenty of confidence. Despite lots of body movement in corners, there is plenty of grip and the S-Class certainly feels reassuringly safe if not particularly agile. But then this is a car that is more than five metres long and weighs the best part of two tonnes...

The Mercedes S-Class range starts with the S 350 d - a 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel with 286PS - but more crucially 600Nm of torque. It makes for strong performance and while it may be the 'entry' level engine, we think it offers all the power and performance you'll need. Plus it's also usefully economical.

The S 400 d 4Matic uses the same engine but with power upped slightly which drops the 0-62mph time from 6.4 seconds to a hot hatch-embarrassing 5.4 seconds. It also has the most torque of any model in the range with a hefty 700Nm.

Meanwhile, the sole petrol is badged S 500 4Matic but is in fact powered by a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine. Yes, the badges no longer mean much. What it does have is no less than 435PS so it will do 0-62mph in just 4.9 seconds making it the quickest model.

But the most interesting model is the the S 580 e. This plug-in hybrid uses the same 3.0-litre petrol engine as the S 500 (albeit with less power) alongside an electric motor. Combined these produce 517PS but it's the fact it can travel 65 miles on electric power that makes it stand out.

It means that in theory, you could feasibly do a daily commute and not dip into the fuel tank. And charging it is fast too. We're talking 20 minutes from a fast charger and 2hrs15 from a wallbox.

The S 500 and S 400 d both come with 4Matic four-wheel drive as standard while all cars have a nine-speed automatic gearbox dubbed 9G-Tronic which delivery rapid yet smooth gear changes. It's at its best in the S 580 e.

It's no surprise to discover this is an area where the Mercedes S-Class excels. There is very little else on the road, bar perhaps the likes of the Bentley Flying Spur, that is as quiet and refined on the move.

The S 500 petrol model is quiet but go for the S 580 e plug-in hybrid and you'll enjoy near silent progress under electric power. It's a mightily impressive set-up and the switch between electric power and combustion engine is almost imperceptible. 

Thanks to the impeccable ride quality from the air suspension you can waft along in cossetted comfort whatever the road surface with tyre and road noise almost pretty much non-existent thanks to sound deadening. There is a little wind noise at 70mph but it's only really noticeable due to the lack of other sounds.

As you'd expect from Mercedes-Benz, all the engines are incredibly quiet, but special mention must go to how refined the diesels are. True, the plug-in hybrid is always going to win the (lack of) noise battle here but the S 350 d and S 400 d are impressively quiet for diesels with only a slight rumble when you put your foot down.

Amazingly, the Mercedes S-Class has never been tested by Euro NCAP and its yellow crash test dummies. The closest thing to be crash tested is the Mercedes EQS which was awarded the maximum five star safety rating. We'd be amazed if the S-Class didn't perform equally as well for safety.

To help with parking, all models come with front and rear parking sensors as well as a 360 camera, aside from the AMG Line which makes do with a standard rearview camera.

There are plenty of active safety system including Active Blind Spot Assist with blind spot monitoring towards the front and side and plus Active Braking Assist with a cross-traffic function which also responds to crossing pedestrians when making a turn. It works at up to 74 mph.

Elsewhere there's Active Evasive Steering Assist which responds to cyclists and the ends of tailbacks in addition to pedestrians plus Active Lane Change Assist which aids the driver with changing lanes by means of steering torque as soon as the driver initiates the change with the indicator.

MPG and fuel costs: What does a Mercedes-Benz S-Class cost to run?

"We'd take the claimed 350mpg of the S 580 e Plug-In Hybrid with a very large pinch of salt. But it will cover 65 miles on electric power alone."

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Review 2023 driving position

This is ideal for busy city driving and as it only takes 20 minutes to charge (from a DC charger) you don't have to spend all day waiting around for it to charge. 

Of course once that 65 miles of electric power runs out, you're then utilising the big 3.0-litre petrol engine while also carrying around the extra weight of those batteries.

Go for the S 350 d and you'll be seeing around 43mpg according to the official figures. With a huge 76-litre fuel tank that gives you a theoretical range of close to 720 miles. 

The S 400 d averages around 40mpg while the S 500 4Matic petrol is as thirsty as you'd expect with a claimed economy figure of 34mpg. Expect considerably less if you have a heavy right foot. 

Mercedes-Benz was once renowned for its reliability, but that hasn't always rung true in recent years with the brand performing mid-table when it comes to owner satisfaction and reliability.

In the most recent Satisfaction Index from 2021, Mercedes-Benz finished 13th overall out of 30 brands with an 8.92 rating (out of 10) for reliability. As a comparison, BMW finished 20th but had a better reliability rating of 9.19.

However, that is for Mercedes-Benz overall and we have had very few reports of problems or faults with the previous generation Mercedes S-Class. Given this is the flagship of the range, we'd expect that to continue. 

Given its high price and luxury status it won't surprise you to find out that this is not a cheap Mercedes-Benz to insure. In fact all Mercedes S-Class models sit in the highest Group 50e for insurance

Petrol and diesel Mercedes S-Class models will costs the standard £165 a year to tax while the Plug-In Hybrid qualifies for £155 annual VED as an alternative fuel vehicle.

However, given that all models cost more than £40,000, the annual VED rate for five years, from the second time the car is taxed, will actually be £520 (£510 for the S 580 e PHEV)

On top of this, if you're buying new, you’ll pay a first tax payment based on the CO2 emissions. For the S 350 d this will be £945 while for the S 500 it could be as much as £1420 (depending on trim). The S 580 e will cost you nothing thanks to its low CO2 emissions of 17g/km. 

How much should you be paying for a used Mercedes-Benz S-Class?

"The Mercedes-Benz S-Class is a luxury car but used prices make it slightly more affordable. It's no bargain though."

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Review 2023 rear angle

The earliest cars of this generation Mercedes S-Class are still commanding more than £70,000 but you're really looking at more than £80,000 to to give you a choice of lower mileage models. These will all be S 350 d cars. 

For a plug-in hybrid, prices start at more than £90k. As always, we'd recommend buying an Approved Used Mercedes S-Class from a Mercedes-Benz dealer where you'll get a 12-month unlimited mileage warranty.

The high class Mercedes-Benz S-Class does without very little so even the 'entry-level' models, such as they are, come with an extensive standard equipment list.

The trim levels start with the Mercedes S-Class AMG Line (standard wheelbase only), moving up to Mercedes S-Class AMG Line Premium (available in standard or long wheelbase).

Mercedes S-Class AMG Line models - 350d and 500 4Matic only - come with 19-inch AMG five-spoke light alloy wheels, Nappa Leather upholstery, a 12.8-inch OLED media display with augmented navigation and 12.3-inch driver display, Keyless Go with seamless door handles and soft close doors, heated seats front and rear, memory seats and wireless charging in the front, Driving Assistance package, MBUX premium, Multibeam Intelligent Light System and a reversing camera.

AMG Line Premium models have 20-inch AMG multi-spoke alloy wheels, a Burmester 3D Surround sound system with sound personalisation, panoramic sliding sunroof, 12.3-inch 3D driver display, remote parking package including 360° camera and active ambient lighting. Long wheelbase models add electrically adjustable rear seats with memory, luxury head restraints and climatised rear outer seats.

Above this are Mercedes S-Class AMG Line Premium Executive, Premium Plus and Premium Plus Executive. These only come in long wheelbase. Yes this does get quite confusing.

The Mercedes S-Class AMG Line Premium Plus adds augmented reality head-up display, Digital Light with Ultra Range high beam, 21-inch AMG multispoke alloy wheels, Energizing Comfort Package, Air Balance, heated centre armrest (front only) and heated front and rear door armrests, plus heated steering wheel and windscreen, active multi-contour, climatised front seats and luxury head restraints.

For another £3,795, the range-topping Executive can be added to either Premium or Premium Plus long wheelbase models and includes MBUX rear tablet with 7-inch touchscreen, electric sun blinds in rear doors and rear window, double sun visors with pivoting section, chauffeur package with a foldable, removable head restraint on front passenger seat, front passenger seat adjustable from the rear and electrically extendable footrest on the back of the front passenger seat.

Ask the heycar experts: common questions

If you want outright space and luxury, the bigger Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the better option than the E-Class, although you will pay a premium. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is cheaper to run though and comes as an estate, while the S-Class is saloon only.
Mercedes-Benz models follow a familiar pattern with the Mercedes-Benz A-Class its smallest model and the S-Class its largest. The S-Class was originally called the Sonderklasse which is German for 'special class'. The first Mercedes-Benz to officially be called S-Class was launched in 1972.
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz S-Class starts at £86,165 OTR for the S 350 d AMG Line. At the top of the range, the S 580 e Long AMG Line Premium Plus Executive is priced at £121,295.

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