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Despite valiant efforts by rivals such as BMW and Jaguar, the Mercedes S-class has long since been the car to beat in the luxury segment, and is renowned as the car to have for top-flight executives, chauffeur fleets and directors.
The latest version is more spacious, efficient (up to 20% depending on the model) and safer than its predecessor and also sports unbelievable levels of technology. There's too much to list, but highlights include an automatic parking system that, unlike existing ones, doesn't even require the driver to use the accelerator or brake pedals, Magic Body Control - a camera system that reads the road surface ahead and automatically adjusts the suspension to cope - and a new version of Mercedes' existing Pre-Safe crash avoidance system, which can automatically detect pedestrians or if the driver is veering towards another car and take evasive action.
The 258hp S350 Bluetec tested here has the lowest P11D of the range at £62,455 and will account for the lion's share (potentially 90%) of sales, particularly within the corporate arena. As you might expect, ride comfort and refinement are exceptional, regardless of whether you're sitting in the front or the back. It's extremely quiet, with a smooth but potent engine and good grip given that it's a powerful rear-wheel drive car.
The short-wheelbase model (a long-wheelbase L version is available for an extra £3000) is 20mm lengthier than its forbear, which creates more space for front and rear occupants. Naturally, the S-class is pitched just as much if not more at those who travel in the back, so the extra room is welcome, as are rarely seen elements such as reclining rear seats with six different massage settings, an advanced climate control system and heated armrests.
Also new for this model are a pair of hybrid drivetrains: the S400 with a 306hp 3.5-litre petrol engine, which records 147g/km and 44.8mpg, and the S300 BlueTech hybrid (due in March 2014) with a 231hp diesel engine, capable of 115g/km and 64.2mpg, rendering it the lowest-emitting new S-class. Both also have 27hp electric motors, and a plug-in hybrid version is expected to follow.
As well as the crucial diesel, BusinessCar sampled the 115g/km S300 BlueTech diesel hybrid. The power does seem muted compared to the conventional diesel or the gutsy, petrol-powered 455hp S500, but it will realistically travel on electricity alone at town speeds and makes a solid case for businesses ferrying VIPs around urban areas.
Obviously, the P11D value alone will leave it out of reach for many, and those who will take the plunge are likely to pile on the options, none of which come cheap. Quashing your costs isn't really what the S-class is about though, and in every other respect it's an amazing car. The technology, the comfort and the outright luxury truly are things to behold, so CEOs and private hire businesses accustomed to the outgoing S-class will be far from disappointed.
Mercedes S350 Bluetec SE Line
Model price range
BIK 20/40% per month
3yrs unlimited mls
Unrivalled levels of tech, safety and luxury. A real spectacle.