Exclusive test: Mercedes S400d 4MATIC L: any better would be outlaw!

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The Mercedes designers were particularly successful when they drew the lines of this 7th generation.

Should you be feeling guilty to take pleasure driving around in a 5.3-metre-long limo powered by a 6-cylinder diesel engine? The answer is definitely no! Of course, we know the most recent diesel engines are less polluting than petrol ones. Above all, this new Mercedes S-Class, even in LWB size,feels a lot smaller than it is.  Thanks to its rear-wheel steering, you immediately forget that you are driving such a barge. Having taken part in a tour in Luxembourg, there was a Porsche 911 behind us. We can assure you this S400d has more than one trick up its sleeve  and can very easily annoy some sports car drivers…

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Even with its longer body, the S400d L has very elegant lines, far from the heaviness of some previous generations.

On a more serious note, we think this seventh generation S-Class, (also known as Type W223), is the best looking one of them all. Even this extended version manages to offer taut lines without being too fussy on the sides, a very light rear end thanks to its tapered lights and a relatively discreet grille. The icing on the cake being those superb 20″ ten-spoke forged wheels that give the car a very elegant style.

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This is the most pampered seat in the limousine, with every conceivable adjustment to enhance the passenger’s comfort.

The S Class starts at  € 124,267… before adding any extras. Of course, the S400d L can be loaded with an impressive number of accessories and packs. For example, the Premium Plus Pack fitted to our test car offers the full range of energising massages for the front passengers, as well as Nappa leather and heated rear seats. These features come on top of a long list of equipment. Among them, the head-up display offers so much information that we turned it off straight away. The MBUX interior assistant allows you to set almost everything just through voice control. The panoramic sunroof, the 3D instrument panel and the Burmester Hi fi system just add to the picture…

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The rear privacy glass are feature retractable curtains ensuring passengers total anonymity.

I like it

The whole interior and the two rear seats in particular, will welcome you like a well-known person, thanks to numerous luxurious touches. Even though there is a unique atmosphere made up of careful lighting, on demand fragrance diffusing or the very comfortable reclined position, it is really the driver’s seat that seduced us most. It’s amazing how electronic gizmos succeed in turning this 2.1 ton heavy car into a particularly dynamic one.

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We were blown away by the S400d’s cornering agility.

When taking tight curves, you completely forget the sheer size of the car and don’t hesitate to push on the loud pedal (330 bhp and 700 Nm are available from 1,200 rpm) to put the S Class through its paces. The thrust is real and you sink into the seats while the directional rear end swallows the tighter curves without drama, even urging us to widen our track. Of course, when the sporty session was over, the smell of hot brakes pads called us back to reality but  it’s nevertheless hats off to the German engineers for signing off such a skilled car ! 

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In reclined position, you could drive across Europe in one go!

Pretty smart

Even if this car’s behaviour delighted us, it is obviously its comfort that fully justifies its raison d’être. This is true for the front seats, but even more so for the rear ones, where everything is done to make even the shortest drive unforgettable. The two individual seats obviously offer all the expected amenities in terms of heating, massage and support. A small tablet in the centre console grants access to the menus displayed on the two screens attached to the front seats backs.  It’s dead easy to choose your favourite music, a new destination or even change the car’s settings. In short, the driver should better know his boss’ preferences…

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Radars and other sensors take a large part of the frontal surface.

Not so good…

The S-Class experience remains something truly unique and it can easily make you lose all sense of reality. However, there are a few irritating details, such as the overflow of information in the head-up display and the 3D rendering of the navigation system could be infuriating for some. Sometimes, navigating through the various menus can be slow. However, it’s very easy to activate the voice control and it helped us more than once.

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The “all-on-a-screen” approach may put some people off, but we really admire this level of technology!

Why I buy it

Having driven this limousine for 7 days, it’s easy to understand why the Belgian royal family uses it on a daily basis. Compared to its competitors, the S Class has a classic and restrained elegant style and remains the most cosseting of all LWB limos. Its clean, elegant lines hardly cause resentment and it moves easily through everyday traffic. Of course, its rear seats are particularly welcoming, thanks to its high level of refinement and its air-controlled suspension that ensures a « magic carpet » ride. This expression is even more justified here than in a recently launched French car!  What is most surprising is that after dropping off his passengers, the driver will be able to enjoy the truck-like torque of this 3.0 V6 Diesel and have fun taking curves at an unexpected pace.

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We met some sports car owners who were rather surprised at how easy this limo can be driven…

Why I don’t buy it

Because I simply just can’t afford it. However, the S Class would probably be our first choice of wheels if we were ever to inherit an American uncle’s fortune. Yes, it does have some minor flaws, occasional bugs in its electronic displays… but on-board technology is simply incredible. Fully loaded with extras worth € 44.000, our test car price rose to € 170.000€ VAT included. But if you are really well-off and you love to be noticed, you’ll more than likely opt for a Mercedes-Maybach. It offers the same refined luxury experience but adds a touch of loud brashness… (Translation: Dimitri Urbain)

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However, the S400d has a secret… its rear wheels reduce the curves’ radius.

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