Mercedes-Benz S-class S 350 CDI L review, road test
11th Oct 2014 1:30 pm
The all-important diesel variant of Mercedes’ incredible flagship.
In our road test of the Mercedes-Benz S 500 L six months ago, we established that it had moved the goalposts for luxury cars in its class – and the class above – and that there really was some credence in calling it ‘the best car in the world’. So that’s that, case closed, time to wait for the next competitor to challenge its position. Not quite, because if you ask the typical S-class buyers in India, they’ll tell you the S 500 has one very critical flaw – its large, petrol-powered engine. You see, in just about every segment of car in India, running costs are paramount, including uber-luxury limousines such as the S-class, and it’s no surprise that even in this segment, the diesel versions have, in recent years, been outselling the petrols exponentially.
Which is why anticipation for this S 350 CDI diesel version has been through the roof from day one. A diesel engine will typically sacrifice the inherent refinement and smoothness of a petrol – important factors in a car like this – but the dividends it pays at the fuel pumps is too big to be ignored, even for a crorepati. The S 350 CDI is also less expensive to buy than the S 500, but then Mercedes has also taken some of the equipment away. So, will the S-class have to put down its crown now that it’s running on diesel? That’s what this road test aims to find out.
First things first, the S 500, in our last road test, was a fully imported CBU, and also one of the limited-run ‘Launch Edition’ models that only 125 lucky buyers will have got their hands on. Now, however, both the S 500 and the S 350 CDI are locally assembled, and while this has brought the costs down, some of the sumptuous kit we first sampled six months ago is gone. So what’s missing in the S 350 CDI?
As with the engine and gearbox, settings for the adaptive Airmatic air suspension are down to a simplified two – Comfort and Sport. There is also a temporary ‘raise’ mode for tackling large speed breakers, which is handy, because the soft suspension combined with the long wheelbase means it can bottom out on large speed breakers if you’re not careful. On normal roads, Comfort mode is a dream, as if someone is running ahead and dropping a pillow into every crack in the road before you hit it. Ironically, that’s close in principle to the functionality of Magic Body Control, and we can only imagine how that would have worked if it were available in India. However, Comfort mode does, as can be expected, let in a fair bit of pitch and wallow, and so what’s really welcome is that if you find it a bit too much, Sport mode is far from uncomfortable, and offers much better body control. If you’d never experienced the former, the latter would do just fine, even in a car like this.
Suspension’s Sport mode offers less pitching and rolling, and is not too uncomfortable either.
On the flipside, expecting anything remotely sporty out of a car like this would be silly. The thing is, however, the body control is pretty impressive for something this big, and there’s nowhere near as much roll as you’d expect. Sure, it won’t change direction rapidly and the steering, though accurate, is light and unenthusiastic, but there is still a sense of occasion to driving this car.