Few two-syllable utterances convey as many opulent and lavish connotations as S-Class. It may have once been a letter and a word, but it now represents the pinnacle of obtainable motoring – a full-size, four-wheel line of demarcation which separates the proletariat from the royalty. Everything below the S-Class pales against it; everything above represents the exclusive realm of the one percent. For 2018, the flagship Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan (there's a coupe and convertible too, but the sedan was the only model available as of this writing) remains unperturbed in straddling this socioeconomic perimeter.

Best Value

The wealthy don't build their net worth spending frivolously. Even at this price point, S-Class buyers will ask the same age-old question that's bothered car shoppers since there was such a thing as an ordering sheet: what options and trim represent the best compromise between features and price?

The answer lies within the S 560 range. With a 463-horsepower V8, it has the proper amount of thrust to quietly but authoritatively move this big sedan. Here's our ideal S-Class:

  • Model: 2018 Mercedes-Benz S 560 4Matic sedan
  • Engine: Twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8
  • Output: 469 hp / 516 lb-ft
  • Transmission:Nine-speed automatic transmission
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
  • MPG: 17 city / 27 highway
  • Options: Premium Package ($5,000, heated and ventilated front seats with massage function, keyless entry and ignition, active parking assist, surround-view camera, and power rear sunblinds), Warmth and Comfort Package ($2,600, heated and ventilated rear seats, heated armrest, heated steering wheel, and power outboard rear seats with memory), Driver Assistance Package ($2,250, active steering assist, active evasive assist, adaptive cruise control, active brake-assist with cross-traffic, automatic emergency braking, speed-limit assist, lane keeping and lane change assist, and route-based speed adaptation), Exclusive Trim ($950), Exclusive Nappa Leather ($2,160, six color combinations to choose from).
  • Base Price:$103,895 (including a $995 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$116,855

Performance

Mercedes S-Class

For 2018, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class receives three new engines. The lone returning motor is the range-topping 12-cylinder found in the S 65. We haven't had a chance to sample that multi-cylinder extravagance, but considering the excellence of the lesser powertrains, we imagine it delivers all the torquey smoothness one would expect.

The 3.0-liter twin-turbo in the S 450 is the entry-level engine. Don't equate entry-level with mediocrity, though – this powerplant is smooth, refined, and powerful, belying any preconceived notions one might have when thinking about a six-cylinder in a car that weighs 4,600 pounds dry. With 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, it's powerful enough to move this bruiser to 60 miles per hour in just 5.4 seconds.

The two V8 options take the pleasing characteristics of the S 450 to new heights. If the V6 is a deftly-shot arrow, the 4.0-liter V8s are more akin to a bullet fired through a silencer – muted and deathly fast. In standard tune, this engine makes 463 hp in the S 560, and is absolutely capable for meeting the needs of sane and rational buyers. The silly 603-hp version that's in the S 63 goes from zero to 60 mph in only 3.5 seconds, and is available for those who eschew sanity and rationality.

No matter the engine, all S-Classes ride as expected, wafting over the harshest pavement and filtering out any road imperfections well before they reach the cabin. None of this is too surprising, considering the base suspension is a four-corner air design. An active-damper setup named Magic Body Control is available, and these trick shocks will anticipate the road ahead as well as tilt the big sedan up to 2.65 degrees into the turn so to mitigate body roll. It helps, but this is still a full-size nautilus for the road, so don't expect to carve corners like a Miata.

Style

For most buyers of full-size ultra-luxury sedans, it's what's on the inside that counts, and the S-Class acquits itself quite nicely in this regard. Of the many no-cost standard features, we especially like the Energizing Comfort Control, a nifty little feature that utilizes a combination of seat heaters and coolers, ambient lighting, climate control, and audio to create a wholly immersive, therapeutic-like experience that lasts for ten minutes. Gimmicky? Of course. Enjoyable? Absolutely.

Less gimmicky is the 12.3-inch navigation and infotainment system. It's controlled by the Mercedes Comand system, and still insists on using a console-mounted touchpad controller rather than a touchscreen to cycle through menus and make selections. We'd like to see haptic-screen technology make an appearance, but the software is otherwise logical and functional.

It's hard to miss the quality and craftsmanship that abound inside the cabin. All materials are first rate, from the supple leather upholstery to the high-quality metal buttons and genuine wood trim. A clean, organic dash layout is tastefully subdued and ties the innards of the car together, and overall makes for an excellent place to spend some serious road time in.

The Best and Worst Things

Of all the accolades one can throw on this personal limousine, the ride stands out the most. BMW and Audi offer better handling, but the Mercedes resolutely adheres to the traditional comfort-first ride that sedans of this caliber are renowned for, and we wouldn't want it any other way.

This is an S-Class – the day Mercedes builds one with any serious drawbacks will be when pigs take to the skies. Still, if nits must be picked, this cruiser isn't going to be as nimble as some buyers might prefer, even in S 63 and S 65 trims.

Right For? Wrong For?

Mercedes S-Class

Anyone who demands the finest luxury sedan short of a Bentley or Rolls-Royce.

Anyone who can afford a Bentley or Rolls-Royce.

The Bottom Line

Of all the automobiles in the Mercedes stable, nothing speaks to the brand's slogan of "The best or nothing" like the S-Class. It's incredibly well crafted inside and out. It has options that are appropriately absurd and powertrains that are glassy smooth and impressively quick. From the smallest detail to the silhouette itself, the 2018 S-Class never fails to remind why the flagship Mercedes has been the car to emulate for the past three decades of motoring.