The “S” in Mercedes-Benz’s S-Class stands for sonderklasse, German for special class, or specially outfitted. The S badge has been used on the marque’s range-topping models since the mid-1950s and also applies to its top-of-the-line SUV today. Exemplifying the German luxury carmaker’s approach to automotive luxury, the S-Class and GLS are the ultimate purchases for the discerning customer who wants to acquire the ultimate chariot. Here’s how they stack up.
SALOON WITH SEX APPEAL:
S 580 E
Let’s get the obvious bit out of the way first. This car is easily one of the most physically beautiful of all Mercedes-Benz models. With a short front overhang, a long wheelbase and a balanced rear overhang, the S-Class is designed as a classical saloon with perfect proportions. The wide track and flush-mounted wheels endow the car with a muscular dynamism, cleverly contoured surfaces and sensuous curves that cannot help but hold one’s gaze while the front section impresses with its high-status radiator grille. It is love at first sight.
Inside, the car continues to stun with a luxurious ambience, marked by elegance, quality and lightness. The dashboard and its new architecture featuring a modern surface design and ergonomic display arrangement is a particular highlight. Not necessary in a car but life-changing once sampled, a 12.8in portrait touchscreen linked to the latest iteration of the MBUX and a new fingerprint sensor for saving driver profiles really make this car quite endearing. Rear passengers also benefit from twin 11in touchscreens and wireless headsets, along with a 7in Android tablet in the centre. In fact, rear passengers truly live in the lap of luxury with power-adjustable, multi-contour seats with heating (including the pillow headrests), ventilation and an ottoman with a calf massage function.
Ideally, you are driven in this car. But if you want to take the wheel — and we strongly recommend that you do — here’s what you need to know. This two-tonne giant of a car can perform the century sprint in 5.2 seconds thanks to its 3.0 litre inline-6 engine and 9G-Tronic transmission. More impressively, the S 580 e offers an estimated 100km of pure electric driving range, courtesy of its hybrid electric motor. This works out to a combined fuel consumption of an almost unbelievable 0.6 to 1.0 litres per 100km.
As far as the driving experience, it surpasses all expectations. While a large girl by all counts, the S-Class was easy to manoeuvre (what fun the winding roads of Bukit Tunku were). Despite being surprisingly light on her feet, the car boasts a comforting heft when you are behind the wheel. Once accustomed to her dimensions, parking becomes less of a task, too.
The second-generation MBUX system makes its debut in the S-Class, so the possibilities of personalisation and intuitive operation have become far more extensive. This certainly applies in the rear, but also to the driver. For example, the new 3D driver display allows a spatial view at the touch of a button for the first time. Also notable is augmented reality navigation, which connects the virtual world with the real world. The technology incorporates graphical navigation instructions and traffic information into live images to ensure drivers reach their destinations safely and stress-free.
The car’s safety features are second to none. The Driving Assistance package includes autonomous emergency braking with cross traffic and pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control and lane centring assist. The rear frontal airbags are new, which brings the airbag count to 14, while pre-safe and pre-safe impulse sides offer better protection in the event of a side impact collision.
Returning the car to Mercedes-Benz after the requisite three-day loan period was not easy. Despite its intimidating outward persona, the S-Class is easy to drive, a joy to own and effortless to fall in love with. We can’t think of a single reason not to want one.
SUV WITH STYLE:
GLS 450 4MATIC AMG LINE
For statistics junkies who need to know the nitty gritty, here it is. The GLS 450 4MATIC AMG Line is powered by a 3.0-litre six-cylinder inline engine electrified with 48-volt technology. It produces 270 kW (367 hp) and 500 Nm of torque, with a further 16 kW (22 hp) and 250 Nm of torque via the EQ Boost over short periods. The power is transmitted by the 9G-TRONIC 9-speed automatic transmission. The broad ratio spread of gears one to nine allows a clear and perceptible reduction in engine speed and is a decisive factor behind the high level of energy efficiency and ride comfort.
This translates to incredible power and smooth overtaking, no matter how much load you are carrying. Taking on the curvaceous asphalt stretches that lead to the Pahang highlands, the GLS proved to be the ideal choice because it easily and quickly got us to the peak of Genting Highlands. This car goes fast for such a big girl and is a joy to drive for its ease and elegance. Parking proved much less of a challenge than expected as well.
Modern luxury both on and off the road — that is the design message of the new GLS. Its 3135mm wheelbase, 60mm longer than that of its predecessor, makes the vehicle beneficially longer and gives it harmonious proportions, which are emphasised by the understated, elegant side design. The front section of the new GLS exudes presence and power, as evidenced by the upright radiator grille in an octagonal SUV interpretation, the prominent, chrome-plated underguard in the front apron with the bone-shaped air inlet grille, and the bonnet with two power domes. Its striking appearance is enhanced by the distinctive headlamp design, which is visible both day and night. The GLS is equipped with multi-beam LED headlamps, with a total of 112 bulbs per headlamp.
The interior of the new GLS is all about luxuriously appointed aesthetics, as evidenced by the standard leather applications that combine the comfort of a saloon with the robustly progressive detailing of an SUV. The dashboard support flows into the door panels and the integral trim element likewise extends to meet the doors. The prominently wide, raised centre console creates a contrast with the free-floating appearance of the dashboard. As a nod to its off-roading capabilities, there are two prominent grab handles on the centre console.
In the rear, where comfort is also unparalleled, passengers — read: children bored on long drives — will benefit from the provision of the MBUX entertainment system. It includes two 11.6in touchscreens that allow anyone tired of looking outside to enjoy movies or music, use the integrated web browser, or call up and input trip information. For those seeking more than what the MBUX can offer, users are also able to play their own media from a mobile phone, tablet or laptop.
The GLS is hardly the kind of car one would call a practical buy, but it really is. A push of a button lets you stow away the seats and make full use of its 2400-litre boot space. But even without doing so, there’s a huge amount of room to tote a hell of a lot of stuff. Another push of a button lowers the boot sill by about 50mm to make it easier to load heavy items.
The GLS is simultaneously a spacious family car, an off-roading beast and a luxurious people carrier all in one — not to mention good fun to drive. Additionally, the Mercedes me app puts a world of remote features in your hands, which techies are sure to love — from starting the engine and locking the doors to scheduling a service appointment.
The SUVs to beat em’ all, we’d say.
For pricing information, details on Mercedes-Benz’s balloon financing programme or to arrange a test drive, see here.
This article first appeared on Dec 19, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.