2019 Mercedes Benz S 560 4Matic — Benchmark of automotive excellence

By Jim Prueter

(November 18, 2018) The S-Class sedan, a benchmark of automotive excellence, is not only the flagship of Mercedes-Benz, it arguably makes a strong case for the “best car in the world.”  The S-Class dates back to 1972, with the most recent generation introduced for 2014 with a mid-cycle refreshing completed for 2018.  At first glance, it appeared little was changed.

Understandable, since most changes were under the hood, beginning with a new standard 362-horsepower 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 in the S 450. Mercedes also introduced a twin-turbo 4.0-liter 463-horespower V-8, S 560. Both trim levels get a new nine-speed automatic transmission that may be the smoothest and smartest we’ve ever driven.

All-wheel drive called 4Matic is optional. Merecedes also offers a 602-horsepower AMG S63 model and a handcrafted AMG S65 powered by a 621 horsepower 6.0-liter biturbo V-12 engine.

I recently tested the 2019 S 560 4Matic, the sixth year of its generation which is essentially a carryover from last year’s 2018 S 560. It continues the tradition as the class-leading benchmark when measured against competitors like the BMW 7-Series, Audi A8 and Jaguar XJ.

By any measurement, the S-Class is the standard for luxury, comfort, safety and technology. From standard top-notch materials, attention to detail, impeccable build quality to beautiful hand finished woods and leathers. There’s even a cabin air-filtration system with a choice of four aromatherapy fragrances disbursed from a cut-glass reservoir in the glove compartment.

But perhaps most unique is Mercedes’ energizing comfort system purports to promote wellness by allowing you to select a holistic cabin atmosphere. The 10-minute sessions include a heated massage to influence your mood, with a choice of six packages: Freshness, Warmth, Vitality, Joy, Comfort, and Training (which has three routines). They combine preprogrammed music with an appropriate beat, the aforementioned cabin aromatherapy, seat massage settings, seat heating and ventilation, and ambient lighting for suitable rejuvenation. Even the door armrests and top of center console are heated.

At night, the interior 64-color pallet with the energizing comfort system is nothing short of stunning. The level of personalization is beyond one’s wildest expectations. The wow factor is beyond description and must be experienced.

As you would expect from a top luxury sedan, front seat comfort is paramount and the S-Class doesn’t disappoint. Seats adjust in a number of different ways via both door-mounted seat adjustment switches and some adjustment controls via the dash-mounted infotainment system. The front seat side bolsters actually inflate when you go around curves and corners to keep you planted in the seat.

Our test S 560 included the optional rear seat package that includes electric reclining seats, an extending ottoman, retractable foot rests, pillows on the rear headrests, a refrigerator and folding tray tables. While overall, the rear seat is an extremely comfortable place to be, taller passengers over 6-feet may not find it roomy enough. What might seem odd is that if you want the most rear seat room for taller passengers, you’ll find it in models not equipped with the rear seat package. This is especially noticeable when the front seats are fully adjusted all the way back.

There’s also an optional rear seat refrigerator, but know that it does eat up trunk space, particularly in the center. There’s room for roller bags on either side of the refrigerator but you can’t roll one in the middle because of the refrigerator intrusion. There’s also an intrusion on the side of the trunk because of the Burmester sound system sub woofer.

We liked the Magic Sky Control sunroof, a hefty $5,000 option with technology that controls the opaqueness of the glass. It darkens to adjust the amount of light allowed into the cabin with a single button, without using the power sunshade to block light. A flick of the switch returns the glass to untinted and clear.

As expected, the entire interior is covered in leather, quilted leather and alcantara, a faux suede material. The instrument panel is exceptionally large with two LCD screens that occupy more than half of the cabin width. Four air vents are located immediately below the LCD screens divided by an analog clock, manually operated switches for climate control, and the main operating menu.

The center console has push buttons for navigation, radio, media, telephone, hazard lights and seats. Another button operates the engine stop/start, and there are buttons for the dynamic air suspension system setting, a 360° exterior camera, radio on/off, one to raise or lower the vehicle, and a button to turn off the parking sensors.

There are three different ways to interact with the infotainment system, including a rotating control knob and a hepatic feedback touchpad. The new steering wheel for 2019 includes a touch controller, a small black area for scrolling up and down and a push feature to make your selection. We found the control wheel on the center console to be the easiest and most accurate choice to use for operating infotainment controls.

There’s a seemingly endless array of high tech here too. The optional distronic plus cruise control will not only hold your speed and distance to the car in front of you, it will automatically bring the vehicle to a complete stop if the car ahead of you stops, and then drive away as traffic begins to move. All automatically.

The steering is also automated, keeping the vehicle between the painted lines on the road. Drift away from those lines and the car automatically centers the vehicle back to the center of your lane. It can even change driving lanes on its own. It even factors in curves in the road and tollbooths to slow down.

But for a car with unquestionably the most advanced technology and an enviable display of auto-making genius by an automaker with a history of building truly beautiful vehicles, we think the S 560 falls short of competitors relative to overall exterior design and appearance. Even with a new grille, wraparound LED tail lamps, and tweaking the front and rear fascias, this thing doesn’t come close to turning heads or having others chase you down leaning out their windows snapping photos with their iPhone. Pretty, it is not.

On the road we found driving the S 560 to be an incredibly enjoyable and thrilling experience. Acceleration for such a large and heavy vehicle is excellent with our 463-horsepower reaching 0-60 mph in just 4.5 seconds in the most competent and commanding way. It was one of the most impressive and enjoyable test drives we’ve ever done, gliding through curves and corners in the most elegant way possible. Everything about it is smooth, incredibly quiet, supremely comfortable and an engineering tour de force.

While on the road, listening to the 24 speaker Burmester sound system is akin to a concert hall experience. It’s an additional $6,400 to the price but is nothing short of spectacular.

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class clearly stands alone at the top of its class and is the epitome of a modern day luxury sedan. Some could easily argue it’s within striking distance of the up market Bentley Flying Spur. Consider the Bentley is priced around $190,000 and definitely within the limits of the S-Class trim levels.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $101,350
Price as Tested: $142,335
Powerplant: 4.0-liter 463-horsepower bourbon V8 with a 9-speed automatic transmission
Fuel Economy: 17-MPG City – 27-MPG Highway – 21-MPG Combined
Seating: 4

Crash Test Results: Highest possible overall 5-stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Final Assembly Plant: Sindelfingen, Germany

Competes With:
Audi A8
BMW 7 Series
Jaguar XJ
Lexus LS
Porsche Panamera

Fab Features:
Magic Body Control with curve tilting function
Burmester 3D Surround Sound Audiosystem
Magic Sky Control moonroof