Mercedes-Benz S500 – Best First Class Car



The Mercedes-Benz S500 was recently recognised as the best First Class offering in South Africa.

In order to compete in the First Class category of the Consumer Awards, vehicles in this category must have a list price exceeding R1-million at the time of semi-finalist voting (In this case, June 22, 2015).

More than this, vehicles in this category are judged according to the following Pillars of Success: Powertrain technology, luxury and on-board technology, brand prestige and exclusivity, design and quality appeal, driving dynamics, ride comfort and overall refinement.


Why did the Mercedes-Benz S500 Win?

For a very long time the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been the world’s first choice when it comes to ultra-luxurious sedans. The current generation proudly continues in this tradition. While there are more performance-oriented versions on offer, we think it is the S500’s marriage of traditional sedan comfort and luxury with modern tech that presents the sweet spot in the range and makes it a worthy winner in the First Class category.

The S500 is powered by a twin-turbocharged 4,7-litre petrol V8. It develops a very strong 335 kW and a colossal 700 Nm of torque is already available at 1 500 rpm, and remains so until 3 500. For such a big, heavy car, the performance is enough to make sports cars scurry with fear. How does 0-100 km/h in 4,8 seconds grab you? And yet, seated in those plush chairs, the performance is pretty much only evident in the blur of the scenery. This is a very quiet car.

In terms of driving dynamics, the S-Class has always prided itself on its ride suppleness, and the adaptive air suspension fitted to this model carries on in the same tradition. The S-Class rides fluidly, with very little of the bumps and gruffness of the world infiltrating the cabin. NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) control is excellent, with double-glazing adding another layer to the already cocoon-like properties of the cabin. For an extra R65 200 you can get the Magic Body Control system that scans the road surface ahead and adjusts the suspension accordingly. It works very well indeed. Also extra is a Driving Assistance package (R37 000) that adds items such as Distronic plus cruise control, steering control and active lane keep assist.

Marcel Perez from Mercedes-Benz receives the First Class trophy from's Operations Manager, Chris Barter.

The S500 is big on luxury and most of the expected luxury features are standard. You get safety technologies such as high beam assist and collision prevention assist as standard, while inside there are heated and ventilated front seats as well as the COMAND on-line navigation and info-tainment system. For rear passengers there is a separate climate control system. So, even in standard form there is precious little reason to complain. There are, however, loads of options to choose from… Want individual, electrically adjustable rear seats? That’ll be R25 000 and at the cost of some boot space. For R15 600 you can even get a refrigerator in the rear. A cool safety feature is Night View Assist (R30 500). If in-car entertainment is what you’re after, an entry-level Burmester system costs R16 300 while a top-end system is an eye-watering R93 400. An individual rear entertainment system is a further R35 900.

Is there a stronger premium brand than Mercedes-Benz? Probably not… The S-Class is still considered the most desirable large luxury sedan, and arriving in one brings with it loads of prestige. There are flashier alternatives, but this is still seen as the wise choice. The 2 years/unlimited km warranty is backed by a 6 years/100 000 km maintenance plan.

Presence and Elegance

The current S-Class is an imposing, yet elegant machine. Like most modern Mercedes models, its exterior styling is dominated by bold body sculpting, and at the front the huge chrome grille is flanked by beautifully detailed headlamps with LED “eyeshadows”. The rounded rear end features lights with LED detailing, too. The standard 19-inch alloy wheels already fill the wheelarches nicely, but you can pay R18 500 extra for 20-inch AMG wheels if you want more visual muscle.

Inside, the S-Class looks a bit intimidating at first, courtesy of an abundance of technology. The facia features huge TFT instrument screens, with most of the usual features controlled via the COMAND interface. This means there aren’t too many buttons around. Freed from having to find homes for too many controls, Mercedes’s designers let rip and came up with a flamboyant design finished in lots of chrome and piano black surfaces as well as beautiful ambient lighting. Of course, you can have more traditional trim as well if you want – dark brown eucalyptus is standard. For R6 600 you can get high gloss burr walnut.

Opinion from the Judges

“The big Mercedes-Benz has become symbolic for elegance, sophistication and intelligence. In fact, so strong is its grip on this market segment that it is called the S-Class class...” ­Hannes Oosthuizen

A big part of the appeal of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the effortless way in which it does everything so brilliantly well.” David Taylor

Compare the Mercedes-Benz S500 with the Mercedes-Benz C65 AMG Coupe and the Range Rover SDV8 Autobiography