Full 2013 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Review
What's New for 2013
Last year's Premium 2 options package (multicontour seats, front and rear parking sensors, rearview camera and keyless ignition/entry) is now standard across all models.
Luxury, thy name is S-Class. Rarely do carmakers meet the lofty standards they set in their pitches to the buying public, but in the case of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Mercedes does just that. And it's been doing this for decades with the introduction of countless innovations in comfort and convenience, performance, safety and technology.
If you're lucky enough to be in the market for an ultra-luxury sedan, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz S-Class certainly deserves a spot at the top of your short list. Though it focuses narrowly on luxury, the Mercedes flagship still comes in a wide range of models. From the more fuel-efficient S400 Hybrid and S350 Bluetec diesel models to the shockingly powerful S65 AMG, there's an S-Class for everyone. Well, anyone with deep pockets, that is.
The good news for luxury sedan shoppers is there's no real way to go wrong. Alternatives like the 2013 Audi A8 represent a somewhat more technical interpretation of luxury, while the 2013 BMW 7 Series emphasizes performance. The stately 2013 Jaguar XJ, on the other hand, brings a distinctly British flavor to the mix. For the individual who desires even higher all-around performance, the Porsche Panamera is the driver's choice. In the end, though, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz S-Class sets the standard by which all others are measured.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is a five-passenger, full-size luxury sedan available in S400 Hybrid, S350 Bluetec, S550, S600, S63 AMG and S65 AMG trim levels. Each is representative of a different engine, and in the case of the AMG models, a higher degree of other performance capabilities.
Every model comes standard with 18-inch wheels (AMGs excepted), adaptive air suspension, active bi-xenon headlights with automatic high beams and LED running lights, front and rear parking sensors, a power trunk closer and a sunroof.
Comfort and convenience items include keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power front seats (with heating, ventilation, massage, four-way lumbar adjustment, adjustable/active bolsters, enhanced headrests and memory functions), leather upholstery and extended interior trim, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a rearview camera, auto-dimming driver-side and rearview mirrors and a power rear sunshade. Electronic features include the COMAND electronics interface, Bluetooth, a navigation system, voice controls and a 15-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system with a six-CD/DVD changer, HD radio, satellite radio and an iPod interface.
The S63 AMG includes those items, then adds 20-inch AMG wheels and specific styling cues as well as AMG-tuned suspension, steering, brakes and exhaust. Inside you get a sport steering wheel, shift paddles, an enhanced instrument cluster and AMG-specific leather and trim. Also included is Active Body Control, a suspension technology that reduces body roll in the corners. The available AMG Performance package increases its engine output and top speed.
On top of the dizzying array of standard features, there are plenty of stand-alone and packaged options available. The Driver Assistance package adds adaptive cruise control as well as blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems that take evasive action in the event of driver inaction (though not in the S400).
The Rear Seat package adds four-zone automatic climate control and eight-way power rear seats with memory, heating and ventilation. The Rear Seat Entertainment package includes a dual-screen, rear-seat entertainment system and two rear seat remotes that can control all functions in the COMAND system. Also optional are power-operated shades for the rear windows, a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel, a night-vision warning system and a 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.
The S600 and S65 AMG get all of the above optional features standard. The S600 also has 19-inch wheels, enhanced brakes and Active Body Control. The S65 AMG receives the S63's extra performance enhancements.
Optional on every S-Class is Splitview, which allows the driver and passenger to look at different media on the center COMAND screen. It includes a COMAND remote control for the passenger.
Powertrains and Performance
Each 2013 Mercedes-Benz S-Class model comes with a different engine. The S400 Hybrid features a 3.5-liter V6 paired to a seven-speed automatic transmission, an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery. It is rear-wheel drive only. Total output is 295 horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, the S400 accelerated from a standstill to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined.
The S350 Bluetec features a turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel V6 that produces 240 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed automatic and all-wheel drive (4Matic) are standard. In Edmunds testing, it went from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds. It returns an EPA-estimated 21 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined.
The S550 gets a twin-turbo 4.7-liter V8 that produces 429 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive are standard, but all-wheel drive is optional. Mercedes estimates it will go from zero to 60 in 5.4 seconds, while returning 15/25/19 with rear-wheel drive and 15/24/18 with AWD.
The S600 gets a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V12 good for 510 hp and 612 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic (required for the engine's extra torque) and rear-wheel drive are standard. Mercedes estimates it will go from zero to 60 in 4.5 seconds, while returning EPA-estimated fuel economy of 12/19/14.
The S63 AMG features a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8 rated at 536 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. With the AMG Performance package, it's upgraded to 563 and 664, respectively. Rear-wheel drive and a seven-speed automated manual transmission are standard. In Edmunds performance testing, a standard S63 hit 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 15/23/18.
Finally, the S65 AMG has a twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 that cranks out 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive are standard. Mercedes estimates it'll hit 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, which isn't much quicker than the S63, but that's because the rear tires can't possibly handle that much power in such a test. Believe us, the car feels a lot faster. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 12/19/14.
Every 2013 Mercedes S-Class comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, side airbags both front and rear, side curtain airbags, active head restraints and Mercedes-Benz mbrace emergency telematics. Also standard is the Mercedes PreSafe system, which can sense an impending crash and automatically tighten the seatbelts and reposition the power seats for maximum airbag protection.
Optional features, depending on the trim, include a lane-departure and blind-spot warning system with automatic brake intervention, infrared Night Vision Assist and PreSafe braking, which uses the optional adaptive cruise control's radar system to sense an impending crash and automatically apply the brakes.
In Edmunds brake testing, an S400 came to a stop in a solid 121 feet. Both AMG models stopped in an excellent 111 feet, while the S350 split the distance with a 116-foot distance. Expect the S550 and S600 to be similar to that.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been the standard-bearer for luxury for several decades and the latest incarnation upholds that tradition in grand style. With exquisite craftsmanship and attention to detail, the cabin features top-notch materials and exacting construction. If you want something richer, you'll have to step up to a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce.
The COMAND electronics system uses a control knob and screen to work most entertainment and navigation functions, but the lack of physical dash buttons (like those in the E-Class) tends to complicate the operation of frequently used functions. The S-Class's abundance of features can also be a bit overwhelming.
The S-Class is not available in a longer-wheelbase version as are some of its competitors, but we suspect few owners will desire more than what the Benz offers. Space is plentiful in any seat and added creature comforts like heated and ventilated seats with massage are sure to please even the toughest critics, whether they're seated front or back. The available Rear Seat Entertainment package even gives those in back full control over the COMAND system. The trunk can accommodate up to 16.2 cubic feet of cargo, which is a decent capacity for this class.
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz S-Class provides a ride you'd expect from a top-tier luxury sedan. The compliant suspension ably cancels out road imperfections while also keeping body roll in check, and the cabin remains as quiet as a library even over rough pavement. It simultaneously gives you that stately luxury-car feel, without making you feel overly isolated from driving.
However, how an S-Class drives is incredibly dependent on which engine is chosen. The S400 Hybrid is slower and has a less natural-feeling brake pedal, but otherwise it drives just like you'd expect from a Mercedes-Benz. The S350 Bluetec feels powerful around town thanks to its diesel engine, while getting the best fuel economy and range of any S-Class (and, in fact, any other full-size luxury car). You'll also be hard-pressed to tell it's a diesel, as the engine's louder-than-normal clatter is pretty much imperceptible from inside the cabin.
Stepping up to the S550 will likely deliver all the power anyone could ever need. The twin-turbo V8 offers ample thrust while returning better fuel economy than before. The S600 turns the performance dial up even further, while the AMG models boast the handling and acceleration capabilities of much smaller sport sedans. There's never any hiding the immense size of the S-Class, but few cars can deliver this much performance and luxury in one package.