This is my 5th S-Class, second one from this generation. Over the years the car has grown be the real luxury sedan it is known to be. If you're looking for a sport sedan, go for the AMG or Panamera. If you're looking for the most relax daily driver on the market, you can't go wrong with this. The pedal feels firm where you can feel the power through each inch you press. For 13" front and 11" rear brakes, the car stops effortlessly. The 7-spd transmission is one of the best I've driven so far. The car has been flawless over the years. The only problem I've ever had, was to replace the wiper blades.
Generally I loved to drive this car. Reasonable performance for a full-size sedan. However, it's exceedingly thirsty. As always, the published fuel economy is way more optimistic than real world driving condition. A typical mix of city and highway gets about 450km out of a 100l tank. Do the math -- consumption is generally high teens per 100km.
After just over 4 years of age, and about 52000 kilometers, the transmission failed. The cost of parts and labour to replace the entire transmission was over $14,000. So where's the "legendary reliability, to quote Mercedes? It's a legend!
I have owned this car for a year after owning the Lexus LS400, Mercedes E500, Mercedes CL500 and I have been in many big Audi and BMWs. I have to say this is the one for my daily driver. The ride is wonderful and for a big vehicle it really moves when needed. I'm getting between 22-25mpg on the highway at avg speeds of 75. The interior is well appointed and yes, the command center does take time to figure out. The combination of space in interior and trunk along with the power and reliability makes me wonder why I did not get one sooner. If you are looking for an enjoyable way to get to and from work everyday or the long trips this is a great vehicle. Still enjoy after 1 1/2 of use, plenty of power from stop lights or passing range. For such a large car very quick and nimble. Find a nice used one and enjoy for the price of a new Camry.
Update 2016: Still enjoy the car very much. Power, Class, Comfort what more can you ask for in a large luxury vehicle. It' a 2009 and I still get asked is it new?
Waited 10 yrs to responsibly afford this car. WELL WORTH IT. My wife and I treat this vehicle like a family heirloom. A recent VA-NY road trip was blissful... too short even. Getting acquainted w/ the onboard systems is a fun adventure. Upgrading to the 2009 S550 4Matic (from our 2000 E320) was like being selected from an overcrowded coach class seat by a pretty flight attendant and being led by the soft, well-manicured hand to posh first class seats. Straight forward power is embarrassingly obliging. Leather, wood and interior touches are like a private men's club lounge that even a discerning lady can appreciate. Play it cool on long runs and flirt w/ 30 mpg. NY ice/snow: no problems!
I don't think there is a whole lot of comparison between this car and BMW 7 series. These are both great cars. If you are in for gadgets then a Lexus LS 460 will do the same with less cost. Having said that it is a different world to drive this beast with the best of world for gadgets and performance. The car is simply mind blowing in terms of latest technology and comfort. Best testimonial for this car can be derived from the fact it is widely used if not most widely by distinguished politicians and celebrities. We all know how unsafe politicians around the world are and their dependence on this car will reassure you all more than an average Joe like me. If you have money this is your toy