Test Drives

Mercedes-Benz S 450 L 2018 Review

Facelift and model range revamp for the super luxury limo: Mercedes-Benz S 450 L facelift gives more scope for fun and effortless comfort




Back in the 1990s, I remember seeing a print caricature depicting the average local businessman and their standard equipment: Gigantic Motorola ‘brick’ phone, gold Rolex, and a Mercedes-Benz S-Class.  

These days you’d find the image on the Internet, it’d be termed ‘Ah Beng Towkay Starter Kit’, the Rolex would have less gold and more platinum, while the phone would merely be an iPhone with a loud case.

While the car’s name remains the same, the current model (W222) is as far from the 90s S-Class (W140) as the iPhone is to the Motorola.

The W222 S-Class debuted in 2013, and brought with it a slew of new tech that’s since spread throughout the Mercedes range.

But its debut in Singapore was a bit fitful, the sole offerings being the S 350d (diesel) and S 400 Hybrid at first, and only when the 3.0-litre V6 powered S 400 arrived did sales really kick in.

Mercedes isn’t making the same mistake this time around. The facelifted model has two petrol variants to choose from, both powered by the same turbocharged 3.0-litre V6: The new entry level S 320 L model (272hp, $418,888 with COE) and the more powerful S 450 L model, which we test here.

Visually the changes are mild, such as a new headlight design and air intake section that has a square-cut grille and new chrome figure line sweeping its width.

The S-Class has always been the sort of vehicle where your blood pressure drops once the soft-close doors ‘thunk’ elegantly, and that feeling runs strong in the current model. This test car’s grey interior with open pore wood, and automatic fragrance, was particularly inviting.

The cabin’s largely the same, dominated by the two display screens that stretch from the driver’s side to well past the centre console, while the COMAND infotainment system allows you multiple ways to delve into the numerous functions of the car.

It’s still not the most intuitive (there are two methods of input, and additional doodle-function for text) but that’s also because the S-Class has a bewildering array of functions: Now you can choose the colour and intensity of individual lighting zones, or even how you want the AC to be delivered (soft, mid, direct).

This particular car also came with a new option: Energizing  Comfort Control ($1,000). It’s a sort of on-board wellness programme that links the lighting, climate control, scent and, if optioned, massage. It also plays music or can scan your collection for one of a proper tempo – thrash metal is wellness, of a sort.

There are a number of different programmes (Freshness, Warmth, Vitality, Joy, Comfort, and Training). On paper it sounds bizarre – who needs a car to tell them how to relax?

But if you think about it, we’re taking instructions from our smartphones all the time, and an S-Class has always been about offering refuge from the rigours of the outside world anyway.

The S 450 L is a champion at that still, since it has the sort of bearing and poise that’s rarely seen anywhere outside of a Rolls-Royce.

The adaptive air suspension whisks away most road imperfections as if they, and shoddy road repairmen, never existed, while the cabin remains softly-chat quiet at all speeds.

A driver will appreciate the extra grunt – 367hp compared to 333hp in the S 400 – and the S 450’s quite a bit quicker than its predecessor’s 6.4-seconds.

Plunge the gas pedal and the S 450 slips forward with non-alarming alacrity, the V6 a distant purr, and sustained high speed commuting is neither tiring nor particularly fear-inducing.

In fact, driving fast in all situations is something the S-Class is surprisingly good at, despite the long wheelbase and mass, it always feels fundamentally sound, never flouncing about the place, not upsetting the driver or occupants with unexpected behaviour.

Compared to normal, common machines, you surely do feel like you’re getting special treatment.

Come to think of it that might be one of the central tenets of an S-Class, and why people of all sorts – not just old businessmen – find it convincing.

Whether you’re in the front or back seat, being in an S-Class is a calming experience and that, we know, is the best sort of motoring.

Mercedes-Benz S 450 L
Engine 2,996cc, V6, twin-turbo
Power 367bhp at 5500-6000rpm
Torque 500Nm at 2000-4000rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
Top Speed 250km/h
0-100km/h 5.3 seconds
Fuel efficiency 8.2L/100km
Price $474,888 with COE
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Verdict:  A luxury limo par excellence that makes short, easy work of tasks many other cars find hard. A joy for driver and passenger alike

about the author

Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong