Mercedes S320 CDI LWB (2008) review

Published:02 June 2008

Mercedes S320 CDI LWB (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

The best car Mercedes makes? Surely it’s got to be the S320 CDI. The S-class absolutely dominates its market segment and, according to Merc, nearly 25 percent of all limos sold in the UK are the diesel S320 CDI. That’s absolute hegemony in the car market, and it’s not like there isn’t any opposition from BMW, Audi and Jaguar.

But if you wanted to dismiss the opponents off-hand, then you can do so rather easily. The Audi A8 is too hard-riding and too numb at the helm, the BMW 7-series is too dated, and the Jaguar XJ is too cramped and old-hat. And don't get us started on the VW Phaeton. That leaves us with the Mercedes S-class as the default choice. But don’t think the big Merc isn’t there without its own merits. This is one exceptionally good car.

Fair enough, but I’m not sure I like the look of the Mercedes S320 CDI...

Looks are of course subjective, but when this W221 S-class was released it didn’t have the style of the CLS, or the teutonic tough looks of previous big Mercs. Blame the extravagantly flared wheelarches, double-decker boot lifted from the Maybach, and the headlights that don’t run in line with that glitzy grille.

But the current S-class has been around for a few years now and constant exposure has either bred indifference or appreciation. Those wheel arches look pleasingly muscular when fitted with the default option 19-inch AMG rims, and our test car looked great on its £680 18-inch wheels

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Mercedes S320 CDI first drive

What about the inside the S-class?

Germanically imposing, but appealing nonetheless. There’s soft leather everywhere, and the hide on the steering wheel is especially squishy. As standard the seats (front and rear) are leather covered, electric, heated, and supremely comfortable. Even the rear roller blind and rear headrests are powered.

Merc’s answer to iDrive, Comand, works very well. A twist or nudge of the armrest-mounted dial allows easy navigation of the clear 8-inch screen, while steering wheel buttons can take care of minor functions should you wish. It’s just a pity that Mercedes didn’t switch the Comand cover from its left-hand drive position.

Interior space is suitably huge, and even the biggest banker can lounge in the back of this long-wheelbase car. It's vast back there.

Right, what about the drive?

Step inside, knock the column-mounted gearstick into D, tug the handbrake off and away you go. Just make sure you select the Sport transmission mode, or the car’s seven-speed transmission will shift to third as soon as possible. So you end up setting off very slowly as the car slurs between gears.

Once on the move things get better. You can feel it’s a big car but the steering is direct if not full of feedback. The optional 18-inch wheels don’t affect the ride, and the standard air suspension soaks up the very worst Britain offers. Only at low speeds is a little patter felt in the car.

The engine – which makes our long-term C-class supremely fast – is a little blunted by the S-class’s two-tonne bulk. But it still pulls strongly thanks to 398lb ft of torque, and you don’t really need any more power.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Mercedes S320 CDI first drive

It’s a Mercedes S-class press car, so it must be optioned up to the hilt, right?

Nope. Our car had a 'remarkably restrained' £7k worth of options. Goodies like the £660 reversing camera are a must, and the £1100 bi-xenons provide excellent lighting if you don’t want to tick the night vision options box (a great toy and works a treat). Not sure about £440 for the closing aid for the doors though.

Verdict

The S-class is big and imposing to some, but drive it and it shrinks around you. It’s nimble on the road and the Comand system is easy to fathom. It’s the ultimate big, relaxing limo. Nothing this side of an Rolls-Royce Phantom comes close.

Specs

Price when new: £59,885
On sale in the UK:
Engine: 2987cc 24v turbodiesel, 232bhp @ 3800rpm, 398lb ft @ 1600-2400rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 7.5sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 33.6mpg, 223g/km CO2
Weight / material: 2030kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 5206/1871/1473

Rivals

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Photo Gallery

  • Mercedes S320 CDI first drive CAR review: front photo
  • Mercedes S320 CDI first drive CAR review: interior photo
  • Mercedes S320 CDI first drive CAR review: rear photo
  • Mercedes S320 CDI first drive CAR review: side photo
  • Mercedes S320 CDI first drive CAR review: rear three-quarter photo

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

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