Satin sedan

The Mercedes-Benz S-class S320L is powered by a 3-litre turbocharged V6 with 400Nm of torque.
The Mercedes-Benz S-class S320L is powered by a 3-litre turbocharged V6 with 400Nm of torque.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
The Mercedes-Benz S-class S320L is powered by a 3-litre turbocharged V6 with 400Nm of torque.
The Mercedes-Benz S-class S320L is powered by a 3-litre turbocharged V6 with 400Nm of torque.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Mercedes' facelifted S-class is a cushy cruiser with a latent sporty streak

The facelifted Mercedes-Benz S-class is fitted with a G-force meter, a rather peculiar feature for a limousine.

Then it dawns on me - instead of seeing how far you can move the red dot with vigorous driving, you are supposed to keep it as still as possible.

It is not as difficult as it looks. The S320L is a veritable land yacht, with a predilection for calmness that comes from size, finesse and a pillowy air suspension system.

Squeeze its throttle and it will surge forward like a maglev train, insulated from the world's imperfections. And like in a train, you hardly feel any G-force.

You see the speedometer rising, the lamp posts flying past, but you are shielded from the nastiness ordinary motorists are exposed to.

Your sense of well-being is heightened by a headrest so soft and deep. And all at once, you realise you have not been in as cushy a car as this for a long spell.

  • SPECS / MERCEDES-BENZ S320L

  • Price: $412,888 with COE

    Engine: 2,996cc 24-valve V6 turbocharged

    Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with paddle shift

    Power: 272hp at 5,250rpm

    Torque: 400Nm at 1,300-4,500rpm

    0-100kmh: 7.1 seconds

    Top speed: 250kmh

    Fuel consumption: 8.2 litres/100km

    Agent: Cycle & Carriage

The red dot confirms what you already know. It has remained centred all this while, perhaps venturing out of its first circle momentarily when you apply the brakes a little too harshly to avoid that erratic Prius.

Everything is smooth and satiny. Even the car's active lane-keeping assist does little to mar your enjoyment of helming this lounge on wheels.

Turn its soft leather-lined wheel and the luxe barge responds with an even keel, impeccable in its cornering line, steely in its progress.

In comfort mode, its suspension irons out all the bumps and ruts on the tarmac. It is a bit too soft if you want to drive a little faster, so you select sport. In this mode, the ride is firmer, with no perceptible degradation in ride quality.

The luxury liner tends not to go beyond sixth gear in this mode, even when cruising on the highway. Flick the switch back to comfort and the gearbox goes immediately to ninth.

It is an extremely smooth transmission - as if the gears are Teflon-coated and lubricated with hot wax.

Changes are surprisingly prompt too. Step on the pedal and the car will drop two gears instantly. The responsiveness would not be out of place in a sports car, if not for a sheer absence of feedback.

Powered by a 3-litre turbocharged V6 with 400Nm of torque, the S320L has an easy disposition. Its 7.1-second century sprint is fairly respectable for such a large vehicle. Its effortlessness, however, comes from the car's unhurried manner - which prevails even when it is in a hurry.

Another glance at the red dot confirms this notion.

The more tangible changes in the facelifted car include multibeam LED headlamps with long-range high beam, 19-inch alloys, chrome radiator grille and large air intakes.

Inside, you will see dark wood veneer, Nappa upholstery, wireless phone-charging, and a widescreen cockpit with high-resolution display. Alas, its Cockpit Management and Data system (Comand) infotainment system remains its weakest link, with a navigation set that is frustratingly hard to toggle.

It is a small blemish though. The car is still a consummate limousine, with its soft seats, immense space and superlative smoothness.

But something else besides the G-force meter - shift paddles - makes you suspect it harbours other ambitions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2018, with the headline 'Satin sedan'. Print Edition | Subscribe