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When you've thrown the feature book at a car, midlife updates are often only skin deep. Mercedes-Benz updated the S-Class range in early 2018 with a minor face lift and a reduction of available models from 12 to eight in a bid to simplify the range.
In addition to the range simplification, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz S400d L was spawned (a long-wheelbase version of the S400d) and the entire range had an increase in standard specification, including: COMAND Online with Widescreen Cockpit, Multifunction steering wheel with Touch Control buttons, touchpad with controller, Intelligent Thermotronic automatic climate control, Airmatic air suspension system with continuously variable damping system, Dynamic Select transmission mode selection, Smartphone Integration package with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a wireless charging system for mobile devices.
Kicking off from $199,100 (plus on-road costs), the Mercedes-Benz S350d presents at the entry level to the S-Class range. The vehicle we tested here, the S400d L, then comes in at $226,000 (plus on-road costs), while the range then caps out at $429,800 (plus on-road costs) for the Mercedes-Maybach S650.
Measuring in at 5259mm long, it's 130mm longer than a standard-length S-Class. It sits at 1899mm wide and 1500mm high to complete the dimensions.
Under the bonnet of the S400d L is a 2.9-litre turbocharged six-cylinder diesel engine that produces 250kW of power and a whopping 700Nm of torque, mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, and consuming a combined 5.5 litres of fuel per 100km. It's pretty quick for a diesel too, moving from 0–100km/h in just 5.4 seconds.
From the outside, the most obvious changes are the headlights and grille. The headlights are at the cutting edge of LED lighting technology, with 84 single controllable LED elements that can be individually lit and dimmed while driving to optimise lighting conditions.
They can be used in unison with Mercedes-Benz's matrix LED lighting system that can illuminate sections of the road in high beam, but intelligently dim or disable those segments as a car approaches. It gives flexibility at night and doesn't require constant switching of high-beam modes.
Inside the cabin, that LED theme continues with an ambient interior lighting package that offers 64 different colours and 10 colour themes to customise the cabin experience.
Speaking of which, the cabin really is a luxe place to be seated. When you think S-Class you think opulent luxury, and this certainly doesn't fail to deliver. There's leather on virtually every surface, while the new steering wheel looks high tech with a polished aluminium finish.
The screens then hit the package for six with a high-tech display each time you start the car. The two 12.3-inch high-resolution screens offer a number of functions, and are controlled either by voice commands or the central navigation cluster.
It can be confusing moving through the menus, because items sometimes aren't logically placed, while some of the buttons surrounding the controller are obscured by the controller itself.
The standard 13-speaker stereo is excellent and is backed by Bluetooth audio streaming, AM/FM radio, DAB+ digital radio, and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for further streaming options.
Surprisingly, there isn't a great deal of storage room up front. While there's a bin ahead of the infotainment controller, the centre console is only really big enough to store a phone on the wireless charging pad, along with a few other bits and pieces.
Hit the road and it's not hard to see why this diesel is the 'S-Class of diesel engines'. It produces its peak 700Nm of torque at just 1200rpm. Nail the throttle and it pins you back in the seat like an AMG-spec performance car, as opposed to a diesel cruiser.
While the steering isn't overly communicative, the engine and gearbox combination is excellent for getting in and out of traffic, along with mundane tasks like overtaking or getting away from the traffic lights in a hurry.
Gear selection is performed using a stalk attached to the steering column. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but it's a great way of shifting the whole mechanism away from the central tunnel.
The S400d L rides on air suspension with adaptive damping that creates a virtually flawless ride. It can be a little brittle over continuous bumps, but in general it's impossible to fault the ride.
Moving through the drive modes alters the level of input from the vehicle in terms of sportiness. For example, move through to Sport+ and the steering immediately becomes heavier, the throttle sharper and the ride firmer. Most drivers will never venture through the drive modes, but it's encouraging to know they are still there if you ever need them.
The whole point of the long-wheelbase version of the S-Class is for added comfort, so what's it like in the back seat? Pretty awesome, actually.
There are acres of leg, head and toe room and the seats can be reclined for added comfort. The centre armrest folds down to reveal a couple of cup holders, a storage bin and USB connectivity. Vanity mirrors are also tucked into the ceiling for a last-minute touch-up.
Cargo storage is good at 510 litres with power soft-closing doors and boot standard.
If you hit the highway, you will find the lack of road and wind noise remarkable. It's virtually dead silent, and it's this type of thing that puts a quantifiable value around the price tag – it actually feels like you're getting over $200,000 worth of car, as opposed to it being this expensive just because it's a Mercedes-Benz.
We did run into a couple of build-quality issues, though. The piano-black panel along the driver's door became loose and could readily be wiggled around. There was also a clicking noise coming from the floor beneath the driver's footwell. Both of these issues were fixed by Mercedes-Benz when we raised them.
In terms of ownership, Mercedes-Benz, along with the other German luxury manufacturers in Australia, only offers the S-Class with a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty with 12-monthly, 25,000km service intervals. Over a three-year period, servicing comes to $2980, with an average cost per service of around $993.
Despite this not being a segment that does huge numbers, the S-Class has been the best seller in the $100,000+ luxury car segment for the past three years, and that trend looks like it'll continue with sharp pricing and an expansive range.
And it's this car right here that is the real sweet spot in the range, if you'd like to blend luxury with comfort and performance.