Tested: Mercedes-Benz S500

The obvious choice

As a motoring journalist, it was obvious that I knew what my wedding car would be; even before I met my amazing wife. So when our big day was looming closer, a few suave phone calls to the Mercedes-Benz fleet ensured that we had the use of their flagship model, in this case a pearl blue metallic S500.

Let me tell you, weddings can be stressful.

Let me tell you, weddings can be stressful. Even if everyone involved is under the strictest instructions from bride and groom not to faff about any of the stuff that usually creates tension. Despite our best efforts and a stern “doesn’t matter” attitude, the modern wedding malarkey still got to us.

Sure, I arranged a big Merc because it’s impressive, powerful and flamboyant but more important to us was the S500’s luxury, comfort and ability to insulate you from the worries of the world. When the rings don’t quite fit and the dress has the wrong sleeves, at least the S-Class will gently waft you to the caterer.

You’ll be glad to know that all these little niggles were ironed out by the time we exchanged vows, thanks in part to our elegant chariot. This W222 model is the eleventh generation of the world’s most successful luxury sedan, a car which is always pioneering and can trace its roots back to 1954.

Over its illustrious history, the S-Class can boast with features like anti-lock brake system (ABS), passenger safety cell, airbags, force limiting seat belts, electronic stability control, double glazing, air suspension, night vision, safety steering column, among many others. Most of those were firsts in a production car.

The latest iteration, launched in 2013, is no different and pioneers the use of LED lighting inside and out. There’s not a single filament light bulb in this car. Not one. Both the infotainment screen and main instruments are widescreen LCD monitors, controlled via a simplified COMAND rotary knob.

Further equipment which cements this car’s luxury ambience is fine leather with diamond pattern on the dashboard, exquisite chrome trim and a beautiful analogue clock, four-zone climate control with ionisation and selectable fragrances, seat heating or cooling and up to six different massages for the front pews.

See why I booked an S-Class for this weekend? When wardrobe malfunctions and iffy weather are the topics of the minute, an S500 will soothe your senses and glide you away from all these annoyances. Cruising around town requires negligible effort and often sees the rev counter slacking around 900rpm.

The Airmatic suspension with Comfort and Sport mode offers two ways of enjoying the 4.7-litre bi-turbo V8’s gigantic 335kW (456hp) or 700Nm, sent to the massive rear wheels via a 7-speed automatic gearbox with shift paddles and two more modes: Eco (with stop/start function) and Sport.

Set everything to Sport and the S500 does a perfect transformation from Dr Jekyll to Mr Hyde, rocketing to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds. We hit 5 flat and with deactivated ESP, the car even made a smoky, squiggly start with a faint tyre chirp into second gear. So immense is its power delivery.

Even more impressive is the high-speed and in-gear acceleration, digging into that mountain of torque. We found that Eco and Comfort modes offered the best ride comfort with hilarious power reserves. The optional AMG wheels on our test car were a bit hard at times but well dealt with by Magic Body Control.

This ingenious system (N$65,200 option on some models) uses the car’s 360° cameras to scan the road ahead and arms the suspension accordingly. The result is a mode of travel so comfortable that we often emerged from the S500 in a state of disappointment that our journey had ended.

A noteworthy feature on this car was the Burmester sound system (optional 3D upgrade for N$93,400) which can only be described as top-drawer. We felt the same about the 530L boot with its electric lid and motion-sensing opener, a very handy feature when you’re carting around a heap of wedding presents.

…this S500 was not the actual wedding car…

An S500 in standard form costs N$1,630,500 and is available in regular or long wheel base, eleven colours and over a dozen delicious interior colour combinations. A six-year, 100,000km full maintenance plan is standard. Not that you should be worried about longevity, this S500 was not the actual wedding car…

That honour went to a 1973 S-Class which also drove my parents from their wedding over 40 years ago.



0-10km/h:    0.5s
0-20km/h:    1.2s
0-30km/h:    1.6s
0-40km/h:    2.1s
0-50km/h:    2.8s
0-60km/h:    3.4s
0-70km/h:    3.7s
0-80km/h:    4.0s
0-90km/h:    4.4s
0-100km/h:    5.0s
0-110km/h:    6.1s
0-120km/h:    6.8s
0-130km/h:    7.8s
0-140km/h:    8.9s

0-100m:        5.6s / 105.9km/h
0-200m:        8.5s / 135.9km/h
0-300m:        10.9s / 158.6km/h
0-400m:         13.0s / 174.6km/h

0-60mph:    4.7s
1/4mile:    13.0s @ 108.8mph (175.2km/h)

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