The big 2018 Mercedes-Benz S-450 may be the new base model in the S-Class lineup, but it's bringing true pampering to the more well-off masses as such. Standard features include an air-ride adaptive suspension, soft-close doors, a virtual instrument cluster, leather upholstery, and lots of technologies and driver's aids. We'd also recommend upgrading to add the Premium package with its Energizing Comfort system that blends massaging seats, heating, ventilation, and an air fragrancer to add to the ambiance. These all go well with the already-standard 16-way power seating up front.
Those who want the back seat to be just as creme should opt for the Executive Rear Seat Plus package with its right rear seat ottoman, massage functions, and more. Airline-style flip-out service trays, wireless charging, and rear seat entertainment control are also in that package. You may never hear from that back seat driver again, with all of those goodies to distract.
"Let them eat cake." If Marie-Antoinette really had said that phrase, she would have said it from a Mercedes-Benz S450. When driving a svelte machine like this one, it's almost possible to forget that the rest of the world is tooling around in far less classy machines. The 2018 S450 is the Bugatti Royale against today's Model Ts.
All of that over-the-top luxury aside, though, the 2018 Mercedes-Benz S450 is a great sedan. For the driver, it offers solid dynamics, strong acceleration, and a beautiful experience behind the wheel. A turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine outputs 362 horsepower (270 kW) and 359 pound-feet (487 Nm) of torque. Rear-wheel drive is standard, through a nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive ("4Matic") is available.
The engine in the S450 responds wonderfully to the throttle press, launching with minimal turbo lag and lots of forward motion. The transmission shifts precisely and quickly, as a German vehicle's gearbox should, and handling is supple and responsive. The adaptive chassis system rolls into curves and releases off the acceleration well, giving a very predictable and stable feel to the Mercedes-Benz S450 while retaining the sportiness expected when spirited driving is the goal.
The bigger S-Class sedans have far more power than does the V6-equipped S450, but that doesn't mean that the smaller engine is no match for the big sedan. Quite the contrary. It's more than enough to get the blood moving and add a grin at the prospect of an open, winding, country road.
Then we add on comfort to the 2018 Mercedes-Benz S450, which it has in spades. Few luxury makes can really match what the Stuttgart designers have put into the S-Class. There are no more comfortable seats than those found in the S450, while the smoothness and lack of noise and vibration are almost decadent compared to what most motorists are used to putting up with.
Several nice technology pieces are included in the 2018 S450, starting with adaptive cruise control as standard. Notable is the fact that Mercedes-Benz finally moved the controls to the steering wheel where they belong, dumping the blind and often knee-bumped steering column dongle that was used before. The driver's virtual gauge cluster rarely has glare and can be easily customized for better viewing. The head-up display is equally well done and easy to optimize (via the infotainment interface). The optional surround-view camera system is recommended as well, making parking and maneuvering in tight spaces far easier in this big sedan. Semi-automated parking comes as part of the Driver Assistance package in the Premium upgrade.
The new COMAND interface for the 2018 Mercedes-Benz S450 rides in a 12.5-inch display screen that dominates the center dash. This screen, which is well-integrated into the dashboard's design, is controlled through a command knob below and just off-center from the shifter. The top of the knob is touch-sensitive for entering information quickly, while the menu system is somewhat upgraded from the previous generation of the infotainment system for easier use. Advanced safety aids such as crash mitigation and pedestrian detection are available in the Driver Assistance package upgrade.
Our chief complaints in the 2018 S450 are with small details, and are mainly because the large sedan classes have upped the game in some respects and the S-Class has not yet caught up to that. One key point is in storage, especially cargo (trunk) space and small item stowage. The trunk is about average at 16 cubic feet (450 liters), but opting for the better sound system knocks four cubes from that figure. The trunk itself is a bit low to load things into as well. Small items are another problem, with the primary phone slot up front being only just big enough for today's average smartphone – the phone will likely slide when accelerating hard. Likewise, drink holders can be a bit cramped when multiple passengers are involved.
All said, though, those are small complaints. We find nothing to fault in the drive quality, feel, luxuriousness, and overall excellence shown in the 2018 S450. This is a great car to drive and it proves that some of us might be able to eat cake. Without having to behead anyone.
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz S450 starts at US$89,900 and was priced at about $140,000 as we drove it.
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