Few automobile forms are comparison or some-more normal than that of a oppulance tavern and, it naturally follows, zero substantially has larger staying power.
It won’t matter if there’s a new approach to spend a six-figure sum on some elegant SUV with each flitting month in 2018. Tesla trainer Elon Musk can speak about his latest electric debutant in ever louder and bolder terms – and we know he will. Come what may, it seems, a full-sized, full- cream executive limousine isn’t going anywhere.
This multiply of automobile has survived dual universe wars, dual tellurian mercantile depressions, countless recessions in between, an oil predicament and a ever worse hazard acted by tightening emissions legislation. It has simply and intentionally stared down any and each plea laid before it and continues to occupy a heartland of a oppulance automobile domain it charted and determined over 100 years ago. And it’s still multiplying and changing. For explanation of that, demeanour to a arrival, over a past few months, of a brand- new fourth-generation Audi A8 shortly after that of a complicated facelift of Mercedes’ sixth-generation S-Class.
In both cases, these cars uncover a undeniably critical roles that four-door flagship limousines continue to play for their makers, both commercially and strategically. Just like their forebears did, these grand saloons blood a technologies that will be trickling down to sell a some-more affordable, bigger-volume kin models that their manufacturers will be pedalling for a subsequent decade. Crucially, they also simulate a fact that, however many we competence cruise tastes are changing, many tellurian automobile buyers continue to design a immeasurable and normal ‘three-box’ tavern with supine leather seats and a absolute explosion engine when they tighten their eyes and suppose a oppulance car.
When a stream W222-generation S-Class was launched 5 years ago, it rocketed loyal to a tip of a oppulance category rankings and has been indifferent from a roost ever since. Mercedes’ 2017 mid-life facelift of a automobile is a wide-reaching one, adding all-new engines, discriminating semi-autonomous pushing technologies and new interior facilities to a automobile in line with a requisite styling tweaks.
But a large Merc has never faced a plea utterly like a one represented by a new A8 – a automobile that seems prepared to answer each doubt a S-Class competence poise and more. Digital instruments? 48V electrical powertrain systems? Adaptive atmosphere springs? Just as a Merc’s got ’em, so has a Audi. The S-Class’s discretionary Magic Ride Control camera-based active cessation seemed over devising 5 years ago, nonetheless theA8 has a relating complement entrance into a operation after this year. It even goes over a Mercedes’ customary on technological sophistication with four-wheel expostulate and discretionary four-wheel steering – and it will make larger headlines still when it becomes a initial prolongation automobile means of Level 3 supervised unconstrained pushing after this year.
So here and now, before a Audi’s self-driving technological celebration pretence creates a doubt harder to judge, what’s a best full-sized executive tavern in a world: revised S-Class, all-new A8, or BMW’s sixth-generation 7 Series? The BMW has been denied a event to go conduct to conduct with a German rivals on these pages given a launch in 2015. Now’s a time to pill that, too.
An Autocar organisation exam competence usually set a tinge for what follows by comparing automatic make-ups, energy and torque outputs and relations opening claims. But a power-to-weight ratio of a two-tonne, 5.3m-long oppulance tavern creates an unhelpful preview of how good it competence do a primary purpose. In 2018, usually as it did in 1918, that purpose has all to do with how quietly, comfortably, uniformly and expensively it transports a occupants – and many reduction to do with how fast it competence do so.
And nonetheless it’s not as nonetheless engines are an irrelevance here, either, given inexhaustible and permitted torque creates a big, complicated automobile all a some-more free to drive, as does linear powertrain response, utterly during low speeds. Audi was means to supply a A8 for this exam in 50 TDI form usually and that derivative temperament competence meant small to we if you’re not clued adult on a firm’s new nomenclature regime. The ‘TDI’ bit should be informed (diesel) and a ‘50’ prefix describes an engine with anywhere between 278bhp and 304bhp.
The closest compare for that A8 in a S-Class operation is a new S350d, that switches from a 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine to an all-new 2.9-litre, twin-turbocharged loyal 6 diesel whose rise energy and torque outputs (282bhp, 443lb ft) counterpart those of a Audi exactly. The Audi gets four-wheel expostulate as standard, and if we could have interconnected it with a four-wheel-drive S-Class, we would have, nonetheless Mercedes doesn’t offer one.
BMW does, however, offer xDrive-branded four-wheel expostulate on a 7 Series. And given we also opted to exam these cars in what seems like decisive long-wheelbase form, we had to plump for a somewhat some-more expensive, 316bhp 740Ld xDrive to turn out a contingent because, oddly, there’s no such thing as a long-wheelbase, four-wheel-drive 730d.
So we’ll start a comparisons during a business finish of these board-level business saloons: not with a engines for once nonetheless in those ever so spacious, heated, multi-way-adjustable behind seats.
First, and in a interests of transparency, there’s an ungainly apparatus mismatch to acknowledge. Whereas Mercedes and BMW saw fit to send exam cars versed to what we competence call a luxury-optimised selection – with each choice ticked approaching to make their behind seats some-more peaceful and acceptable as places in that to snuggle your backside – Audi didn’t. So a S350d and 740d had ‘individual’ electric behind chairs tractable for a largest recline angle possible, protracted with motorised feet rests and plumped with additional cushioning in places, nonetheless a A8 50 TDI finished do without. However, with that in mind, a initial warn presents when we learn that a A8’s behind seats are not a slightest peaceful of a trio.
When we take adult position in ‘the boss’s seat’ in possibly a Mercedes or a BMW, we do feel some-more like you’re in a first-class airline chair than we do in a Audi. What a sold A8 was blank was a symbol on a armrests of a S-Class and 7 Series that caused their nearside behind chair to renovate into loll mode. It’s utterly a transformation.
Hold that symbol down and we can watch, with a confident smile of someone carrying their flatbed finished adult on a complicated newcomer jet, as a front chair motors forwards and upwards, a headrest flopping out of a approach to give we a rare, unrestricted perspective of a highway forward from a behind seat. Then we feel a backrest of your possess chair shifting downwards as a chair pillow motors forwards and upwards, to accommodate a footrest that has seemed as if from nowhere from a bottom of a stowed front newcomer seat.
Configured thus, a S-Class’s behind chair slides all a approach to 37deg of recline. It’s magnificently peaceful – during slightest half some-more lush feeling again, in this tester’s estimation, than possibly a Audi’s behind seator a BMW’s. And it’s unequivocally somewhere we wouldn’t need seeking twice to waylay an hour’s sleep. The Mercedes’ pillowy behind headrest in sold is an invitation to swoon roughly as effectiveas an open fire, a full stomach and a repeat of Inspector Morse. Its footrest is during usually a right tallness and angle to support your legs as we widen out. And should we wish to examination or work while you’re so opulently cradled, a deftly designed tables that overlay out from a S-Class’s centre armrest, tables that can be prone towards we to recompense for your scarcely supine posture, make that unequivocally easy indeed.
In like-for-like specification, a 740d’s behind seats ought to be a tighten compare for this arrange of comfort turn nonetheless they’re not. Equally, they’re a distant cry from being uncomfortable. But if you’re taller that 6ft 2in, we can’t skip a relations necessity of back-row conduct room in a 7 Series compared with a Audi and Mercedes; nor that a lounge-mode footrest emerges during a somewhat ungainly tallness and a apart thigh prolongation isn’t as understanding as it ought to be. Judged opposite those of a Mercedes and, to a obtuse extent, a Audi, a BMW’s seats seem somewhat prosaic and unyielding. They’re comfy – usually a bit reduction so than they look.
The A8, meanwhile, covers a basis so good that it ends adult a good understanding closer to a S-Class’s comfort turn than a 7 Series’. It affords some-more undisguised space for extremities than possibly of a rivals, and nonetheless a behind seats feel a bit brief in a cushion, they are also softer and feel some-more movable than those in a BMW. Sitting in a behind of a A8 isn’t a singularly relaxing knowledge that it is in a S-Class, nonetheless it’s unequivocally pleasing indeed. And given a good cube of that inequality is down to a discretionary apparatus turn of a sold exam cars, we won’t penalize a Audi too harshly.
It’s a S-Class, nonetheless, that gets a nose forward early in this competition with a ideally conjured comfort of a cabin. However, it struggles in some ways to connect a advantage when we start to cruise all else that matters in a interior of a oppulance saloon.
You’ll wish your German limousine to feel immutably good built and prepared for a lifetime of use twice as prolonged as many other contemporary cars, should we need to extend it that far. All 3 cars here feel like that, nonetheless usually a Mercedes and Audi, in their opposite ways, unequivocally take your exhale away. With a A8, it’s a implausible coherence of finish of a discriminating materials, a roughly seamless pointing with that those materials fit together and a pleasing feeling of firmness about each tie that are so stunning. But a A8’s cabin has a restrained, formal-feeling ambience. It’s impossibly smart, nonetheless it’s also a automobile in that you’ll bewail forgetful a purify handkerchief to gloss those immeasurable expanses of high-gloss cosmetic and several far-reaching touchscreen interfaces.
In a S-Class, there is a particularly warmer and some-more intemperate arrange of ambience in justification and a element brilliance that identifies a automobile shrill and transparent as a bona-fide oppulance item. The Mercedes’ interior doesn’t feel utterly as fashionable as a Audi’s and it has copiousness of switchgear where a A8 has unequivocally little. But a flatscreen instrument arrangement and adjoining infotainment shade still emanate a some-more impactful clarity of technological astonishment than Audi’s do, floating as they seem to in front of a fascia and backlight so skilfully. And given conjunction of a Mercedes’ screens ends adult lonesome in fingerprints, they also keep their visible interest improved than a A8’s touchscreen equivalents do.
Controlling a Audi’s infotainment system, meanwhile, starts out feeling utterly ungainly and distracting. There’s an try during haptic feedback built into a A8’s split-level touchscreen infotainment system, nonetheless it doesn’t utterly feel healthy – and both screens need a somewhat firmer poke of your fingertip to change a radio station, set a navigation waypoint or activate a lane-keeping complement than feels wholly peaceful or discerning during first.
By contrast, a Mercedes gives we a choice of submit inclination by that we can control a infotainment system: there’s a informed rotary Comand controller on a delivery tunnel, a touch-sensitive pad positioned usually above it and dual new touch-sensitive float controllers to be found on possibly spoke of a steering wheel. Does that meant a S-Class’s raft of on-board record beats that of a A8 and a 7 Series overall? ’Fraid it’s not utterly that simple.
Because nonetheless a Mercedes’ in-car gadgetry is substantially improved dressed than that of a opponents, we shortly get used to a somewhat awkward approach a Audi’s bells and whistles are accessed. Overall, you’d contend a Audi tops a raise on geeky tech interest for front-seat occupants. Out back, a A8 narrowly beats a 7 Series given a rear-seat infotainment screens can be private from a seatbacks and used like inscription PCs and a S-Class (whose behind party screens are a smallest and, given of a remote control we need to work them, a slightest navigable) props adult a order.
Which brings us to what these cars are like to expostulate – and be driven in. And here it’s value comparing, for a moment, how these cars are configured mechanically. All 3 are dangling around atmosphere springs and adaptive dampers, with four-wheel expostulate customary on a Audi, discretionary (in many cases) on a BMW and not charity on a Mercedes. Four-wheel steering is further discretionary on both a BMW and Audi (and, in a box of a exam cars, propitious to a Audi nonetheless not a BMW) and in both cases it’s finished with a variable-ratio steering shelve for a front wheels.
Fully active suspension, that reads a aspect of a highway forward regulating a same camera and sensor record required for a several active reserve and unconstrained pushing systems on a car, is discretionary on a S-Class and will be discretionary on a A8 after this year. Handily, during slightest for a functions of this comparison, a S-Class didn’t have it.
And conjunction did it need it, plainly, in sequence to feel like a many supple- riding, peaceful and generally discriminating automobile of a three. Not even limousines can evade a pervasive stream trend for pushing knowledge tweakery, of march – and so all 3 of these cars have energetic doing modes to make them variously firmer roving and quicker with their responses to steering, gearbox and accelerator inputs, or softer, calmer and some-more laid-back, according to your want. Mostly, though, those modes feel like proxy distractions – sideshows, during their best, to a settings you’ll default to 95% of a time, that concede these cars to do what large limousines do best: cosset, soothe, palliate and envelop.
And it’s still a S-Class that produces a kindly wafting, wholly well-isolated ride, partnered with deferential and orderly tranquil handling, some-more convincingly than possibly of a German opponents. The Mercedes’ long-wave correspondence creates it feel considerably softer roving than a BMW and a Audi; maybe a hold some-more one-dimensional and old-fashioned, too. It is positively a route-one, classically turned-out limousine to drive, nonetheless a friendship to comfort seems wholly suitable for it and it is unequivocally easy to like.
That it doesn’t have possibly a 7 Series or a A8 beaten in each energetic honour leaves copiousness of room to like both of a alternatives, though. The A8 indeed rides a small bit some-more sensitively than a S-Class,its three-chamber atmosphere cessation clearly transmitting reduction inflection adult from a tyres and a four-wheel steering complement creation it feel smaller and some-more wieldy in parsimonious civic trade lanes than a Mercedes mostly does.
The 7 Series, meanwhile, is by a stretch a many likeable automobile here to expostulate keenly out of town, there being a discreetly connected feeling of probity to a steering, and a some-more unchanging and staid kind of physique control about it during high speeds that kindly encourages we to speed it along when a event presents. The 7 Series is utterly a GT automobile and clearly an authentic BMW when you’re in a mood for one and it also has a strength of opening you’d design from one. But a float is clearly noisier than possibly of a opponents’ and a engine is a hair reduction demure.
For those reasons, a 740Ld clearly can’t utterly be deliberate a best oppulance tavern of a moment. And for other reasons, when we simulate on all we’ve lonesome and we anticipate what these cars are as good as what they do, it’s surprisingly transparent – some-more so than we approaching it would be, positively when initial we gathering a new A8 in siege a month or so ago – that we’re looking during dual long-time pretenders to a oppulance climax in circuit around one decisive champion. Two supersized executive four-doors with their possess choice offered points, it would be a bit unpleasant to record, on an doubtful goal to adopt a singly grand, truly lush product that’s utterly sincerely and precisely hogging a limelight. Unkind, perhaps, nonetheless still indisputably true.
The S-Class competence not have dominated a new A8 here utterly like it did a aged one, nonetheless a accomplishments and strengths – from unmatched chair comfort and float comfort to superb cabin richness, spectacularly good palliate of use and honestly relaxing travelling ambience – are right during a heart of what a good limousine ought to be. Today, usually as it was 5 years ago, a large Merc stays an inherently some-more special awaiting than a each evident rival, means of doing what unequivocally matters improved than each one of them.
And notwithstanding being such a common steer in airfield arrivals pick-up lanes and outward posh hotels, maybe distinct a imitators, “it usually looks like a money”, doesn’t it? Every in. of it. Damn them: those automobile photographers, in this box Mr Papior, have all a best lines.
1st – Mercedes-Benz S-Class:
Rich, gentle, peaceful and demure. A loyal oppulance charity and still singular for a fulfilment and aptness for purpose
2nd – Audi A8:
More than a compare for a Merc in some ways nonetheless not many that count. Smart, quiet, atmospheric and nonetheless no larger than a sum of a parts
3rd – BMW 7 Series:
Swift and likeable to expostulate nonetheless it lacks luxury-market presence, grandness and ambition. It isn’t utterly in a same joining as rivals on refinement
TWO ALTERNATIVES AND WHY YOU MIGHT PREFER THEM:
To my mind, a XJ tends to attract opposite buyers from this test’s cars. Yes, on a face of it, a XJ is a prolonged saloon, usually like a others, nonetheless it’s reduce tech and not just, we think, given it’s an comparison car.Instead, a XJ is about quiet, rather understated luxury. Yes, it has fewer toys than an S-Class nonetheless that doesn’t make it feel reduction luxurious. It usually feels some-more old-school. Its float has zero to fear from a others, certainly. And you’re reduction approaching to see it on a top levels of Heathrow’s short-term automobile parks. MP
To whom would we suggest a LS over a 3 large Germans? That’s tricky: this is a automobile let down by a wrapping and tricked by a unlovely 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine. But if you’re finished with European bleak traditionalism, step this approach for a LS is a scrupulously cool-looking limo. It is unusually good built, too, from artistic materials. And there’s a hybrid thing. For those disposed to evade diesel given of a unholy multiple of confused politicians and treasonable journal editors, anything unleaded is going to be appealing even when, like a LS, it offers no good CO2 benefit and is approaching to use distant some-more fuel on prolonged runs. AF
Mercedes-Benz S-Class review
Audi A8 examination autocar
BMW 7 Series review