Few vehicle varieties are older or extra conventional than that of the luxury saloon and, it naturally follows, none most probably has higher endurance.
It gained’t subject if there’s a brand new option to spend a six-figure sum on some aristocratic SUV with each passing month in 2018. Tesla boss Elon Musk can discuss his newest electrical debutant in ever louder and bolder phrases – and he’ll. Come what would possibly, it sort of feels, the full-sized, full- cream government limousine isn’t going anyplace.
This breed of auto has survived two international wars, two world financial depressions, a lot of recessions in between, an oil disaster and the ever more difficult risk posed by way of tightening emissions law. It has merely and resolutely stared down any and each problem laid sooner than it and continues to occupy the heartland of the luxury vehicle territory it charted and established over 100 years in the past. And it’s nonetheless flourishing and converting. For evidence of that, glance to the coming, over the last few months, of a brand- new fourth-generation Audi A8 in a while after that of a heavy facelift of Mercedes’ sixth-generation S-Class.
In each circumstances, those automobiles display the vitally vital roles that four-door flagship limousines proceed to play for his or her makers, each commercially and strategically. Just like their forebears did, those grand saloons blood the applied sciences that shall be trickling right down to promote the extra inexpensive, bigger-volume sibling fashions that their producers shall be pedalling for the following decade. Crucially, in addition they mirror the truth that, on the other hand a lot we would possibly assume tastes are converting, maximum world vehicle patrons proceed to image a big and conventional ‘three-box’ saloon with reclining leather-based seats and a strong combustion engine once they shut their eyes and believe a luxury vehicle.
When the present W222-generation S-Class was once introduced 5 years in the past, it rocketed immediately to the highest of our luxury magnificence ratings and has been unmoved from its perch ever since. Mercedes’ 2017 mid-life facelift of the automobile is a wide-reaching one, including all-new engines, delicate semi-autonomous riding applied sciences and new inner options to the automobile in keeping with the mandatory styling tweaks.
But the large Merc hasn’t ever confronted a problem relatively like the only represented by way of the brand new A8 – a vehicle that turns out able to respond to each query the S-Class may pose and extra. Digital tools? 48V electric powertrain techniques? Adaptive air springs? Just because the Merc’s were given ’em, so has the Audi. The S-Class’s not obligatory Magic Ride Control camera-based lively suspension appeared past imagining 5 years in the past, however theA8 has an identical device entering the variability later this 12 months. It even is going past the Mercedes’ same old on technological sophistication with four-wheel force and not obligatory four-wheel steerage – and it’s going to make higher headlines nonetheless when it turns into the primary manufacturing vehicle able to Level three supervised independent riding later this 12 months.
So right here and now, sooner than the Audi’s self-driving technological celebration trick makes the query more difficult to pass judgement on, what’s the most efficient full-sized government saloon on the planet: revised S-Class, all-new A8, or BMW’s sixth-generation 7 Series? The BMW has been denied the chance to head face to face with its German competitors on those pages since its release in 2015. Now’s the time to treatment that, too.
An Autocar crew take a look at may ordinarily set the tone for what follows by way of evaluating mechanical make-ups, chronic and torque outputs and relative efficiency claims. But the power-to-weight ratio of a two-tonne, Five.3m-long luxury saloon makes an unhelpful preview of ways effectively it will fulfil its number one goal. In 2018, simply because it did in 1918, that goal has the whole thing to do with how quietly, conveniently, easily and lavishly it transports its occupants – and far much less to do with how temporarily it should accomplish that.
And but it’s no longer as despite the fact that engines are an irrelevance right here, both, since beneficiant and out there torque makes a large, heavy vehicle all of the extra easy to force, as does linear powertrain reaction, in particular at low speeds. Audi was once ready to provide the A8 for this take a look at in 50 TDI shape handiest and that spinoff identification would possibly imply little to you in case you’re no longer clued up at the company’s new nomenclature regime. The ‘TDI’ bit must be acquainted (diesel) and the ‘50’ prefix describes an engine with anyplace between 278bhp and 304bhp.
The closest fit for that A8 within the S-Class vary is the brand new S350d, which switches from a three.Zero-litre V6 diesel engine to an all-new 2.Nine-litre, twin-turbocharged immediately six diesel whose height chronic and torque outputs (282bhp, 443lb toes) reflect the ones of the Audi precisely. The Audi will get four-wheel force as same old, and if we may have paired it with a four-wheel-drive S-Class, we’d have, however Mercedes doesn’t be offering one.
BMW does, on the other hand, be offering xDrive-branded four-wheel force on its 7 Series. And since we additionally opted to check those automobiles in what turns out like definitive long-wheelbase shape, we needed to plump for the relatively dearer, 316bhp 740Ld xDrive to spherical out the trio as a result of, oddly, there’s no such factor as a long-wheelbase, four-wheel-drive 730d.
So we’ll get started our comparisons on the industry finish of those board-level industry saloons: no longer with the engines for as soon as however in the ones ever so spacious, heated, multi-way-adjustable again seats.
First, and within the pursuits of transparency, there’s an ungainly apparatus mismatch to recognize. Whereas Mercedes and BMW noticed have compatibility to ship take a look at automobiles supplied to what you may name a luxury-optimised specification – with each possibility ticked prone to make their rear seats extra relaxed and agreeable as puts during which to nestle your bottom – Audi didn’t. So the S350d and 740d had ‘individual’ electrical rear chairs adjustable for the biggest recline perspective conceivable, augmented with motorised foot rests and plumped with further cushioning in puts, however the A8 50 TDI made do with out. However, with that during thoughts, our first marvel items once we uncover that the A8’s again seats aren’t the least relaxed of our trio.
When you’re taking up place in ‘the boss’s seat’ in both the Mercedes or the BMW, you do really feel extra such as you’re in a firstclass airline chair than you do within the Audi. What our specific A8 was once lacking was once the button at the armrests of the S-Class and 7 Series that led to their nearside again seat to become into front room mode. It’s relatively a metamorphosis.
Hold that button down and you’ll watch, with the glad smirk of any individual having their flatbed made up on a contemporary passenger jet, because the entrance seat motors forwards and upwards, its headrest flopping out of methods to come up with a unprecedented, unobstructed view of the street forward from the again seat. Then you are feeling the backrest of your personal seat sliding downwards because the seat cushion motors forwards and upwards, to fulfill a footrest that has gave the impression as though from nowhere from the ground of the stowed entrance passenger seat.
Configured thus, the S-Class’s again seat slides all of the option to 37deg of recline. It’s supremely relaxed – a minimum of part extra sumptuous feeling once more, on this tester’s estimation, than both the Audi’s again seator the BMW’s. And it’s undoubtedly someplace you wouldn’t want asking two times to seize an hour’s sleep. The Mercedes’ pillowy rear headrest specifically is a call for participation to unconsciousness virtually as effectiveas an open hearth, a complete abdomen and a repeat of Inspector Morse. Its footrest is at simply the precise peak and perspective to improve your legs as you stretch out. And must you need to learn or paintings whilst you’re so opulently cradled, the cleverly designed tables that fold out from the S-Class’s centre armrest, tables which may also be susceptible against you to make amends for your surprisingly recumbent posture, make that really easy certainly.
In like-for-like specification, the 740d’s again seats should be an in depth fit for this type of convenience point however they’re no longer. Equally, they’re a a long way cry from being uncomfortable. But in case you’re taller that 6ft 2in, you’ll’t omit the relative scarcity of back-row head room within the 7 Series when put next with the Audi and Mercedes; nor that the lounge-mode footrest emerges at a relatively awkward peak and the separate thigh extension isn’t as supportive because it should be. Judged towards the ones of the Mercedes and, to a lesser extent, the Audi, the BMW’s seats appear relatively flat and unyielding. They’re relaxed – just a little much less so than they give the impression of being.
The A8, in the meantime, covers the fundamentals so effectively that it finally ends up a just right deal nearer to the S-Class’s convenience point than the 7 Series’. It gives extra outright area for extremities than both of its competitors, and even if its again seats really feel just a little quick within the cushion, they’re additionally softer and really feel extra supple than the ones within the BMW. Sitting behind the A8 isn’t the singularly stress-free enjoy that it’s within the S-Class, but it surely’s very delightful certainly. And since a just right chew of that discrepancy is right down to the not obligatory apparatus point of our specific take a look at automobiles, we gained’t penalise the Audi too harshly.
It’s the S-Class, however, that will get its nostril forward early on this contest with the superbly conjured convenience of its cabin. However, it struggles in many ways to consolidate its merit whilst you begin to believe the whole thing else that issues within the inner of a luxury saloon.
You’ll need your German limousine to really feel immutably effectively constructed and ready for a life-time of carrier two times so long as maximum different recent automobiles, must you wish to have to increase it that a long way. All 3 automobiles right here really feel like that, even if handiest the Mercedes and Audi, of their alternative ways, actually take your breath away. With the A8, it’s the fantastic consistency of end of its polished fabrics, the virtually seamless precision with which the ones fabrics have compatibility in combination and the tactile feeling of integrity about each fixture which can be so shocking. But the A8’s cabin has a restrained, formal-feeling atmosphere. It’s extremely sensible, even if it’s additionally a vehicle during which you’ll feel sorry about forgetting a blank handkerchief to shine the ones huge expanses of high-gloss plastic and quite a lot of broad touchscreen interfaces.
In the S-Class, there’s a significantly hotter and extra lavish form of atmosphere in proof and a subject material richness that identifies the automobile loud and transparent as a bona-fide luxury merchandise. The Mercedes’ inner doesn’t really feel relatively as avant-garde because the Audi’s and it has numerous switchgear the place the A8 has little or no. But its flatscreen software show and adjacent infotainment display nonetheless create a extra impactful sense of technological awe than Audi’s do, floating as they appear to in entrance of the fascia and backlight so skilfully. And as a result of neither of the Mercedes’ monitors finally ends up coated in fingerprints, in addition they retain their visible attraction higher than the A8’s touchscreen equivalents do.
Controlling the Audi’s infotainment device, in the meantime, begins out feeling relatively awkward and distracting. There’s an try at haptic comments constructed into the A8’s split-level touchscreen infotainment device, but it surely doesn’t relatively really feel herbal – and each monitors require a relatively less attackable prod of your fingertip to modify a radio station, set a navigation waypoint or turn on the lane-keeping device than feels solely relaxed or intuitive in the beginning.
By distinction, the Mercedes will provide you with a selection of enter units in which you’ll keep an eye on its infotainment device: there’s the acquainted rotary Comand controller at the transmission tunnel, the touch-sensitive pad located simply above it and two new touch-sensitive thumb controllers to be discovered on both spoke of the steerage wheel. Does that imply the S-Class’s raft of on-board generation beats that of the A8 and the 7 Series total? ’Fraid it’s no longer relatively that straightforward.
Because even if the Mercedes’ in-car gadgetry is most probably higher dressed than that of its fighters, you quickly get used to the relatively clumsy means the Audi’s bells and whistles are accessed. Overall, you’d say the Audi tops the pile on geeky tech attraction for front-seat occupants. Out again, the A8 narrowly beats the 7 Series as a result of its rear-seat infotainment monitors may also be got rid of from the seatbacks and used like pill PCs and the S-Class (whose rear leisure monitors are the smallest and, on account of the faraway keep an eye on you wish to have to function them, the least navigable) props up the order.
Which brings us to what those automobiles are love to force – and be pushed in. And right here it’s price evaluating, for a second, how those automobiles are configured automatically. All 3 are suspended by means of air springs and adaptive dampers, with four-wheel force same old at the Audi, not obligatory (normally) at the BMW and no longer introduced at the Mercedes. Four-wheel steerage is likewise not obligatory on each the BMW and Audi (and, with regards to our take a look at automobiles, suited to the Audi however no longer the BMW) and in each circumstances it’s packaged with a variable-ratio steerage rack for the entrance wheels.
Fully lively suspension, which reads the outside of the street forward the use of the similar digicam and sensor generation essential for the quite a lot of lively protection and independent riding techniques at the vehicle, is not obligatory at the S-Class and shall be not obligatory at the A8 later this 12 months. Handily, a minimum of for the needs of this comparability, our S-Class didn’t have it.
And neither did it want it, evidently, in an effort to really feel like essentially the most supple- driving, relaxed and most often delicate vehicle of the 3. Not even limousines can get away the pervasive present development for riding enjoy tweakery, in fact – and so all 3 of those automobiles have dynamic running modes to cause them to variously less attackable driving and sooner with their responses to steerage, gearbox and accelerator inputs, or softer, calmer and extra laid-back, in step with your need. Mostly, despite the fact that, the ones modes really feel like transient distractions – sideshows, at their very best, to the settings you’ll default to 95% of the time, which permit those automobiles to do what large limousines do very best: cosset, soothe, calm and envelop.
And it’s nonetheless the S-Class that produces a delicately wafting, totally well-isolated experience, partnered with obedient and well managed dealing with, extra convincingly than both of its German fighters. The Mercedes’ long-wave compliance makes it really feel markedly softer driving than the BMW and the Audi; possibly a slightly extra one-dimensional and out of date, too. It is for sure a route-one, classically turned-out limousine to force, however its devotion to convenience turns out solely suitable for it and it is extremely simple to love.
That it doesn’t have both the 7 Series or the A8 crushed in each dynamic recognize leaves numerous room to love either one of its choices, despite the fact that. The A8 if truth be told rides slightly bit extra quietly than the S-Class,its three-chamber air suspension reputedly transmitting much less resonance up from the tyres and its four-wheel steerage device making it really feel smaller and extra wieldy in tight city visitors lanes than the Mercedes steadily does.
The 7 Series, in the meantime, is by way of a distance essentially the most likeable vehicle right here to force keenly out of the town, there being a discreetly hooked up feeling of honesty to its steerage, and a extra constant and settled more or less frame keep an eye on about it at excessive speeds that gradually encourages you to hurry it alongside when the chance items. The 7 Series is relatively a GT vehicle and obviously an original BMW whilst you’re within the temper for one and it additionally has the power of efficiency you’d be expecting from one. But its experience is evidently noisier than both of its fighters’ and its engine is a whisker much less demure.
For the ones causes, the 740Ld obviously can’t relatively be regarded as the most efficient luxury saloon of the instant. And for different causes, whilst you mirror on the whole thing we’ve coated and also you ponder what those automobiles are in addition to what they do, it’s strangely transparent – extra so than I anticipated it will be, undoubtedly when first I drove the brand new A8 in isolation a month or so in the past – that we’re shopping at two long-time pretenders to the luxury crown in orbit round one definitive champion. Two supersized government four-doors with their very own choice promoting issues, it will be just a little unkind to file, on an not going undertaking to usurp a uniquely grand, in point of fact sumptuous product that’s relatively quite and squarely hogging the limelight. Unkind, possibly, however nonetheless for sure true.
The S-Class would possibly not have ruled the brand new A8 right here relatively love it did the outdated one, however its accomplishments and strengths – from unequalled seat convenience and experience convenience to remarkable cabin richness, spectacularly obliging ease of use and actually stress-free travelling atmosphere – are proper on the middle of what an ideal limousine should be. Today, simply because it was once 5 years in the past, the large Merc stays an innately extra particular prospect than its each instant rival, able to doing what actually issues higher than each one in all them.
And regardless of being one of these not unusual sight in airport arrivals pick-up lanes and out of doors posh accommodations, possibly not like its imitators, “it just looks like the money”, doesn’t it? Every inch of it. Damn them: the ones vehicle photographers, on this case Mr Papior, have all of the very best traces.
1st – Mercedes-Benz S-Class:
Rich, delicate, relaxed and demure. A real luxury providing and nonetheless distinctive for its accomplishment and health for goal
second – Audi A8:
More than a fit for the Merc in many ways however no longer many who rely. Smart, quiet, spacious and but no more than the sum of its portions
third – BMW 7 Series:
Swift and likeable to force but it surely lacks luxury-market presence, grandness and ambition. It isn’t relatively in the similar league as competitors on refinement
TWO ALTERNATIVES AND WHY YOU MIGHT PREFER THEM:
To my thoughts, the XJ has a tendency to draw other patrons from this take a look at’s automobiles. Yes, at the face of it, the XJ is an extended saloon, similar to the others, but it surely’s decrease tech and no longer simply, I believe, as it’s an older vehicle.Instead, the XJ is ready quiet, quite understated luxury. Yes, it has fewer toys than an S-Class however that doesn’t make it really feel much less sumptuous. It simply feels extra old-school. Its experience has not anything to worry from the others, undoubtedly. And you’re much less prone to see it at the higher ranges of Heathrow’s non permanent vehicle parks. MP
To whom would you counsel the LS over the 3 large Germans? That’s difficult: it is a vehicle let down by way of its packaging and betrayed by way of its unlovely three.Five-litre V6 petrol engine. But in case you’re executed with European stuffy traditionalism, step this fashion for the LS is a correctly cool-looking limo. It is phenomenally effectively constructed, too, from beautiful fabrics. And there’s the hybrid factor. For the ones minded to shun diesel on account of the unholy mixture of befuddled politicians and disingenuous newspaper editors, anything else unleaded goes to be sexy even if, just like the LS, it provides no nice CO2 achieve and is most probably to make use of way more gas on lengthy runs. AF
Mercedes-Benz S-Class evaluate
Audi A8 evaluate autocar
BMW 7 Series evaluate
Audi A8 vs BMW 7 Series vs Mercedes-Benz S-Class: luxury saloon showdown