The S-class has always been synonymous with luxury, and it continues that proud tradition. Sedan models are powered by either a 362-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 or a 463-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8. Rear-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic are standard; all-wheel drive is optional. Coupe and convertible models get the V-8. In keeping with the car’s flagship status, the S-class can be loaded to the gills with technology, including active body control and enhanced autonomous driving functions.
Buying a Mercedes-Benz S-class with a six-cylinder engine is like buying the smallest yacht that can still cross the Atlantic Ocean. No matter what’s under the hood, the biggest and baddest Benz sedan is a highly indulgent purchase—so why would anyone skimp on the engine just to save a few bucks?
Indeed, six-cylinder S-classes in the United States haven’t enjoyed nearly as consistent of a history as their V-8 and V-12 counterparts. Excluding hybrid and diesel options, few American S-classes in recent memory have offered six-cylinder variants. The current W222-generation car’s predecessor, the W221, did without one, and the W220 S-class before that offered a V-6 S350 model in America for only a single model year (2006).
New V-6, Not Like the Old V-6
Mercedes-Benz’s V-6 engines have come a long way since then, however: Compared with the 2006 S350’s middling 3.7-liter bent-six with a then impressive 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, the three-pointed star’s latest and greatest V-6 is a highly sophisticated, potent piece. (Maybe that’s why the badge now reads S450 despite the engine’s sub-4.5-liter displacement.) The twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter unit in the new-for-2018 S450 model puts out 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, and it mates with a standard nine-speed automatic transmission and either rear- or all-wheel drive. We tested both the rear-drive and 4Matic versions for this review.
The drivetrain propels the S450 to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds (add 0.1 second for the 147-pound-heavier all-wheel-drive 4Matic model, which is pictured here). While that might seem swift enough for a land yacht, it trails BMW’s six-cylinder 7-series, the 740i, by half a second and the latest V-8–powered S-class, the S560, by more than a second. A sub-14-second quarter-mile time can hardly be considered slow, but the S450 lacks the entirely effortless surge of power we expect in an S-class.
Mercedes does do a good job of isolating the V-6 from the S450’s cabin; it’s sublimely quiet at speed, emitting just 65 decibels at a 70-mph cruise—exactly as quiet as its posher Maybach S560 sibling. The key hints that you woulda, coulda, shoulda splurged for the V-8 are the slightly raspy mechanical tone that the V-6 emits on startup and a higher-pitched engine note that reveals itself only higher in the rev range, which you won’t often visit if you cater to the S-class’s desire to motor sedately.
The 2018 Mercedes S Class offers outstanding style and technology both inside and out. See interior & exterior photos. 2018 Mercedes S Class New features complemented by a lower starting price and streamlined packages. The mid-size 2018 Mercedes S Class offers a complete lineup with a wide variety of finishes and features, two conventional engines.
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