2022 Mercedes-Benz S450 4Matic review Australia

Things we like

  • Ultra luxury cabin experience
  • Impressive handling belies its size
  • Supreme comfort front and rear

Not so much

  • Lacking brake pedal feel
  • Engine noise more intrusive than expected
  • Cruise control tricky to operate

For decades the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has defined what the term ‘luxury car’ means, and the 2022 Mercedes-Benz S 450 4MATIC is no different.

It has come a long way since its origins in the 1951 model 220, or even perhaps the first of its name introduced with the 116 series in 1972.

Rather than embodying the best of the current age, however, the S-Class usually gives a glimpse into the future and has consistently set the benchmark for what we might expect to see from more mainstream brands in years to come.

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Alongside safety enhancements that were introduced as part of the MY21 update in February this year, the seventh-generation model brings with it an enormous, and beautifully crisp, 12.8-inch OLED touchscreen providing access to the brand’s second-gen MBUX infotainment system.

The 2022 S-Class also has improved aero-acoustics over the previous generation, while the high rigidity of the new aluminium hybrid bodyshell – 60kg lighter than its predecessor – is claimed to provide the basis for even more comfort when it comes to noise and vibration suppression.

Pricing

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For 2022, pricing is actually marginally lower than for the previous year, dropping from $240,700 to $240,577 for the standard wheelbase, or from $264,900 to $264,777 for the long wheelbase. A range-topping S 580 L is also available for $329,776. Prices all exclude on-road costs.

The version tested here is the Mercedes-Benz S450 in standard obsidian black metallic paint – optioned with AMG Line trim ($6500), the Rear Entertainment Package ($8700), Rear Seat Comfort Package ($7800), Exclusive Package ($12,500), Energising Package ($11,000) and rear-axle steering ($2700). In total that adds up to $289,777 worth of car, before on-roads.

Features

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As you would expect of an S-Class, the supremely elegant S 450 certainly cuts a dash. The design oozes executive appeal, with ultra-tight shut lines and an unmistakably efficient shape – its 0.22 Cd makes it one of the most aerodynamic cars available in the world – while also sporting a muscular stance, in this case enhanced by optional AMG Line styling, 20-inch multi-spoke wheels in high-gloss black and larger brakes on the front axle. It has real road presence, especially given the vehicle’s size.

Move inside and the ultra-luxury experience is taken up another notch. The interior features Exclusive Nappa Leather upholstered seats so comfy you can sink right into them, a high-gloss black poplar wood trim for the dash and a centre console decked out in a black crystal look. The AMG-Line multi-function sports steering wheel is also swathed in the same Nappa leather to complement its surroundings.

If there’s just one thing that stands out, it is the velour head cushions attached to the headrests. The look of the material here is just a touch at odds with the overall aesthetic, even if they are incredibly comfortable.

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The presence of a dual-sliding glass panoramic sunroof for front and rear occupants gives the cabin a bright and airy feel, enhanced by ambient lighting (available in a variety of colours controlled through the infotainment hub) running along the lengths of the doors and the dash, while the 710W 15-speaker Burmester sound system is nothing short of cinematic.

Up front, electronically adjustable seats with memory function can be controlled from conveniently placed five-way buttons on both doors, which also allow occupants to turn on heating and ventilation depending on the weather.

Though many modern cars, especially those at the pricier end of the scale, now have head-up displays, the S 450’s goes the extra mile – not only showing the digital speedometer but also sat-nav directions through its augmented reality function.

Rather than embodying the best of the current age, the S-Class usually gives a glimpse into the future.

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For example, animated turn-off arrows are virtually and precisely projected onto the road lane, telling the driver when to turn and at what angle. It sounds like it would be distracting, but is in fact extremely useful and hopefully will make those ‘damn, I just missed my freeway exit’ moments a thing of the past.

The showpiece in this car though has to be the 12.8-inch OLED portrait touchscreen, which cascades down from the top of the dash to the centre console and is home to Mercedes’ second-generation MBUX infotainment system.

Its image quality is just on another level compared to any in-car screen we’ve seen – the definition is crystal clear, with every colour appearing bold and vivid against the black trim surroundings.

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The menus found within are fairly logical and easy to use at a standstill, if potentially a bit fiddly on the move – as are a few other things.

These include the button to switch driving modes (you can easily end up hitting the one next to it instead when trying to click right), the gearshifter being on a stalk behind the steering wheel (it’s too easy to knock into neutral accidentally and I much prefer a traditional setup) and the adaptive cruise control can be complicated to configure while driving, largely due to the capacitive touch pads used to control it on the steering wheel (like an iPhone screen) that are sometimes slow to react and just not as intuitive as physical buttons.

As well as featuring wireless charging and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capabilities, MBUX provides Mercedes Me app connectivity and the ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control function that is simple to use and a lot of fun – like having your very own butler in the car with you.

Don’t feel like turning on the seat massage (there are multiple options to choose from depending on the mood you’re in) yourself or pushing the button to bring up the rear sun-blind? They’ve got it covered. There were only a few times we asked it to do something for us where it wasn’t able to comply – an impressive feature to have.

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Equally impressive is the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, which tracks the eye movements of the driver and passenger to recognise who’s in the hot seat and adjusts to their preferred settings accordingly – as well as boasting a 3D effect that is jazzy, if a little distracting at times.

Through a series of different layouts, you can opt to have a map fill the whole binnacle screen, or dedicated displays such as Classic and Sport – though we feel the bright red colouring of the latter is a little garish and unbecoming of an S-Class model that doesn’t have the full-blown AMG performance.

In a similar vein, when stopped at a red (and you’re not at the front of the queue) up pops a traffic light view showing what’s happening in front of you at the junction. Sounds cool, although we feel it’s a tad gimmicky and we can’t quite work out what purpose it really serves.

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In addition to the main touchscreen, two smaller 11.6-inch units are included for back seat passengers on this test car, which have to be optioned via the Rear Entertainment Package – a nice to have if someone needs to spend extended time in the second row and wants to relax watching the box. Headphones are also included as part of the deal.

There are too many optional extras to list here, but in addition to those already mentioned (or packages for rear occupants placed on this test model and outlined below) buyers can opt for the long wheelbase – which brings with it as standard forward-facing airbags for the second row (a world first), electrically adjustable rear seats with memory function and dual-zone climate control like that found in the front.

Comfort and space

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The words comfort and space literally sum up some of the best features of this vehicle – especially the second-row experience, which is more akin to flying business class than sitting in the back of a car.

As mentioned, the Exclusive Nappa leather (courtesy of the Exclusive Package) throughout is soft, supportive and exudes luxury. And it is well complemented by the Dinamica microfibre headlining.

The SWB measures 5179mm in length, with a width of 2109mm and height of 1503mm – its wheelbase is 3106mm, 110mm shorter than the LWB.

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Although it could be argued that the SWB is more of a driver’s car than a limo – those seeking the latter are perhaps more likely to go for the LWB – the standard version holds its own. It’s hard to imagine anyone being uncomfortable or feeling cramped in the back seats with all the bells and whistles on offer – even more so with the optional Rear Entertainment, Rear Seat Comfort and Energising packages we have here.

There’s more than enough legroom for rear passengers, as well as those in the front, and the boot holds 550L which is comfortably capacious enough for two large suitcases and two smaller sized ones for trips to the airport and the like.

It’s hard to imagine anyone being uncomfortable or feeling cramped in the back seats, with all the bells and whistles on offer.

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The Rear Entertainment Package does what it says on the tin and includes the two aforementioned 11.6-inch touchscreens for occupants to use to watch TV or listen to music.

There’s also a separate tablet housed in the centre armrest/middle seat for passengers to have an almost entirely distinct in-car experience from those up front, providing the ability to control features such as the two-zone climate control, seat position and massage if they wish.

One particularly satisfying element that warrants a mention here is the way in which you dock the tablet – instead of just a simple button to click it in place, the charging port is motorised and couples automatically with a completely silent motion when you place the tablet in its spot. It’s the small things like this that show Mercedes has really put effort into making every experience in the car a real luxury, even down to the last detail.

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As in the front row, rear seats are electrically adjustable (due to the options fitted to this car) with controls on the doors as well as through the tablet, and passengers can also make use of two USB-C ports and cup holders.

The addition of the Energising Package is where the S-Class really stands a cut above the rest. Not only does it include a perfume (housed in the glovebox) to provide a relaxing, almost spa-like, scent but clever technology activated by the touch of a button or voice command changes the lighting and music to make the environment more relaxing – handy for captains of industry who need some downtime after a stressful day.

On the road

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Though the S-Class is an undeniably comfortable and luxurious affair that’s generally chosen by those who want to be ferried around, this is also a car the driver can genuinely enjoy.

Powered by a 3.0-litre inline six with mild hybrid “EQ Boost”, mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, the S450 produces 270kW of power and a brawny 500Nm of torque. It’s definitely no slouch and feels like it can respond with plenty of oomph regardless of the speed.

While Comfort mode certainly maintains the elegant status quo with almost imperceptible gear changes, Sport or Sport + show that there’s more to this machine than doubling as a plush airport lounge on wheels.

With the latter in particular, throttle response sharpens dramatically, and the steering weights up nicely without feeling artificial. Suddenly it feels much lighter on its feet for what is still a considerably long and heavy car.

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In fact, the steering is really well judged overall, and really inspires confidence that you can place the car on the road just as easily as you would a compact hatchback. This is in no doubt helped by the optional rear-wheel steering system fitted to this car, allowing it to tuck itself around tiny, tight roundabouts like it’s half the size.

This is because the steering angle at the rear axle is up to 10 degrees, reducing the turning circle by as much as two metres to less than 10.9 metres. On faster, flowing corners, the smallest S-Class also handles impeccably. It feels surefooted and provides excellent grip and control thanks to its 4Matic all-wheel-drive setup.

Mercedes’ Airmatic air suspension also ensures a wonderfully smooth ride, absorbing all the bumps and lumps with ease, though particularly large ones can cause some slight reverberation.

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Engine sound can be a little more intrusive than you’d expect, especially on start-up, but overall road clamour is negligible and the resounding impression is of a hushed and serene atmosphere for everyone onboard, helped by noise-insulating acoustic glass on the front windows.

Meanwhile, brake pedal feel is not as good as it could be. Though there’s nothing wrong at all with the braking force itself, it’s just not communicated as strongly to your foot as we’d like. It means you have to press harder than you’d expect, which is surprising for a vehicle of this ilk.

Officially rated at 8.6L/100km on the combined cycle, we’ve found the best fuel economy we could achieve in this S-Class was 9.2L/100km despite the assistance of the mild-hybrid EQ Boost. Pretty close, given we drove on a mix of roads and enjoyed the full potential of Sport + quite frequently.

Safety and ownership

The S 450 comes with a host of active and passive safety systems across its line-up – which are all standard with the exception of the forward-facing airbags in the second row as mentioned above as these are available only on the long wheelbase variant.

Highlights include:

  • Active distance assist
  • Route based speed adaptation
  • Evasive steering assist
  • Active stop and go assist
  • Extended automatic restart in traffic
  • Active lane change assist
  • Pre-Safe Plus including impulse side
  • Urban Guard vehicle protection
  • 10 airbags
  • Electronic stability program
  • Traffic sign assist
  • Parking Package with active parking assist and 360-degree camera
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The fifth-generation S-Class has new and numerous improved functions, such as intelligent compliance with speed limits. For the most part, we found it to be pretty accurate at acknowledging changes along the freeway, although sometimes it wasn’t entirely on the money, showing you shouldn’t rely on the car to do all your thinking for you – even if it is an incredibly capable machine.

Lane-change assist gently draws the vehicle back into the middle of the lane without making any sudden, jerky movements – or using a loud and annoying noise – if you come too close to leaving it. A series of beeps also occurs if you let go of the steering wheel for too long but in no way is the alarm aggressive, which is in keeping with the premium feel.

Though the adaptive cruise control works well, it isn’t the most straightforward to set up, which is a surprise considering such systems are far easier to use in some far less luxurious vehicles. Put it this way, you’ll want to figure it out before you go anywhere as trying to understand it on the move is tricky and distracting.

The 2022 S 450 does not have an ANCAP rating.

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As the S-Class luxury sedan is Mercedes-Benz’s flagship model and comes with a hefty price tag, it’s unsurprising that it doesn’t sell in big numbers. If everyone had one, what would be the appeal after all? Year-to-date 175 have been sold, with 11 of those in September (LWB and S 580 included).

It leads its upper large (more than $100,000) segment rivals such as the Audi A8, Porsche Panamera and Lexus LS that have sold just 23, 42 and 30 units respectively.

All Mercedes-Benz products come with a standard five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty – with three years of capped-price servicing at intervals every 12 months or 25,000km.

VERDICT

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The 2022 Mercedes-Benz S 450, much like its predecessors, is the ultimate in automotive luxury. While it certainly comes at a price, there’s a lot of kit in there to justify almost every dollar, and it’s the combination most of us can only dream of having in a vehicle – providing the optimum balance of performance, comfort and safety.

Highlights for us are the large portrait touchscreen, which is unparalleled in other vehicles of this segment, the ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control functionality, and the engaging handling and steering, which you just don’t expect from a car of this size or class.

There’s no doubt this is an exceptional vehicle. It continues to lead where others follow, and delivers on defining the standards of luxury.

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While the S-Class is slightly let down by the brake pedal feel and louder-than-expected engine, there’s no doubt this is an exceptional vehicle and lives up to the standards you’d expect of Mercedes-Benz’s flagship model. It continues to lead where others follow and delivers on defining the standards of luxury in this segment.

If we had to choose, we might opt for the long wheelbase to get the rear front facing airbags and electrically adjustable second-row seats as standard – as well as the extra 110mm of legroom of course.

The S 450 SWB costs $240,577 before on-roads and all the options outlined here, which push the price up to $289,777 + ORC. By comparison, the Audi A8 is $167,515 + ORC and a Lexus LS $218,115 drive-away while the Porsche Panamera range kicks off at $232,463, also drive-away before any extras are added.

2022 Mercedes-Benz S450 4 MATIC specifications

Body Five-door sedan
Drive all-wheel
Engine M256 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol with EQ Boost
Gearbox nine-speed automatic
Power 270kW @ 5500-6100rpm
Torque 500Nm @ 1600-4500rpm
Compression ratio 10.5:1
0-100km/h 5.1sec
Fuel consumption 8.6L/100km (combined)
Weight 2076kg (kerb
Suspension Airmatic air suspension
L/W/h 5179/2109/1503mm
Wheelbase 3106mm
Brakes Ventilated discs front and rear, front are perforated
Tyres 255/40 R20 (front); 285/35 R20 (rear)
Wheels 20-inch
Price $240,577 + ORC

9.0

Safety, value and features

Things we like

  • Ultra luxury cabin experience
  • Impressive handling belies its size
  • Supreme comfort front and rear

Not so much

  • Lacking brake pedal feel
  • Engine noise more intrusive than expected
  • Cruise control tricky to operate