When we drove the new 2014 S-Class for the first time, it quite simply wiped out any doubts we may have had in our mind about its supremacy as the best limousine in the world. The quality of materials, the technology underneath, the tranquil cabin and the stupendous dynamic ability of the new S-Class has created an extremely difficult benchmark for the rest of the luxury carmakers to achieve. The only downsides of the car in the fully imported S500 petrol guise were its steep price and a fuel efficiency figure which wasn’t very enticing, even for the super rich, to put it mildly.
Fret not, though. Mercedes-Benz have now introduced a locally assembled version of the new S-Class with a much preferred diesel power plant under the bonnet. Thanks to the lower duty structure on CKD units, the price of the new S350 CDI has gone down by close to 30 lakh rupees over the S500 petrol version. Mercedes-Benz have also removed quite a few goodies from the loaded S500 and kept only the most relevant features on the India specific model. Having said that, the S350 CDI still comes across as a feature laden car, which is head and shoulders above the competition.
So what has changed on the outside?
Not much, save for a few fine details. To start with, the S350 CDI rides on new 10 spoke 18 inch wheels, unlike the sportier 5×2 spoke 19 inch alloys on the S500. Tyres are Runflat, though there is a spare to fall back on, in case of a disaster.
The army of cameras surrounding the S500 is missing, and the S350CDI features only a reverse parking camera under the boot-lid. The badging on the boot now reads 350 and CDI on two sides, unlike the solitary S500 badging on the petrol powered car.
Finally, the sporty looking, angular, chrome tipped exhausts on either side of the S500’s rear have been replaced by twin exhausts on the left hand side, which aren’t even visible unless you look closely.
You were in awe of the S500’s power. How well does the oil burner measure up?
The S500 is powered by quite an overwhelming motor. It’s smooth and refined but breathes fire like a raging dragon if you command it to. In comparison, the S350 CDI feels more docile. However, the standalone power and performance figures are still damn impressive. So, if we were to use an analogy, and if the S500 felt like a Eurofighter Typhoon accelerating to take off, the S350 feels like the Japanese Shinkansen –powerful, with extreme torque and pulling capabilities but not in wild way.
The 2987cc trubo diesel V8 power-plant delivers its peak power of 255 bhp at 3600 RPM. But more importantly, it produces its locomotive-like peak torque of 620 Nm at a low 1600 RPM, endowing the S-Class with terrific in-gear acceleration.
The engine is mated with the trusty old 7-G Tronic transmission, which, though not the quickest in business, sure takes the accolades for being one of the smoothest. Gearshifts are incredibly intelligent, smooth and jerk free. You wouldn’t ever sense the transmission at work, until you command it to perform a violent kickdown by burying the right pedal mercilessly.
In terms of performance, the S350 CDI impresses with its 0-100km/h sprint time of about 7 seconds, which is laudable for a car weighing more than 2.1 tons and delivers a fuel efficiency figure of above 10kmpl even with some spirited driving. Top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h, and the S-Class reaches that point with authority.
Thanks to the weight of the car, though, the transmission shows an unusual intent to keep the revs above 2000 rpm every time you more than feather the throttle. While the power delivery from this engine has been known to be very linear, for a car as heavy and highborn as the S-Class, it’s important that there is enough juice available if the driver wants to more than just coast. And that explains the tacho needle’s over-enthusiasm at the bottom range.
Has the diesel burner taken some quietness and refinement away from the cabin?
For all practical purposes, we’d say no. The cabin of the S-class remains silent by even the highest standards. The noise, in comparison with the ultra smooth petrol motor is marginally higher, but the S-Class, even in the diesel avatar, offers one of the most tranquil experiences you can have in the cabin of an automobile.
What is the difference in terms of the features and equipment on offer?
Rs 30 lakh is a big amount. You can actually buy a brand new premium car for that sort of money. The biggest benefit to Mercedes-Benz in terms of cost is the significantly less outgo in terms of import duty for the locally assembled car. However, they have removed certain features from the S500 so as to keep the price point lucrative, while still keeping profit margins high.
We’ll cut through the clutter here, and provide you with a straight list of items which are missing in the S350 CDI’s cabin as compared to that of the S500
- The Burmester surround system on the S350 still sounds fantastic. But it’s a watered down version of the system originally seen on the S500. The twirl-out drama of the tweeters has been taken away too for the diesel version.
- The Night Vision Assist system is not available on the S350 CDI
- A modest reverse parking assist camera has been provided in place of the 360 degree view on the S500
- Fridge between the backseats has been replaced by a simple velvet box with rear central armrest working as its lid
- Front passenger gets a heated seat, but doesn’t get cooling function. A surprising omission for our weather conditions.
- Boot has to be opened manually using a button provided in the driver side door panel
- No Wi-Fi
- Back seat recline angle is not as much as the S500
- What may come as a blessing in disguise is the removal of the central trays and cover between the two rear passenger seats. The permanent partition is now replaced by a flappable central armrest with cup-holders, remotes and sockets for media input. This means that there is space for a fifth passenger in the S350 CDI, unlike the S500 which was strictly a four seater.
- The steering wheel misses out on the fine wood insert witnessed on the S500
So the S-Class is the best chauffeur driven car in the world according to you. But what if I wanted to get behind the wheel one of those days? Is it any good from a driver’s perspective?
In all honesty, even with it’s absolutely mind blowing ride quality, quiet cabin and all-absorbing suspension, the S-Class is quite a revelation as regards driving dynamics. Thanks to its long wheelbase, wide track and massive tyres, the S-Class is inherently very stable at high speeds. Add to it the exceptionally stiff monocoque holding the car together along with cutting edge technology, and the S-Class has the capability to turn into an outstanding driving machine if you so wish.
There are two modes to choose from – Comfort and Sport. In addition, you can also raise the ride height to clear larger obstacles on rough patches. The S-Class swallows everything you throw at it with disdain. Quite simply, there is no other car we can compare the ride quality of the S-Class with. And it’s solid as a rock on the limit in a straight-line, even in Comfort mode.
In Sport mode, everything, from the suspension, to the steering to the transmission livens up. Though even in the Sport mode, the S-Class has fair degree of softness to its ride. It knows its raison d’être just too well to get too stiff and bouncy. So even in Sport mode, the S-Class would manage to offer better ride than some of its other German counterparts would offer in their most comfortable mode.
Long sweeping curves can be taken at mind-boggling speeds while still being on the throttle. The S-class inspires enough confidence for you to keep pressing harder. It’s only when you look at the speedo you get baffled about this limo’s incredible capabilities.
The steering is delightfully true and offers great feedback. Be it the deceptive downhill bends, or the small openings between slow moving vehicles inviting you to shoot through – the S-Class presents itself as a steadfast tool to be positioned on the road. The grip levels from the tyres and the steering feel is tremendous, and inundates you with loads and loads of conviction.
Thanks to the heavy weight and the relatively softer suspension setup, there is some degree of body roll to be experienced – especially around sharper corners, and chicanes where the weight of the car gets transferred from side to side quickly. The fantastic damping, however, never lets it get wobbly though – even under extreme stress. The S-Class can bring a wide smile to the face of even the most discerning auto enthusiasts. The ride-handling combination of this luxury limo is magical, if only you understand that it’s a 2,200 kg luxury oriented limousine that you are piloting.
Are there any alternatives?
To put it very simply – no! The S-Class has set new benchmarks for the auto industry to emulate, and at this point in time, there isn’t quite a car for the price which can match the new S-Class in terms of finesse and opulence. It’s the absolute epitome of what a luxury limo should feel like.
Price as tested : Rs 1.1 crore ex-showroom
More Features and Details Explained with Images and Captions
The menus and instrumentation readouts remain exactly the same as the S500. Read our detailed S500 review to know more
The wooden inserts on the S500’s steering are missing
Burmester system still sounds fab, but not as good as the full blown version on the S500
Rear view cam – all the other cameras have been taken away
Beautiful looking high mount stop lamps
The design and size of the alloy wheels for the S 350 CDI is different from the S500
Headphones for the back seat passengers
Head-rest for the middle passenger in the backseat is adjustable
The central partition has been replaced with a collapsible armrest, making space for a third passenger in the second row
Classy looking engine Start / Stop button
The S 350 CDI comes shod with run flat tyres. There is a space saver spare available for emergencies though
The twirl out, glowing tweeters on the original Burmester system have been replaced with these tweeters on the S 350 CDI
One touch to push away the passenger side seat and make space for the rear passenger. The seat recline angle isn’t as much as the S 500 though
You can move the back seats fore and aft as well
|Engine and performance|
|Arrangement/number of cylinders||V/6|
|Total Displacement (cc)||2987|
|Rated Output (kW @ rpm)||190 @ 3600|
|Rated Torque (Nm @ rpm)||620 @ 1600-2400|
|Acceleration (0-100 km/h, sec)||6.8|
|Top speed (km/h)||250|
|Fuel and emissions|
|Tank Capacity (I)/reserve approx.||70/8|
|Quantity, dimensions and weights|
|Boot Capacity (I)||530|
|Turning Circle diameter (m)||12.3|
|Kerb weight (kg) ||2132|
|Permissible gross vehicle weight (kg)||2690|
|L x W x H (mm)||5246 x 1899 x 1494|
|Front/rear track (mm)||1624 / 1637|
2014 S Class S 350 CDI India Image gallery