Lexus GS VS Mercedes-Benz S-Class
- Super-smooth V6
- Lots of interesting tech
- Lovely (if old-fashioned) interior
- Media system
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Amazing technology on offer
- Super smooth to drive
- Luxury for days
- Some terseness from run-flat tyres
- Controls could be simpler
- Non L models not that spacious in the back
Ah, yes, the Lexus GS. Toyota's luxury off-shoot had high hopes for the new big boy when I first saw it a few years ago. Not thousands-of-sales high hopes, but the company thought a rear-wheel drive luxury sedan stacked with gear you didn't even know you wanted would be a dead-set winner.
And to be fair, they were right. I ran a GS as a long-termer and it was impeccably-mannered. In hybrid form. It wasn't sparkling, but my goodness, it used barely any fuel; especially impressive given its size.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Imagine a car that can pretty much drive itself, if you let it. And it’ll do that while you get a massage, pump some Beyonce, and enjoy the fragrance of a field full of flowers… And then, it can teach you to do stretches and exercises in the driver’s seat.
It may sound like fictional fiction, but it’s factual fact. And it’s the Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2018 model, which has taken the so-called ‘wellbeing’ of the driver to a new level.
The facelifted model has seen plenty of styling changes and some tech upgrades, and while making the flagship car in a particular brand’s line-up is often a task fraught with issues, the German company’s big, expensive, luxurious, limousine is undoubtedly a more thoughtful car for 2018.
But just remember, its predecessor was considered - at least for a little while - as the best car in the world by some automotive journalists.
Now Mercedes-Benz has updated it, and it reckons it’s better than before, bringing a bunch of new technology, new engines, a reworked model range and, perhaps not essentially, but still pleasantly, lower pricing.
Read on to see how Beyonce factors into the equation.
|Engine Type||4.7L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Weirdly, given all the good things I've had to say about the GS F Sport, it doesn't quite hang together. It's missing that certain something the Europeans have in their chassis, particularly the BMW 5 Series, and with ageing interior tech, it's struggling to keep up.
It's a car built for specific tastes, and they're more California than Straya. And that's perfectly okay, but unfortunately, that doesn't translate to a stampede of buyers. Having said that, none of its German rivals (or its beleaguered Japanese counterpart, Infiniti) could claim wild sales success either.
The GS is a terrific car, underrated but also just not quite there for my taste. The GS F, though, that's another thing altogether.
Does Lexus even register on your big luxury sedan radar? If it does, what stops you from taking the plunge?
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class remains a technological tour de force, a luxury sedan to be reckoned with - one that has safety, technology, comfort, finesse and performance all rolled into a stylish package.
It's hard to see why you'd need anything more than the S 350 d, which is now much more attractively priced. It'd be my pick, but I'd have to get the Energizing Comfort Control package, and probably the AMG styling pack, too. And even then it would cost less than its predecessor.
Is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class your kind of luxury car? Let us know in the comments section below.
The GS is ageing well, but it's still a bit heavy-handed around the headlights and a little on the slabby side along the flanks. It doesn't look poised for action, even with the F Sport additions, but nor does it look frumpy, mostly due to the whopping blacked-out spindle grille, a Lexus signature.
The rear end is good looking but a bit bluff, again neither surprising or delighting.
Little has changed inside, but it's still a very nice cabin, and always will be apart from a couple of clangers (the gear shifter looks super-cheap).
What's more, it's welcoming, lots of very nice materials, comfortable, seats - it's exactly what it needs to be. Whatever you might think of the looks, one thing is absolutely certain - if anyone builds cars better than Lexus, it's a very, very short list.
I swear it has been facelifted, and the changes are bigger than they might appear. There is no doubt that the S-Class shape is largely unchanged, but the German company has kept the modifications minimal in the scheme of things.
That doesn’t mean those changes are unnecessary, though. The new headlights, for example, are standard on every model, and are constructed with 84 LEDs (including three for the daytime running lights), and of course they’re adaptive with automated high-beam - meaning they’ll shield other road users from the glare of the lights at night. And the lights themselves will throw a main beam up to 650 metres, according to the company.
Other things are slightly more cosmetic, like the revised three-bar grille treatment, new front and rear bumper designs that feature broader sculpted sections to widen the stance of the car, and there are new LED tail-lights as well.
The smallest set of wheels used to consist of 18-inch rims, but now the base car rolls on 19s, while the rest of the expansive range sits on 20s.
The inside has seen some changes, too, but the appearance of things in the cabin isn’t the focal point - its the usability of the technology that's the big change.
Oh, but I should tell you there are now 64 ambient lighting colours to choose from, which is up from seven, and now you can also set the lighting in three different zones - so theoretically you can have blue, orange and green areas of the cockpit, if you’re gross.
Being a big car, there's plenty of room inside. Four passengers will be very comfortable although rear legroom was a bit on the skinny side given the car's size.
The cabin contains a good-sized console bin, four cupholders and each door pocket into which you could conceivably slot a bottle.
The 520-litre boot is a useful shape, with a sensible load height and a space-saver spare under the floor. The 5 Series and E Class both best the Lexus by 10 litres, so the GS isn't far off the norm.
If you’re buying a Mercedes-Benz S-Class there’s a good chance you’re more interested in the back seat than the front: you could be buying it for a business, or you could like to be driven around - and there are definitely worse places you could be.
We would suggest, though, that the best place you could be if that’s your caper is in the back of a long-wheelbase S-Class model, which has extra legroom.
And if you happen to be in a LWB model with the 'Business Class Package', you’ll enjoy two individual rear seats rather than a three-seat bench, folding tables for your bento box or laptop, and an ‘executive seat’ on the passenger side that features a foot rest and allows you to slide the front seat forward to liberate more room. Deluxe.
No matter if you are in one of the stretched models demarcated as such by the ‘L’ suffix or not, you will enjoy excellent seat comfort and good head- and shoulder-room. Legroom in the regular models isn’t as plentiful as you might expect: much more affordable cars like the Hyundai Sonata give the S-Class a run for its money in that regard.
There are good storage options for odds and ends, with the back seat featuring a fold-down armrest with pop-out cupholders and a storage box, as well as map pockets - and the boot space varies depending on the model, but the S 350 d has a 510-litre cargo capacity (VDA). All four doors have bottle holsters, and a bit of extra room besides. Of course there are rear-seat air-vents, and if you’re kids are lucky enough to ride around in a S-Class, the two ISOFIX/three top-tether points will be welcome.
Up front there are two cupholders between the seats, and a new wireless phone charger in the centre console (Qi compatible phones only). There are two USB ports as standard in most models, while models with the rear seat entertainment package fitted get rear USBs.
The huge screen that runs across two-thirds of the dashboard has seen the noticeable join marker removed for this update, with the monitors being upgraded to a higher resolution and the graphics have been reworked, too. The codpiece-style controller of the Comand media interface remains, and while it still isn’t as simple as other controllers, it is reasonably easy to get used to.
So … what about Beyonce?
She comes in as part of the Energizing Comfort Control system, which is standard in some models and a $1400 option in those that don’t have it fitted.
Essentially it allows you to choose between different set moods: 'Joy', 'Freshness', 'Vitality', 'Warmth', 'Comfort' and 'Training', the latter of which offers three different stretching/exercise programs that last for 10 minutes to stop fatigue. The instructions are given by voice over the sound system.
Each of the moods will adjust the temperature and ventilation (the Freshness setting offers ‘gusts’ of fresh air as if you’re at the beach!), ambient lighting, air fragrance and intensity, and the massage function for the seats. And the music bit - there are predefined songs the system can cue up to suit the mood, or it can identify songs on a hard-drive or USB that suit the programs by analysing the tempo of the tune. Amazing, right?
The new steering wheel looks a lot sportier than the one in the pre-update car, and it has finally done away with the awkward cruise control stalk in favour of steering wheel buttons for the adaptive cruise control system.
Price and features
We had the pleasure of the GS 350 F Sport for the week, which is well over $10,000 cheaper than the Luxury and is therefore the 'default. If you're not sure what F Sport means, it's Lexus' answer to an M Sport or AMG pack, without all the high-powered engine shenanigans to go with it. If that's what you're after, the V8-powered Lexus GS F is definitely for you.
Starting at $95,300, the F Sport has a spectacular standard features list - 17-speaker stereo, 19-inch alloys, variable-geared four-wheel steer (!), adaptive suspension, dual-zone climate control (with moisturising function), hectares of leather trim, head-up display, electrically-operated heated and ventilated front seats, rear sunshade, F Sport instrument screen, auto LED headlights, keyless entry and start, sat nav, front and rear parking sensors with around-view cameras and a space-saver spare.
The media system is run from Lexus' 12.3-inch screen embedded in the dashboard and controlled from an infuriating console-mounted mouse-clicker with a couple of shortcut buttons. It really is spectacularly irritating and made worse by the rotary dial stationed next to it that acts as the drive mode selector. Why not use that instead?
As ever, the system is mildly baffling to use and hard to look at, but the sound is absolutely lovely from the Mark Levinson-branded speakers. Lexus is persisting with a DVD player but it also has DAB+.
If you can call a car that starts near two-hundred grand good value, then you have much more money than I do. But there is no escaping it: the new S-Class 2018 range is better value than before.
The starting point in the range is entry-grade S 350 d, which is $195,900 plus on-road costs.
Standard kit for that model includes 19-inch alloy wheels, leather trim, heated and cooled front seats, nappa leather-wrapped steering wheel, those great new headlights and the new ambient lighting system, a panoramic sunroof, head-up display, dark brown 'Eucalyptus' trim, auto-dimming rear-view and side mirrors, a wireless phone charging system, keyless entry and push-button start. The entire S-Class range now gets auto-closing doors and an electric boot lid, too.
The media system in the S 350 d includes sat nav with traffic monitoring, a 13-speaker Burmester sound system, digital TV, DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the 'Comand Online' system with internet capability.
Next up the model range is the S 400d L (at $222,500), and the S 450 L ($227,500) - both of which are specified identically. Over the base model car they feature the extended wheelbase, as well as electronically adjustable rear seats with memory function, side window blinds, a rear blind, rear climate control, and 20-inch wheels.
The S 560 sees the price head north to $270,000 (for the short-wheelbase model, which loses the abovementioned stuff in the L models), or $295,000 for the S 560 L. It adds the following nice features: nappa leather, brown burr walnut trim, a wood/leather steering wheel, 'Energizing Comfort Control', different (five-spoke design) 20-inch wheels, laminated glass and an anti-theft protection package. The S 560 L has luxury rear head restraints - they’re more like pillows, honestly - an individual rear-seat entertainment system and two wireless headsets.
The top of the regular S-Class model range is the Mercedes-AMG S 63 L, which is a princely $375,000. It builds on the kit offered in the models below, and pushes the sports luxury aspect further, with a full AMG body kit, 20-inch AMG wheels, AMG specific drive programs, AMG brakes, an uprated exhaust, sports steering and retuned suspension. Inside there are model-specific elements, special wood trim, front seats with active bolstering, and heated and ventilated rear seats.
If you’re shopping at this end of the market, then you’ll likely also be tossing up between a BMW 7 Series, or maybe a Bentley Flying Spur. An all-new Lexus LS will arrive in April 2018, and the all-new Audi A8 isn’t far away, either.
Engine & trans
The big news for the majority of S-Class buyers is the new engine in the S 350d, which is a 2.9-litre in-line six-cylinder turbo-diesel with 210kW of power and 600Nm of torque. It has a nine-speed automatic and is rear-wheel drive (RWD).
That same diesel engine is wicked up in the S 400d L, with that model churning out 250kW and 700Nm, and remains rear-drive with a nine-speed auto.
The petrol model range is opened by the S 450 L with a 3.0-litre six-cylinder twin-turbo mill producing 270kW/520Nm. Again, nine-speed auto, RWD.
The S 560 and S 560L run the same 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol with 345kW of power and 700Nm of torque. Nine-speed auto, rear-drive - naturally!
The AMG-fettled S 63 has a thumping twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine with 450kW and 900Nm, with a nine-speed MCT multi-clutch auto and - you guessed it - RWD.
A real world 13.7L/100km is a solid miss of the claimed 9.3L/100km, which itself is hardly earth-shattering. It's a big heavy car and that's the penalty. It drinks fuel fast, so the 66-litre fuel tank does drain quickly and it's worth knowing you have to fill it with the 95 RON or better.
The diesel models are - unsurprisingly - the most frugal in the range, with the entry-level S 350 d using a claimed 5.4 litres per 100km across a range of disciplines.
The S 400 d L - which uses a higher-output version of the same diesel drivetrain as the model above - uses only a minuscule amount more: its claim is 5.5L/100km.
The most frugal of the petrols is the S 450 L, with its six-pot petrol twin-turbo using a claimed 8.4L/100km.
Every model has stop-start - including the AMG - and the V8 petrols also feature cylinder deactivation when in 'Eco' mode.
That cylinder deactivation system helps the S 560 achieve an incredibly low claimed consumption of 8.5L/100km. So does the longer, slightly heavier S 560 L.
The higher-out Mercedes-AMG S 63 L uses 9.0L/100km, according to its claim. Amazing for the outputs of the engine.
There are things you expect in a Lexus. Quietness. Composure. Smoothness. The GS delivers all three of those things effortlessly. But it has a few extra things in its bag that I can't say I was expecting.
For a start, the 3.5-litre V6 moves the car without any carry-on and in doing so, I was constantly amazed at how quickly the speed in the head-up display reached the posted limit. It just doesn't feel or sound like a six second car, but there you are. The transmission is virtually faultless, the engine sound distant and refined, the power impressive.
It's a heavy car, no question, but two things work to make it feel much lighter. First - and it doesn't matter which mode you choose - the adaptive suspension somehow knocks about 200kg out of how heavy the car feels. The brakes, while a little soft on pedal feel when you first step on them, are very effective and again help to make the car feel lighter than it is.
The four driving modes are quite distinct. As usual, Eco makes everything soft and doughy or as I prefer to say, unpleasant. Normal is great for every day, with just the right throttle response and steering weight.
Moving to sport ups the aggro slightly while Sport+, while never harsh, firms everything up to the point where it starts to feel like a different car. Sport+ makes the car feel race-car pointy, the suspension holds the body in check and the power seems readily available without jerky progression
The all-wheel steer is a big part of the change in feel. It's is especially sharp in Sport+ mode. The steering's gearing changes up quite a bit, meaning a lot less steering lock required for your favourite hairpin bend. Of course, at real speed it all calms down because neither you nor Lexus are fond of sneezy lane-changes or Armco-swiping. At first I thought it just made the big car feel a bit too nervous but as I got used to it (and was able to dial it down by switching back into a less racy mode) I found it fun but a little bit out of character with the car itself.
And just because it's the F Sport, that doesn't mean it can't do all the things you'd expect from a Lexus. You can still waft, you can still creep up on people and it's really very comfortable when you're cruising or stuck in traffic.
Smooth. It wasn’t even because I’d chosen the Energizing Comfort Control mood to elicit that vibe. It’s smooth - and so it should be.
Whether it’s the near-silent new six-cylinder diesel, which hauls the near two-tonne sedan along with less fuss than a medical centre receptionist dealing with a room full of coughing patients. There is no fuss. You just hand over control to the engine, and trust it will get you where you need to be.
The V8 petrol in the S 560 also has a bit of a silent killer vibe to it. There’s perhaps not as much noise as a V8 fan might want, but the mumbo is there, and in both cars the gearshifts are sublimely timed and super smooth.
Admittedly, the stiff-sided run-flat tyres on both the 19- and 20-inch wheels can exhibit a slight terseness over sharp edges, but when it comes to rolling over pockmarked surfaces or rougher country backroads, the ride offered up by the air suspension with variable dampers is superb. Put it in Sport mode and it stiffens up to the degree you’d expect, but Comfort is no doubt the best place to be.
The steering is super light but accurate, meaning it’s easier than you’d think to pilot this behemoth of a sedan through corners. The grip on offer is excellent, too, even if traction can be an issue - I had a full couple of seconds of strobe light action from the traction control light when I buried the throttle in the S 560.
I didn’t get a chance to drive the six-cylinder petrol S 450 L, or the S 400 d L. And, I’m really sad to report, there was no opportunity to drive the AMG S 63 L, either.
But the overall feeling of the updated range is that it remains a deluxe and delightful limousine - whether you have the good fortune of being in the driver’s seat or not.
The GS scores 10 airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, forward AEB, active cruise, auto high beams and lane departure warning with lane keep assist.
The GS doesn't have an ANCAP or Euro NCAP rating while the USA's IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) rating is good for each key crash-worthiness measure. The IIHS suite of tests is quite rigorous but differ from our ANCAP/Euro NCAP standards.
Easily one of the safest cars, if not the safest car, on the road today if technology is anything to go by. Well, we can’t go by a crash test score, because the S-Class hasn’t been crashed by EuroNCAP or ANCAP. So I can’t really give it a 10/10 for safety…
But when the standard safety kit list is as lengthy as the S-Class’s, it seems a safe bet. Items fitted include a 360-degree camera system, parking sensors front and rear, auto emergency braking, active blind-spot monitoring, active lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with active steering assist, drowsiness detection, crosswind assist, and pedestrian detection with evasive steering assist (which allows you to turn the wheel harder to avoid impact with a pedestrian).
Plus there are other items like the company’s Pre-Safe crash detection system which can flash the car’s hazard lights at other road users, and tighten the occupant’s seatbelt in anticipation of being hit. And if that happens, there are eight airbags (dual front, front side, rear side, curtain).
There's one area where Lexus smashes the Germans and that's after-sales. While the warranty is hardly ground-breaking at four years/100,000km and service intervals are reasonable at 12 months/15,000km, it's how it all comes together.
For the duration of the warranty, when the car needs a service, Lexus will either come and get it then return it to you, or give you a loan car. Anecdotal evidence suggests this continues long after the warranty runs out. Like, 10 years after the warranty runs out.
This is a small thing, but if there's one thing I hate about car ownership, it's the servicing experience. If I was a betting man, I'd dare you to find someone who genuinely has a problem with Lexus after-sales care.
On top of that, you get a generous roadside assist package for four years.
Mercedes-Benz offers a standard three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
Servicing is due every 12 months or 25,000km on all engines except AMG drivetrains, which require servicing every year or 20,000km.
Mercedes-Benz has a (pricey!) capped-price servicing plan. The standard diesel and petrol models in the S-Class range cost $596 for the first service, and $1192 for the second and third visits. The costs for the sole AMG model is $736 for the first service, then the second and third visits are $1472 per.