Mercedes-Benz S-Class VS Audi R8
- 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
- Howling V10
- Amazing traction
- Looks more aggro now
- No high-tech safety
- Interior short on flexibility
- Didn't get to drive it on 'real' roads
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|
There is typically no need for introductions when it comes to the Audi R8. But the 2019 Audi R8 isn’t the one you’ve come to know - its been sharpened up in terms of both its appearance, and its performance.
This heavily facelifted version of the second-generation Audi R8 keeps its high-revving V10 engine, and turbochargers have been kept at bay, too. It can’t hold off the march of progress for much longer, though - it’s almost certain this will be the last V10-engined R8… thankfully it has only just launched, so it should be on sale for a few years yet.
I got a chance to drive the new Audi R8 V10 Performance model in Spain at the model’s international launch drive this week - but only on Circuito Ascari race track.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
This iteration could well be the final Audi R8 with a V10 engine, and what a note to go out on. Emissions laws and the ever-present push towards electrification are almost certain to see the next-generation R8 take a very different tack to this model. Lucky, then, that this is the best R8 yet.
I know the final score doesn’t necessarily reflect that - but that’s because it falls short on ‘regular’ car things. Even so, it’s an epic machine.
Would you have an Audi R8 over one of its rivals? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
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.
Wow, it was possible to make the Audi R8 even more attractive - the brand’s designers have gone and done it with this facelift, which sees a number of changes to the exterior styling that combine for a more aggressive, sharper look.
The ‘Singleframe’ grille now looks even more menacing, having been widened and flattened, and any trace of chrome has been removed. As the chief designer told us, a supercar is no place from chrome. There are three small slats above the grille, which hark back to the iconic Audi Sport quattro model of the 1980s.
Further, the front splitter is wider, the rear diffuser has been made even more prominent, and there are new oval exhaust pipe outlets - previously reserved for Audi RS models only.
My only ‘errr’ moment with the design is the mesh cooling section at the rear bumper, which appears a touch unfinished in combination with some colours, and it’s also very rectangular, meaning the new exhaust tips are at odds with it. But it all has a purpose, and applies to the regular R8 and the LMS racer.
There are three new exterior packages available, which change elements such as the front splitter, door sill trims (side skirts) and diffuser. On the base car, there’s a high-gloss black look; on the V10 Performance there’s a matte titanium look to these bits. Optionally, there’s a high-gloss carbon package.
Further, customers can get the badges and Audi rings painted in gloss black, while body paint colours now include 'Kemora grey' and 'Ascari blue'. There’ll be 19-inch and 20-inch wheels offered, depending on the model.
Inside, there’s been a bit less of a noticeable change. Check out the interior photos to see for yourself.
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.
Okay, so Audi claims “the driver sits in the new R8 like in a race car”.
Having been a passenger in the Audi R8 GT3 car the brand had on show, I can tell you that’s not entirely true - because while you do sit about 12 centimetres higher than that ground-hugging beast, the regulation R8 model is superbly comfortable.
What the brand is getting at, though, is that the focus of all the interior design is to serve the driver. As such, there’s no central media screen - instead, there’s a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster (Audi ‘virtual cockpit’) which is where the driver takes charge using steering wheel controls.
The system is crisp to look at, but it can be a little hard to get used to the controls, especially for sat nav inputs and so on. And that’s even with the central MMI rotary dial with touch pad.
But the other controls are great - I love the air-conditioning knobs, the gear selector and the switchgear, which all has a technical and beautiful finish to it. The steering wheel is a delight to hold, and the push-button starter is a real eye-catcher in red.
The seats in the cars we tested were superbly supportive and very comfortable, but the lack of adjustment of the fixed buckets means you might find yourself a bit too upright (if you get to spend more time in the car than we did).
And even though it’s a supercar, the R8 offers a level of practicality. Sure, the door pockets are virtually useless and there are no properly usable cupholders, but that gives you an idea to the intent of the car. There are, however, storage spots behind both of the seats, and there’s a centre storage area in front of the shifter and in the armrest.
And while the R8 has a mid-mounted engine, there’s still a boot: the R8 coupe’s rear cargo bay offers enough room for a suitcase or two soft smaller bags for a weekend away, with 226 litres of cargo capacity - according to Audi, that’s enough for a golf bag. There’s a secondary storage area under the bonnet, which adds an extra 112L of space. Don’t buy the Spyder if practicality is important to you, as it has even less storage space.
Price and features
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.
It’s expected Audi Australia will again offer the R8 in two different specs when it launches in Australia around the fourth quarter of 2019.
That means a base model (if you can call it that) V10 variant, and a higher-grade V10 Performance grade with more power and torque. The latter is expected to be the bulk seller - the current V10 Plus model accounts for some 90 per cent of R8 sales. Maybe they’ll drop the base car - time will tell.
It’s too early to have a stab at pricing and specifications, because nothing has been confirmed as yet and we’d be on Audi keeping prices relatively stable or maybe bumping them up - hey, you’re getting more power for your money, after all!
But you can bank on goodies like LED headlights, auto high-beam lights, leather seat trim, DAB+ digital radio, sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 13-speaker sound system, auto headlights and wipers, push-button start and keyless entry and a fair bit more.
The V10 Performance model we drove had 20x8.5-inch front wheels and 20x11-inch rear wheels, with super grippy Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres.
For a guide, the current start price for the V10 is $366,340 plus on-road costs, while the V10 Plus (which will be renamed V10 Performance) currently lists at $402,430 before on-roads. Those prices are for the coupe - the Spyder convertible adds roughly $20,000 on both grades.
Considering some of the competitors, it is a little pricey - although it’s the cheapest way into V10 supercar ownership.
So, what are its rivals? Lamborghini has the Huracan (essentially an R8 twin - priced from $378,900 in RWD, or $428,000 for the AWD model), or you could take a look at a McLaren 570S ($395,000), Mercedes-AMG has the GT (from $261,130) and there are about 20 versions of the Porsche 911 you might consider (from $220,500). If the Spyder is more your go, I’d take a look at the Ferrari Portofino ($398,888), too.
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.
The new R8 retains the same 5.2-litre V10 (FSI) naturally-aspirated engine, but Audi’s engineers have wrung its neck to squeeze more power and torque out of it.
There are two tunes available - the regular version, which has 419kW of power (up from 397kW), and 560Nm of torque (up from 540Nm). It only comes with a seven-speed 'S tronic' dual-clutch automatic transmission, and comes with quattro all-wheel drive.
The claimed 0-100km/h time is just 3.4 seconds for the coupe and 3.5sec for the Spyder convertible. It tops out at 324km/h, or 322/km/h in the convertible.
The higher-grade version is by far the most potent R8 yet, with 456kW of power (up from 449kW) and 580Nm of torque (was 560Nm). Again, S tronic and quattro, and this time around with a 0-100km/h acceleration claim of 3.1sec for the coupe (3.2sec convertible). Top speed is 331km/h or 329km/h, depending on body type.
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.
Don’t expect to see the official claimed fuel consumption figure on a regular basis. The number is 12.3 litres per 100 kilometres for the most potent coupe version, while the lower-power version uses a claimed 11.4L/100km.
The engine has cylinder deactivation for less intense situations, and there’s engine stop-start, too.
It uses 98RON premium unleaded fuel, and has an 83 litre fuel tank capacity.
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.
I can’t say what it’s like on public roads, but my stint on a shortened track at Circuito Ascari near Ronda in Spain left me grinning ear to ear.
And so it should, with the immense performance of the V10 engine - tested on track in the higher output R8 Performance spec with the full 456kW and 580Nm complement of grunt numbers.
Driving the R8 reminded me of that one time in under 11s rugby league when a much smaller defender managed to lift me up and dump be on the ground - an impressive effort, because I was heavy enough to be running around in under 15s. At that time, it took a second for me to realise what had happened, and was enough to leave me a bit short of breath.
The same sensation came to mind as I loaded up the throttle and threw myself at the horizon from the pit exit. Under a heavy right foot, the world around me started to blur and the first corner of the track suddenly approached after the crest. I had to try and remember what the lead car had shown me in the sighting laps prior, where to turn, how hard to get on the gas.
But I was distracted by the mind-bending physics I was experiencing, not to mention the theatre of the R8. The sound really is hard to beat - the howl of a high-revving V10, unmuffled by turbochargers, is something to behold when it’s enveloping you, and the fact the noise emanates from behind your ears almost makes you want to push it even harder.
1 – 6 – 5 – 10 – 2 – 7 – 3 – 8 – 4 – 9. That’s the firing sequence of the V10. Just thought you might like to know.
The gearshifts cut through the noise with prodigious sharpness, and when I chose the 'Performance' drive mode (which firmed everything up, enabled even more manic acceleration and disabled traction control) the shifts were brutal, often resulting in a shockwave through the car. It was some seriously good feedback for me as the driver, though it may not bode well for longevity…
There was tremendous traction from the quattro all-wheel drive system from a standstill, and across a long, banked corner on the track I felt super confident, pushing harder than I know I would have dared in a rear-drive car.
I managed to get a steer in both an R8 with the regular steering system and a model with the brand’s ‘dynamic’ steering set-up. Both have been retuned to be “more direct and precise throughout the entire speed range”.
I preferred the dynamic steering set-up which can vary the steering ratio based on the speed, and is “very direct” according to Audi - and even more so when Performance mode is engaged.
I found it to be super predictable at lower cornering speeds, and therefore more manageable to an amateur like me. One of Audi’s test drivers told me that he prefers the normal steering set-up, because at ‘really big speed’ it’s easier to predict.
The highest speed I saw was just a tickle over 200km/h, and I understood his take on it. Maybe normal steering for high-speed tracks, then? Or I just need to learn to drive faster…? Hey, no-one wants to be the guy who bins the $400k supercar on the very first rotation of about thirty over a two-week run of international journalists visiting to sample the newest, bestest and most expensivest Audi has to offer.
The models we drove were all fitted with the optional carbon ceramic braking package, which allowed the stoppers to resist fade for a lot longer - ideal for extended track time sessions, and they certainly stood up to my reliance on them on my few short stints on the track. They came in especially handy during a (very cool) night session where we were expected to remember the track layout about seven hours after our first outing.
It would have been great to drive it on real roads, because apparently that’s where the dynamic steering is most impressive.
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).
The Audi R8 hasn’t been crash-tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, but Audi claims the car’s spaceframe chassis offers “high crash safety”.
You get a reversing camera and parking sensors (optional in Europe, expected to be standard in Australia) plus the R8 comes with six airbags, including dual front, front side and curtain coverage. Spyder models miss out on curtain airbags.
Top spec models are expected to get the excellent laser headlights (auto high-beam light up to 600 metres throw distance), and all models come with LED headlights.
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.
There is no capped price service plan for the R8, and no pre-purchase plan like you can get on the rest of the ‘regular’ Audi range.