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Mercedes-Benz S-Class


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST

Summary

Mercedes-Benz S-Class

It's only in the running for the title of world's best luxury car. No biggie here, then.

Like Rolex and Concorde, S-Class has become a byword for ultimate, and deserved or not, the Mercedes-Benz defines its segment despite the best efforts of the BMW 7 Series, Audi A8, Lexus LS and (sadly now-defunct) Jaguar XJ, as well as pointing the way forward with new technologies that eventually trickle down to more proletarian models.

Replacing the half-million selling W222 unveiled in 2013, the W223 is the latest in a long line since the first W187 Ponton debuted in 1951, and includes the famous ‘Finnies' and Stroke-8 models that followed immediately afterwards, but it is the 1972 W116 that really set the template.

Now, seven generations in, the 2021 S-Class is all-new again, with progressive safety and interior features that should help keep it Australia's bestselling full-sized upper-luxury sedan.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.4L/100km
Seating5 seats

Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST

Picturing yourself driving a Ferrari is always a pleasant way to waste a few 'when I win Lotto' moments of your life. 

It’s fair to assume that most people would imagine themselves in a red one, on a sunny, good-hair day with an almost solar-flare smile on their faces. 

The more enthusiastic of us might throw in a race track, like Fiorano, the one pictured here, which surrounds the Ferrari factory at Maranello, and perhaps even specify a famously fabulous model - a 458, a 488, or even an F40.

Imagine the kick in the balls, then, of finally getting to pilot one of these cars and discovering that its badge bears the laziest and most childish name of all - Superfast - and that the public roads you’ll be driving along are covered in snow, ice and a desire to kill you. And it’s snowing, so you can’t see.

It’s a relative kick in the groin, obviously, like being told your Lotto win is only $10 million instead of $15m, but it’s fair to say the prospect of driving the most powerful Ferrari road car ever made (they don’t count La Ferrari, apparently, because it’s a special project) with its mental, 588kW (800hp) V12, was more exciting than the reality.

Memorable, though? Oh yes, as you’d hope a car worth $610,000 would be.

Safety rating
Engine Type6.5L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency15L/100km
Seating2 seats

Verdict

Mercedes-Benz S-Class8.5/10

Mercedes-Benz set out to restore the S-Class' place amongst the greatest sedans in the world.

In the heavily-optioned, near-$250K-plus S450 as well as the extended S450L at $300K as tested (the sweet spot of the range for now), we reckon the Germans have succeeded, pushing safety, comfort and technology boundaries, in a package that is true to the heritage of the series.

Tax-fuelled sky-high prices will certainly keep the S-Class niche in Australia, but the car is more than good enough to dominate its tiny corner of the upper-large luxury car sphere.

The best new car in the world? We reckon it's highly likely. Mission accomplished, Mercedes.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST7.4/10

Clearly, this is not a car for everyone, and you’d have to question whether it’s a car for anyone, really, but people who like spending $610,000 on Ferraris, and waiting in a queue to do so, will be delighted, because it delivers the kind of exclusivity, and bragging rights, that you’d have to hope a car called Superfast would.

Personally, it’s a little too much, a little too over the top and definitely too mad, but if rockets are your thing, you won’t be disappointed.

Is the Ferrari 812 Superfast a bit of you, or a bit too much? Tell us in the comments below.

Design

Mercedes-Benz S-Class7/10

Most Mercedes models have followed the Russian Doll-style cookie-cutter styling theme, and the heavy family look continues with the W223.

Still, the flush door handles do add a touch of Tesla-esque modernity, while the elegant silhouette and clean lines are in keeping with the luxury aspirations. Larger in every dimension compared to the old W222, the S450 is some 71mm-longer in wheelbase (3106mm) than before while the LWB's has stretched out by 51mm (3216mm), benefiting proportions as well as interior packaging.

AMG-branded wheels look sporty but – in the S450 at least – they're perhaps a tad too gangster. A set of flush alloys would give it a more-modern and techier appearance, in our opinion.

Overall, however, the S-Class ‘7' possesses the prerequisite richness of design. It isn't as bold and mould-breaking as models like the W116 were back in their day, but the styling is still a success.

By the way, the latest S-Class is the first Mercedes to employ the MRA2 longitudinal platform, which is rich in lightweight steels (50 per cent aluminium), is correspondingly stronger than before but also 60kg lighter.

With a drag co-efficiency rating as low as 0.22Cd on some overseas grades, the W223 is one of the most aerodynamic production vehicles in history.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST9/10

It’s very… big, isn’t it? And it looks even bigger in the flesh with a bonnet you could use to put a roof over your tennis court. In all, the Superfast is 4.6m long, almost 2.0m wide and weighs 1.5 tonnes, so it certainly has presence.

Making something this big look good is a challenge even for those as talented as Ferrari’s design team, but they have nailed it. The front has what appears to be a mouth, poised to swallow lesser cars whole like some whale shark Terminator. 

The bonnet appears to be flaring its nostrils, and looks fabulous from the driver’s seat, and the swooping side and taut rear complete things nicely.

Personally, it still just looks too big to be a Ferrari, but then this is not a mid-engined super car, it’s a grand touring rocket ship, and the ultimate expression of unnecessary excess, and it pulls off that aura perfectly.

Practicality

Mercedes-Benz S-Class10/10

For the beginning of our day with the S-Class, we were chauffeured from home to a mansion in Kew, a blue-chip Melbourne suburb. Our heavily-optioned S450L featured most of the aforementioned extras – including the Business Class Package and Rear Entertainment Package – and the experience was predictably, sumptuously memorable.

Reclining individual rear seats with easy-reach tablets, armrests offering access to all multimedia and available climatised and massaging cushions and backrests... we're no longer in our normal ride, Toto.

Yet, all these trinkets and gizmos are mere add-ons, that can turn a stretched Caprice into a flash hen's night carriage if enough money and glitz is thrown at it.

No, the new S-Class must impress in an altogether less tangible and more philosophical manner, involving all the senses, and not just what we see, hear and touch. It must appeal beyond the superficial. Otherwise, it is not a large Mercedes-Benz luxury sedan in the classic manner.

This is a Herculean task for the Stuttgart designers and engineers. By and large, though, the Three-Pointed Star has succeeded in achieving something special.

In its perception of peerless quality and engineering, the W223 is striving to move forward and look back simultaneously to the glory days of the seminal W126 (1980-1991). This is through meshing traditional virtues like solidity and quality materials while dazzling its passengers with technology that is still friendly enough to want to enhance your experience.

You can sink into the soft lounge seats, watch the world pass by silently outside and never be aware of the road underneath or the engine ahead. Double glazing, exquisite and aromatic fabrics and materials and lush tactile surfaces work their magic inside the car, while an airtight and aero body, solid platform, air suspension and a muted yet muscular powertrain all do their thing underneath. The atmosphere is special and rarefied. That's what an S-Class needs to be and that's what is happening in our $299,000 (as tested) S450L.

The same more-or-less applies up front, as the same trim, leather, wood and technology surrounds the driver and passenger. The spectre of the car that is surely The Car of the Last Decade – Tesla's Model S – is evident in the portrait touchscreen and sparse, almost wallflower dashboard design and layout. No big imposing architectures here.

Yet, while the American upstart actually takes stuff away, the S-Class packs the cabin with subtle features that – like when the planes stopped flying last year and the birdsong subsequently returned – only become obvious once the cabin's design simplicity clears all the white noise for you to be in a better frame of mind to enjoy them.   

Take the haptic interface, for example, as it is perhaps the best we've experienced; the sense of well-being garnered from the cumulative effects of profound seat comfort (the massaging function was never switched off), cocooning micro climate environmental control, orchestral levels of audio entertainment and the theatre of light and vision performed by the two available screens; it is an automotive experience like no other. And the eye-tracking 3D-effect navigation set within the electronic instrumentation. No need for cinematic glasses to get the effect. The driving position itself, by the way, is also first class.

Room to stretch and grow for sure, and in every direction. But room for improvement? You betcha.

Your tester had a headache after a little while staring at that woozy 3D map. The central vents – four at the front, two in the rear – look and feel cheap, leaving us mentally redesigning them; they are frightfully out of place here; the carryover column-stalk auto lever should have been binned in 2005. And, even though the digital instruments have a number of options, none are elegant enough for the S-Class. That's an especially subjective criticism, clearly, but one that – in the context of classic Mercedes luxury sedan contenders – is justified given how timeless the Bruno Sacco era of Daimler design was. Look him up, kids.

Still, after a couple of hours behind the wheel, with our senses reset to calm, it is obvious that the S-Class cabin is a unique and wonderful place – as it should be at a cool quarter-of-a-million dollars.

Job done.

PS At 550 litres (20L more than before), the boot is massive and luxurious enough to sleep in.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST7/10

Practicality isn’t really your concern when you buy a two-seat mega car like this, so let’s just say it’s about as practical as you would expect it to be. Not very, then.

Price and features

Mercedes-Benz S-Class8/10

Right now, only two S-Class models are available – the S450 from $240,700 plus on-road costs and the 110mm extended-wheelbase S450L (LWB) for another $24,900 on top. Most buyers overwhelmingly opt for the latter.

Despite what the numbers may suggest, both are powered by a 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder turbo petrol engine, delivering 270kW of power and 500Nm of torque to all four wheels via a nine-speed torque-converter automatic. Greater choices are coming later, including an all-electric version known as the EQS.

Almost every conceivable safety item is standard on the S-Class, including world-first rear-seat airbags located behind the front seats in the LWB model, taking the surround-airbag count to 10.

You'll also find route-based Speed Adaptation (adhering to the posted speed limits), Evasive Steering Assist (a sophisticated form of crash mitigation), adaptive cruise control with active stop/go, Active Lane Change Assist that automatically moves the car into the lane you indicate to), Mercedes' PreSafe crash-preparation tech that primes all the safety systems for impact, electronic stability program that encapsulates all the active driver-assist tech, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Autonomous Emergency Braking front and rear (including for cyclists and pedestrians), Traffic Sign Assist, Parking Package with Active Parking Assist and 360-degree camera and tyre pressure monitors.

On the equipment front there is the latest iteration of Mercedes' MBUX multimedia system with (another) world-first 3D display, complementing an OLED central display, powered closing doors, leather upholstery, air suspension, leather upholstery, velour floor mats, a multi-beam LED headlight system with adaptive high beams, heated and folding exterior mirrors, heat and noise-insulating acoustic glass for front side windows, dark privacy glass for rear windows, sunroof, roller sunblinds for rear windows, metallic paint and 20-inch AMG alloy wheels on runflat tyres.

Want cutting-edge multimedia? There's MBUX II's augmented reality for navigation and fingerprint scanner, as well as a more natural-speech Mercedes-Me Connect voice activation with global search.

Plus, predictive navigation with live traffic, parked vehicle locator, vehicle tracking, emergency call, maintenance management and tele-diagnostics, digital radio, Burmester 3D surround-sound system with 15 speakers and 710W amplifier, remote door locking/unlocking, geofencing, speed-fencing, valet parking, head-up display, Smart Phone integration with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, wireless charging, ambient lighting, two-zone climate control, poplar wood trim, electric adjustment for front seats, steering column with memory function, climatised front seats, keyless entry/go with flush-fitting door handles offering hands-free access (including for the electric boot),

Besides the ‘forward facing' airbag for the rear-seat occupants, the S450L also scores electrically adjustable rear seats with memory and automatic rear climate control.

Key options – and the list is massive – include an $8700 Rear Entertainment Package, that brings rear-multimedia access, rear tablets with wireless headsets and rear-seat wireless smart phone charging, an AMG Line pack with a body kit, different alloys and larger front brakes ($6500), Business Class Package that includes aircraft-style reclining rear seating and tray tables ($14,500), Nappa leather ($5000), augmented-reality HUD ($2900), 21-inch wheels ($2000) and four-wheel steering ($2700). There's also a $14,500 Energising Package with contoured seating, heated-everything and massaging seats.

Please keep in mind our test cars featured many such extras. Tick all the boxes and you can add nearly $100,000 to the price of your S-Class.

So, is the S450 good value? Given some of the breakthrough safety and luxury features it offers, it is unique. Too bad the Federal Government's Luxury Car Tax makes them so much more expensive than they need to be.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST6/10

Is it possible that any car - save one made from gold, dusted with diamonds and stuffed with truffles - would represent good value at a price of $610,000? It seems unlikely, but then people who can spend that much assay value differently, and would probably say that something as profound as the 812 Superfast is worth buying at any price.

Another way to look at it is price-per-litre, which is less than $100,000, considering you do get 6.5 litres of V12 Ferrari donk. Or you could go by kilowatt, which works out at nearly $1000 each for your 588kW.

Other than that you do get a lot of leather, a high-quality interior, superior exterior styling, badge-snob value that’s hard to put a price on and vast swathes of F1-derived technology. And a free car cover.

Engine & trans

Mercedes-Benz S-Class9/10

Where are the V8s?

Right now, the only W223 you can buy is powered by an all-new 2999cc 3.0-litre in-line direct-injection six-cylinder turbo petrol engine dubbed the M256, complete with double overhead cams, an electric compressor intercooler and assistance from a 48-volt mild hybrid system and integrated starter-generator, adding 16kW and 250Nm to the 270kW of power at 6100rpm and 500Nm of torque from 1600-4500rpm.

The 9G-Tronic torque-converter automatic transmission and 4Matic all-wheel drive system combination is a first for the S-Class in Australia.

Top speed is limited to 250km/h, while the 0-100km/h sprint-time takes just 5.1 seconds in both models. Impressive for a two-tonne-plus luxury limo.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST9/10

I did want to give the epic, enormous 6.5-litre naturally aspirated V12 engine a perfect 10 here, but when I paused to think about it I had to admit that it is, quite possibly, a little too powerful.

Yes, it is amazing to think Ferrari can build a car that has 588kW (800 horsepower - hence the 812 nomenclature; 800 horses and 12 cylinders) and doesn’t just dig itself a hole in the road as soon as you put your foot down.

And yes, it does provide the kind of performance that makes all other cars seems a bit piss poor and pathetic, even the really good ones. 

But honestly, who could ever use it all, or need it all? They might seem like irrelevant questions, I guess, because it’s all about conspicuous over-excess, a car like this, so really the question is, would anyone want to live with 588kW and 718Nm of torque, or is it just too scary in reality?

Well, a little bit, yes, but Ferrari’s engineers have been wise enough not to actually give you all of that power, all the time. Torque is limited in the first three gears, and maximum mental power is actually only available, in theory, at 8500rpm in seventh gear, at which point you’d be approaching its top speed of 340km/h.

The fact that you can rev an engine this big, and this lusciously loud, all the way to 8500rpm is, however, a joy that would never tire.

In more practical terms, you can run 0-100km/h in 2.9 seconds (although cheaper, less crazy cars can do that, too) or 200km/h in 7.9 (which is a tiny bit slower than the far lighter McLaren 720S).

What you can’t do, of course, is achieve any of those numbers on winter tyres, or roads with snow on them.

Fuel consumption

Mercedes-Benz S-Class7/10

With the aid of the mild-hybrid system, the S450 returned a combined average of an impressive 8.2 litres per 100km, which translates to 187 grams of carbon dioxide emissions per kilometre. 95 RON premium unleaded (or higher) is recommended. In the urban run it consumes 11.3L/100km (11.5 for S450L), and just 6.4L/100km (6.5 for S450L) in the extra-urban result.

At 76 litres, the fuel tank will allow a combined average range of about 927km between refills.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST5/10

Much as you can’t have a good volcano without some serious lava, you can’t have 800 horsepower without burning a lot of dead dinosaur goo. The Superfast has a claimed fuel-economy figure of 14.9L/100km, but on our drive the screen just said "Ha!" and we burned through a whole tank of fuel in less than 300km. 
Theoretical emissions are 340g/km of CO2.

Driving

Mercedes-Benz S-Class10/10

In former times, as the Germans say, a ‘450' on the boot indicated V8 power. In the W116 S-Class era it was one of the world's most evocative badges when ‘SEL' was also attached.

As mentioned earlier, though, it's the M256 3.0-litre turbo-petrol with a 48-volt ‘mild hybrid' electrical system that's doing the driving, to all four wheels. The real V8 W223 will probably surface later this year or in early 2022 with the S580L flagship. Bring it on.

This is not to say that S450 isn't good enough. With that electrified assistance, the blown straight six is smooth and swift off the line and rapid as the auto seamlessly steps up through all nine gears. Because it's so hushed and refined, it doesn't feel 5.1s to 100 clicks quick, but watching the speedo says otherwise – acceleration is assertive and strong right up way past the legal speed limit.

All that's missing is the burbling soundtrack of a classic Benz bent-eight. Oh well. Outstanding economy is a price we're literally willing to pay in lieu.

Even more impressive is the S450's ability to hustle along mountain roads like an overgrown sports sedan.

Now, for Australia, all S-Classes are fitted standard with an adaptive ‘Airmatic' air-suspension set-up, including air springs and self-levelling tech. In Comfort up to 60km/h, the ride height can be raised by 30mm, or lowered by 10mm under the standard 130mm baseline in Sport at any velocity, while in Sport+ it falls another 17mm.

With that in mind, yes, the standard air suspension performs a magnificent job smothering out most surface imperfections around town. Yet its real other party trick is to tighten up the chassis when corners get interesting and Sport mode is selected. Aided by progressively weighted and reassuringly responsive steering, the Mercedes tips into turns with precision and poise, slicing through with virtually no discernible body lean or understeer.

Now, we're not talking a leisurely drive on rural highways here, but Healesville's famous Chum Creek Road, where even a Porsche Cayman would feel like it's had a strenuous dynamic workout. The S-Class can be hurried along with confidence and finesse, displaying outstanding handling and roadholding for a 5.2-metre long limo. And the fact that the ride quality only suffers marginally when the red horns are out is all the more remarkable.

Back in the cut-and-thrust of inner-city peak-hour traffic, the Benz in Comfort mode continued to reveal its driver-orientated yet passenger-focused twin-personalities, zipping in and out of gaps while remaining comfy and composed inside.

Only when parking in tight spots are you truly aware that the W223 is longer than a Mazda CX-9. The optional four-wheel-steering system is claimed to slash the turning circle to A-Class hatchback levels. 10.9 metres is the claim.

The 2021 S-Class never ceases to amaze and delight.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST8/10

Insane. It’s a word that people often lift from their lexicon when describing a supercar experience, because clearly, as forms of transport, things like Ferraris and Lamborghinis are not sane options.

But the Superfast really deserves the word, because it feels not only the opposite of sane, but truly bonkers. As if someone built it for a dare, realised it was a bad and possibly dangerous idea, and then put it on sale anyway.

Picture some tiny-handed child with his greasy, post-cheeseburger fingers poised over a big red button on his desk that could wipe out humanity, and that’s basically the situation your right leg finds itself in when driving the Superfast.

There is so much power on tap here - even the limited amount of it that the engineers allow you to access in lower gears - that it truly seems possible you’ll have a Road Runner moment, and simply dig a hole in the ground, if you push the throttle too hard.

Yes, on the one hand, the noises this extreme V12 makes above 5000rpm are memorable and moving, like Satan himself singing Nessun Dorma in a shower of sparks. At one stage we found a long tunnel, perhaps the only dry road within 500km that day, and my colleague forgot all about his licence and let rip.

The numbers on my 'Passenger Screen' spun like poker-machine wheels, then turned red and then implausible. I was shoved back into my seat as if by Thor himself, and I squealed like a small pig, but my co-driver heard nothing over the Monaco tunnel during F1 sound.

Even on dry road, of course, the winter tyres we were forced (by law) to run in the foul snowy conditions could not maintain grip, and we constantly felt the rear skipping sideways. Fortunately we were in Italy, so people simply cheered us on.

The likelihood that you will lose traction in this car is so high that the boffins have included a special feature in its new 'Electronic Power Steering' system called 'Ferrari Power Oversteer'. When you inevitably start going sideways, the steering wheel will apply subtle torque to your hands, 'suggesting' the best way to get the car back in a straight line.

A proud engineer told me that this is basically like having a Ferrari test driver in the car with you, telling you what to do, and that they used their skills to calibrate the system. You can override it, of course, but it sounds scarily like an autonomous-driving precursor to me.

What’s disappointing about this car having EPS at all, rather than a traditional hydraulic system, is that it just doesn’t feel muscular enough for a hairy-handed monster of a car like this.

It is accurate and precise and pointy, of course, and makes driving the Superfast, even in stupidly slippery conditions, almost easy. Almost.

It’s actually surprising how hard you can push a car like this along a windy and wet mountain road without careering off into a muddy field.

More time, and more traction, would have been appreciated, but you can tell it’s the sort of car you’d grow into, and perhaps even feel in control of, after a decade or so together.

So it’s good, yes, and very fast, obviously, but I can’t get past the idea that it’s all a bit unnecessary, and that a 488 GTB is simply, in every single way, a better car.

But as a statement, or a collector’s item, the Ferrari 812 Superfast certainly is one for the history books.

Safety

Mercedes-Benz S-Class10/10

The W223 S-Class has not been crash-tested yet by ANCAP or European affiliate EuroNCAP, so does not have a star rating. However, Mercedes-Benz claims it has striven to create one of the safety vehicles on the planet. Who are we to argue?

Almost every conceivable safety item is standard on the S-Class, including world-first rear-seat airbags located behind the front seats in the LWB model, taking the surround-airbag count to 10.

You'll also find route-based Speed Adaptation (adhering to the posted speed limits), Evasive Steering Assist (a sophisticated form of crash mitigation), adaptive cruise control with active stop/go, Active Lane Change Assist that automatically moves the car into the lane you indicate to), Mercedes' PreSafe crash-preparation tech that primes all the safety systems for impact, electronic stability program that encapsulates all the active driver-assist tech, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Autonomous Emergency Braking front and rear (including for cyclists and pedestrians, at speeds from 7km/h to over 200km/h), Traffic Sign Assist, Parking Package with Active Parking Assist and 360-degree camera and tyre pressure monitors.

The Active Lane Keeping Assist works in a speed range of between 60km/h and 250km/h while Active Steer Assist helps the driver follow the lane at speeds of up to 210km/h.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST7/10

It might not surprise you to hear that, unlike every other company’s press kits, the Ferrari ones don’t generally include a section on 'safety'. Perhaps because driving something this powerful is inherently unsafe, or possibly because they believe their 'E-Diff 3', 'SCM -E' (magnetorheological suspension control with dual-coil system), 'F1-Traction Control', ESC and so forth will keep you on the road no matter what. 

If you do fly off, you’ll have four airbags, and a nose as big as a house forming a crumple zone, to protect you.

Ownership

Mercedes-Benz S-Class7/10

Unlike many luxury brands that persist with a sub-par three-year warranty, Mercedes-Benz offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

Intervals are every year or 25,000km, with a capped price service plan starting at $800 for the first year, $1200 for the second year and $1400 for the third year, totalling $3400. Alternatively, there is a Service Plan starting at $2700 for the first three years (saving $700 from the normal capped-price service plan), $3600 for four years and $5400 for five years.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST8/10

Once you’ve paid the vast cost of entry, it’s nice to know you will get some stuff for free, like your first seven years of servicing, including all parts and labour, carried out by trained Ferrari technicians, who even dress like pit crew. It’s called 'Genuine Maintenance', and is genuinely Kia-challenging in its scope.