Mercedes-Benz S-Class VS Lamborghini Aventador
- S-Class' return to splendour
- Stunning high-tech cabin presentation
- Outstanding ride and handling capabilities
- Price of entry prohibitive for most
- 3D instrumentation can make you woozy
- A tad conservative in design
- Styling, so much styling
- That V12 engine, the pure speed rush of it
- The noise, absolutely bonkers
- Not being able to see anything behind you or beside you
- The price. You could have five great cars for this much
- The sheer mass, width and weight of it
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.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Too fast, too loud, too crazy, too dangerous, too big. All of these are phrases a supercar lover would never think to utter when considering the sanity-defying existence of the new Lamborghini Aventador S, and yet exactly the kind of things any reasonable person might say after driving one, or even witnessing it in motion.
Too much, clearly, is never enough in La La Lambo world, and it's certainly true that if you desire a car that will puncture your eardrums while rupturing your spleen and bruising your heart, this is the perfect vehicle for you.
Five years after its launch, the Aventador has been updated and upgraded - with new rear-wheel steering, an allegedly improved gearbox, tweaked styling and a button that says EGO - and uprated, with even more power that it clearly wasn't crying out for.
We went to Phillip Island to drive it around a high-speed track covered in rain, mist and suicidal geese.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
The Lamborghini Aventador S is a hugely unnecessary car that probably wouldn't exist at all in any sane universe. Fortunately it's from Italy instead.
While it definitely has its flaws - it's simply too big, and too fast, to drive on public roads, and it's too heavy, and mental, to be a purist's track car - there is still something strangely charming about it.
It's the ridiculous design, those super-cool doors, the outrageous and deafening noises it makes, and what it does to your internal organs when you accelerate in it.
There are better, sharper and more affordable supercars than the Aventador S, but there are none that are anything like it.
Is the Aventador S your dream supercar, or would you prefer an F12 Berlinetta? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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.
The lovely and loquacious Italians from Lamborghini showed us a revealing little sketch at the car's launch, which looked a little bit like a bad tattoo but said a lot about their design ethos. It featured mean-looking sharks and menacing cobras morphing with an outline of the Aventador, and was meant to represent the approach to further man-ing up the looks of this S version.
The shark fins are clearly evident in the new and even bigger front splitter, the cobra must be hiding under the engine cover somewhere, while the new rear exhaust shape is apparently modelled on the Space Shuttle.
There are a few touches of the classic Countach, apparently, and plenty of "aerospace" design, which means they've tried to make it look like a fighter jet.
The overall effect is about as over the top as Lady Gaga marrying Ivanka Trump, and yet because its a Lamborghini, you find yourself loving it anyway. Absurdity is their reality. And how could you not fall for any car with those doors?
The interior is not as classy feeling as a Ferrari, but it has a certain brash, flash-cash opulence to it that makes you smile as well.
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.
PS At 550 litres (20L more than before), the boot is massive and luxurious enough to sleep in.
Yes, the Aventador S is a car, and it will take you from Point A to Point B, although you might leave some of your life expectancy behind on every trip, but other than that, practicality is not a selling point.
It is 4.8m long, just over 2m wide and a mere 1.14m high, the giant Lambo is as thick across the hips as a Toyota LandCruiser, and as pleasant to climb in and out of as an iron lung.
It also burns slightly more fuel than a Space Shuttle launch and is virtually impossible to see out of, but owners won't care because every other car will be behind them somewhere, and they'll only be looking out for plate-glass windows to admire themselves in anyway.
There are no cupholders (although apparently you can option them) and there's virtually no room to store anything at all. None of this matters, of course, because if the people who buy an Aventador S want practicality they'll simply choose one of the other 20 cars in their personal fleet.
Price and features
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.
On the one hand, the $788,914 price for this new S version of the Aventador (the S stands for "Something that is better" according to the Italians) is problematic, and slightly ridiculous, because it seems a lot to pay for a car that would have you shot on sight on suspicion of speeding by the Victorian Police and is about as well suited to Australian conditions as an igloo.
On the other hand, which is covered in thick gold rings with a fat Rolex attached to its wrist, it makes perfect sense, because its vast and silly size perfectly complements the very nature of the car, which is perhaps the biggest 'look at me, I'm rich' statement short of sky writing your bank balance.
The sort of person who buys a car like this, rather than the cheaper, far more sensible and, frankly, enjoyable Lamborghini Huracan, actually wants to pay a lot of money, because it's part of the fun.
Sure, that price only gets you two seats but they're very sexy ones, and truly grippy to sit in, which they need to be in a g-force monster like this.
There's only one spec for an S buyer, and it includes little treats like Apple CarPlay, but if you want the telemetry system, to record your lap times, it's an optional extra, at $3400.
The one feature every owner will want to show off, though - aside from the obvious ones like the scissor doors and 'Bombs-away!' starter - is the EGO button. This is basically a fourth setting to add to the car's existing Strada (Street in Italian), Sport and Corsa (Race) options, but confusingly, because it is entirely personalisable, it actually offers another 24 settings when you press it.
Sure, it's slightly pointless, but at least it's honest, because EGO is what this car is all about.
Each of those settings also changes the Aventador S's lush and wondrous Kombi dash screens (the Lamborghini-styled version of owner Audi's Virtual Cockpit), offering race-car like giant tachometers and even a graphic that shows you which way your wheels are pointing. Not that you'll have time to look at it when exploring your car's 350km/h top speed.
Engine & trans
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.
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.
Let's start with the bad news, which is that the all-new seven-speed ISR (Independent Shifting Rods) gearbox that was supposed to fix the old-tech lurchiness of the Aventador's driveline is still so far off the pace of modern, dual-clutch transmissions that it's mildly embarrassing.
Change gear at speed in this vicious V12 and you're in for a kind of stop-motion, Wallace and Gromit experience. There's no doubt you can feel the aggression of the shifts, but they do remind you of a long-past time when upshifts meant a short break between rushes of acceleration, rather than the seamless shove you now get from a Ferrari (or even a Golf GTI).
Your gear changes can be so violent that they knock the breath out of you, but it could be argued that this merely suits the personality of the car, which in turn reflects the absurdity of its manic engine.
Power has, somehow, been raised by 30kW to an astronomical 544kW at a deafening and ballistic 8400rpm. Lamborghini says the new tune gives even more torque at higher revs, but its maximum figure of 690Nm is actually less than Ferrari's V8-powered 488, which has 760Nm.
The difference is turbochargers, of course, a limp-wristed affectation of a technology that Lamborghini still eschews.
They will tell you it's all about the way the car performs and accelerates, and with a 0-100km/h time of 2.9 seconds (not even a whisker faster than the standard Aventador, which shows you how difficult those times are to improve on), a 0-200km/h dash of just 8.8 seconds, and 0-300 in 24.2, it does do these things well.
What it's really about, though, is the operatic purity and visceral violence of the way the engine sounds, and with its all-new muffler and exhaust system, the S really does take big, shouty showiness to new levels.
Indeed, I would venture this is the loudest road car my ears have ever been assaulted by (a Porsche 918 is louder, but it's really a race car with a rego sticker). Under acceleration it is as eyebrow-liltingly loud as the front row of an AC/DC concert back in the 1990s, but it is the series of explosions you get on the overrun when fear pushes your foot off the throttle that are truly astounding. It sounds like someone throwing steel rubbish bins full of grenades into a cement mixer.
Crazy? Yes. Unnecessary? Yes, but it is wonderful.
It's possible that, as some of my colleagues claimed they could notice, the S is more instantly ballistic when you press the accelerator than the normal Aventador, but frankly that's like comparing being shot with different guns. Let's just say it's a hugely violent, chest-beating engine. And I love it.
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.
Yes, it sure does consume fuel. Quite a lot, with claimed figures of 26.2L/100km on the urban cycle, and a combined urban/highway figure of 16.9L/100km. Frankly, you'd be lucky if you kept it under 30.0L/100km. It's thirsty work to drive.
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.
Piloting an Aventador around city streets is a challenge, partly because it's like trying to hold a four-metre high, 400kg Rottweiler on a leash, but mainly because it's stupidly wide and you can't see anything from the driver's seat.
Lamborghini has tried to improve the experience of driving it at low speeds with a new rear-wheel steering system, that turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts at low speeds, effectively shortening the wheelbase and making it almost liveable in car parks, but then turns them in the same direction as the fronts at higher speeds, for better turn-in and handling.
This was the first time I've ever been fortunate, or perhaps mad, enough to drive an Aventador on a race track, and a fast one at that in Phillip Island, which was covered in a fairly typical Arctic storm front, with enough standing water to attract large, suicidal geese to several corner apexes, including the one at the top of the straight, where the big Lambo was hitting 230km/h before we'd even passed the pits (it had dried out a bit, briefly, for that lap).
With open spaces in front of you, this car delivers the kind of acceleration that forces all the air out of your body, or perhaps you just forget to breathe because your brain is too busy freaking out. It's an invigorating sensation, but not without fear, a bit like jumping out of a plane, and equally addictive.
All that rocket thrust really is its party trick, though, because as mentioned the gear shifts are a bit of a shambles, and the sheer size, and 1575kg weight, of the thing makes it feel like a handful around tight corners.
It's very good around a track for what it is, but what it is is too heavy and too big for circuit driving. Again, you'd have to think a Huracan would be more fun, and would scare you less.
But then it did strike me, on my last lap, as I attempted to find some saliva in my dry mouth, that there's something wonderfully old school, and traditionally Lamborghini, about a supercar that genuinely frightens and intimidates you when you try to push it.
I can't imagine buying one myself, but I can imagine why a certain kind of enthusiast would want to.
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.
You're not getting AEB in a car like this, as the sensors would ugly up the front of the car, and there's nowhere to fit them. But you do get a 'passive pedestrian protection system', which is nice.
Some markets get a driver's knee airbag, but sadly we don't, so you have to put up with just four airbags in total, and a collapsible steering column.
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.