Mercedes-Benz S-Class VS Lamborghini Huracan
- 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
- Soaring V10
- Seven-speed gearbox
- Even more fun than all-wheel-drive Huracan
- Lack of second screen makes dash a bit crowded
- Not much storage
- Can't see the engine
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|
Lamborghini's Huracan is the howling and fiery follow-up to Sant' Agata's best-selling model ever, the vicious, V10-powered Gallardo.
The first clean-sheet design since Audi's takeover of Lambo in the late 1990s, the new car has picked up where the Gallardo left off, selling like crazy. Since its launch a couple of years back, the new variants have come thick and fast, with the rear-wheel-drive 580-2 joining the LP610-4 as well as Spyder variants of both. Last month Lambo dropped the madcap and much waffled over Performante (or "totally bonkers" version).
Lamborghini's local arm made a canny decision to ensure we could kill two birds with one stone, letting us loose in a Huracan Spyder 580-2. Less power, less roof, fewer driven wheels, more weight. Does it mean less fun, though?
|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 rear-wheel-drive Spyder couldn't be more fun if it put on a silly wig or sprouted a jet engine and wings.
Yes, it's heavier and slower than the Coupe but the Huracan loses almost none of its feel with the roof whipped off, plus you get all the fun and fresh air of a Spyder. The extra weight doesn't mean much on the road and the added bonus of the rear-wheel drive's more responsive steering and even sharper turn-in evens things out.
The V10 is the last of its type, with Ferrari and McLaren both employing forced induction V8s for their smaller sports cars - in McLaren's case, all of them. The Huracan Spyder is everything that's good about Lamborghini - nutty looks, crackpot engine, head-turning theatrics - with all of the bad stuff booted out by parent company Audi. The 580-2 loses none of the fun of the circus and with the roof off it's even louder music to your ears.
Are you roofless in intent or do your sports cars need a lid?
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 roof is a fabric job and folds away in a tidy 15 seconds, more than quick enough to save you from a drenching in all but the most sudden of rain showers. It looks pretty good when up, doing a decent impression of the coupe's roofline, but roof down with the cool speedster-style humps, the Huracan looks epic.
It's not a shy and retiring car (no Lambo is), not by a long shot and if you enjoy the attention of the local constabulary, the bright yellow (Giallo Tenerife) is the colour for you. One particularly nice touch is the Huracan Spyder script engraved on the windscreen header rail.
Frustratingly, there's only a small cover to gain access to the oil filler - unlike the coupe you can't see the engine through the cover. The rear section of the Spyder is quite different, with a huge composite clamshell that lifts out of the way to allow the roof to stow itself. It's a necessary compromise but a shame as well.
The cabin is standard Huracan, with switchgear handed down from Audi and that brilliant red starter button cover that looks like it should have 'Bombs Away' written on it. There are a lot of fighter-jet influences, and it's a more convincing space than the more expensive Aventador.
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, well, the usual mumbling explanation about how you have to take into account what this car is for and that there isn't the room for everyday luxuries will have to suffice. You do get a cupholder that pops out of the passenger-side dash garnish and the front boot will hold 70 litres. There's not a lot else you can squeeze in, although you can probably slip slim items behind the front seat backs. You'll be golfing on your own.
It's a more comfortable interior than the Aventador, with more head and shoulder room and a better overall position for driver and passenger.
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.
As always, value for money isn't one of your top priorities if you're looking for a high-end sports car dripping with standard features. The stereo has just four speakers but really, who's going to be listening to Kyle when you ears can reap the Huracan?
You also score dual-zone climate control, remote central locking (the flush fitted handles pop out endearingly as you draw closer), LED headlights, running lights and taillights, (very cool) digital dashboard, electric seats, sat nav, leather trim and a hydraulic lifter to help keep the front splitter pristine over kerbs.
Naturally the option list is long. Our car was specced by a restrained hand, with 20-inch black Giamo alloys ($9110), front and rear parking sensors with reversing camera ($5700 - ahem), black painted brake calipers ($1800) and $2400 worth of Lamborghini logos and stitching. Very nice stitching, obviously.
You can go completely mad if you want to, spending up to $20,000 on matte paint colours, $10,000 on bucket seats, carbon fibre bits can mount up and then of course you can commission stuff to suit your personal taste for even more cash. If you're prepared to drop well north of $400,000 on a car, what's a few more thousand, I guess.
As far as value goes, the Spyder is about right for its segment, coming in around the same price as an admittedly less focused Ferrari California and a bit more than the less-powerful R8 Spyder range.
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.
As the name suggests, the 580-2 is 30 metric horsepower down on the 610-4. In our language, that means Automobili Lamborghini's 5.2-litre naturally-aspirated V10 (yes, like many parts, shared with the Audi R8) developing 426kW/540Nm. Those figures are down 23kW and 20Nm on the AWD car.
The official 0-100km/h figure is 3.6 seconds, although it's unlikely it's that slow(!), Lambo's figures are regularly bettered by other publications with little effort.
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.
The amazing thing about this car is that despite being handed a regular thrashing, its fuel consumption is little worse than a large Toyota SUV's. When cruising along it will sip fuel, with cylinder deactivation helping further ease its thirst. The claimed combined cycle figure is a reasonable (and almost achievable) 11.9L/100km. I got a calculated 15.2L/100km and did not spare the rod, Nosirreebob. And nothing like the terrifying, guzzling consumption of the Aventador's V12.
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.
The Huracan's V10 is a glorious thing. It revs to the redline like a demon and does it all day every day. It feels utterly unburstable and delivers its power with such joy and abandon it gets under your skin.
With the roof off and Sport mode engaged on the Anime switch, the mix of induction and exhaust noise is utterly addictive. It's a theatrical machine, popping and banging and the metallic scream under power all combine to blow away the cobwebs in double quick time. Its sound is symphonic and pulling the gearshift instantly changes the note. It's breathtaking.
A big part of this particular car's charm is the switch to rear-wheel drive. The engineers didn't just forget to bolt in the propshafts and front-wheel-drive gear, but the steering had a going-over to compensate for the changes and to improve feel and responsiveness. It worked.
Where the all-wheel drive is prone to mild understeer, the front end of the dash-two is a little more planted. The Spyder might be heavier than the Coupe, but the rear-wheel-drive car feels that tiny bit more agile, with a lightning change of direction and a livelier rear-end. It's more delicate than -4 and doesn't feel appreciably slower.
One side note about the -4's understeer: it simply isn't a big deal. The internet will tell you it "understeers like a pig". The internet is completely wrong, but you already knew that; the internet loves cat videos. Nobody accuses the Ferrari California of the same vice, and yet it, too, understeers mildly in standard spec (as opposed to HS) - it's deliberate, safer and user-friendly. It is not, however, a pig.
Anyway. On with the show.
In an effort to lower the cost of the 580-2, it also comes with steel brakes - the expensive carbon ceramics are an option. On the road, you're not really going to notice too much difference apart from slightly different pedal feel. It probably renders the Huracan a less effective track car, but the reality is, not that many owners are going to care, particularly Spyder buyers.
I spent most of my time in Sport mode - it's where the most fun is to be found, with the electronics taking a more relaxed approach to the car's attitude. The drive-by-wire throttle is lovely and sharp, the steering a bit weightier and the seven-speed twin-clutch (or, as I prefer to say at every opportunity, doppio frizione). Corsa is certainly fast but it's far more interested in getting the car straight and slinging it out of the exit of a corner. Don't bother with Strada mode - it's far too soft, and deeply unappealing.
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.
The Huracan has four airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls and brake force distribution. A super strong carbon fibre and aluminium spaceframe does the heavy lifting in a crash.
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.
The Huracan is supplied with a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Given the usual mileage of a car like this, that's ample. There's three-year roadside assist into the bargain and the option to extend the warranty - $6900 for one year and $13,400 for two, which seems okay given what can go wrong in such a sophisticated car.
Servicing intervals are an absurdly reasonable 15,000km although you're expected to visit the dealer once a year (mainly so you can order your next Lambo).