Fleet News

Mercedes-Benz S320 CDI



IN the fickle, fast-cycle world of car manufacturing, a model is soon forgotten once it is replaced by a newer, better version.

This adage should apply to the Mercedes-Benz S-class. We lived with a diesel-engined version for six months as Mercedes-Benz prepared to roll-out the next generation one. In many ways we were testing a car at the wrong end of its lifecycle, but despite its age (our car was originally launched as a revamped mid-life model in 2000) the S-class still had the depths of talents to impress against new rivals.

Our S320 CDI arrived in May, resplendent in gunmetal grey metallic paint with charcoal grey leather interior. It also had some optional cosmetic enhancements, such as darkened rear windows, walnut wood trim (£230), a set of lovely chunky five-spoke, 18-inch alloy wheels (£1,030) and wood trim on the steering wheel and gearlever (£150).

Personally, I could have lived without the tinted windows and wood trim, but those optional, bigger alloys certainly improved the S320’s looks. It also firmed up the ride which, in conjunction with the electronic dampers set on the hardest Sport setting, made the going too hard for a car of this type.

But with the dampers left in the middle setting, it provided a good balance of handling and comfort.

Comfort and space was a big plus point of the S-class, and was one of the main reasons it was one of our five-car party which travelled down from Stamford in Lincolnshire to Le Mans in France in the summer for the 24-hour endurance race.

Five men and all their camping gear were swallowed with ease in the huge boot, the tank was brimmed with diesel and the satellite navigation was set.

Then it was simply a question of someone turning the steering wheel to guide this executive express down the autoroutes and back roads of mid-France.

The S320 also had some more genteel journeys, though, including a weekend trip down to the Isle of Wight. It also served as a wedding car for some friends who married in the summer.

But most of the time the car spent its time pounding up and down our traffic-clogged roads, devouring miles with ease and proving a wonderfully comfortable environment to be in when the inevitable traffic jams appeared.

Problems with the S-class were few and far between. The passenger side wing mirror played up and refused to relocate into its housing when the car was started up, but eventually this problem was rectified when it went into our local dealership for another trifling fault to be rectified – a blown bulb in the rear numberplate lights.

This work cost £30 and was carried out with exceptional service by Mercedes-Benz of Peterborough, who collected, returned and valeted the car while it was there.

That’s the kind of service you should expect when you’ve got a £55,000 car, mind, and it shows how Mercedes-Benz is aiming to improve its customer satisfaction levels.

So with a new S-class just around the corner, is our car now just a distant memory, consigned to the pages of motoring history?

Absolutely not. Even now, nearly two months after the car was returned to Mercedes-Benz, I still cast envious glances when I see one out on the road. She may be the grand old lady of luxury cars, but her talents shone long and deep.

Mercedes-Benz will no doubt claim that the all-new version is the best car in the world and a massive leap forward over this model, but I reckon they’ve got their work cut out living up to this claim. Superseded it may be, but I for one won’t forget our time with the S-class.

What the team thought

APPARENTLY, even the bods at Mercedes-Benz were chuffed after speccing up our S-class to its opulent level. It was worth the money just for its looks alone.

It was as luxurious as you might expect for the money, yet frugal too, with 35mpg achieved relatively easily. Since I passed the car on, I have often noticed it in the car park and reflected what a stunning car it is. It means the new S-class has a tough job on its hands to replace its predecessor.
John Maslen

IN many ways, the S-class has started to show its age over the last couple of years of its life. There isn’t the room in the back or the boot like a BMW 7-series, it doesn’t have the technological feel of an Audi A8 and cannot handle anywhere near as well as a Jaguar XJ. But luxury products often can’t be judged by their practical qualities. It’s more about how you feel owning one and in this respect, the S-class is hard to beat.
Steve Moody

Model: Mercedes-Benz S320 CDI
Price (OTR): £51,632 (£55,432 as tested)
Total mileage: 12,700
CO2 emissions (g/km): 209
Company car tax bill (2006) 40% tax-payer: £534 a month
Insurance group: 16E
Combined mpg: 36.7
Test mpg: 31.7
CAP Monitor residual value: £17,550/34%
Total expenditure: £30
Typical contract hire rate: £970
Figures based on three-years/60,000-miles

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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