The simple fact is that the new model just doesn’t do it for me – it’s mix of angular front-end styling and bulbous, curvy rear end just don’t gel together properly.
Unlike our car, which has a cohesiveness about its design which still looks good now, even though this model has been on sale since 1998. And while our S-class is something of the grand old lady of the luxury car sector nowadays, it still looks the part.
Finished in flint grey metallic, the optional 18-inch alloy wheels in bright silver contrast so well. They cost £1,030 extra and certainly do wonders for the car’s looks by filling out the wheelarches much better.
They also help deliver a much more sporting feel than the standard 17-inch wheels, making the S-class ride much harder and handle far more tightly than a saloon of this size and weight has a right to.
But if the ride gets too much, simply pressing the Airmatic button on the dashboard changes the ride dramatically. In Sport it is uncompromising but results in better handling, while in Comfort mode it gives a better compromise between handling and ride comfort.
It’s nice to have the option to change the suspension setting to suit your driving mood. The alloys are the most expensive single option fitted to our car, and we’d definitely recommend them for their looks alone.
Other options fitted include a memory system which retains details of front seat position, steering column and wing mirrors – another £550 well spent.
The boot-mounted six-disc CD autochanger is a £350 option, which seems somewhat stingy. If you’re paying more than £50,000 for a car you’d expect this item to be fitted as standard.
The bi-xenon headlamps are brilliant and the amount of extra illumination they provide at night make them worth the extra £620, while the telephone pre-wiring kit at £420 is essential for any businessman on the move who wants to stay on the right side of the hands-free mobile phone law. But we’d avoid the wood trim on the steering wheel and gearbox (£600), primarily because it makes gripping the steering wheel difficult.
The new S-class arrives in the UK early next year, consigning the current model to the history books.
Although this car looks dated compared to cars such as the Audi A8 and BMW 7-series, it still has graceful looks and commanding on-road presence. It remains to be seen if the new model can continue that tradition.
Mercedes-Benz S320 CDI
Model: Mercedes-Benz S320 CDI
Price (OTR): £51,632 (£55,432 as tested)
CO2 emissions: (g/km) 209
Company car tax bill (2005): 40% tax-payer £482 a month
Insurance group: 16E
Combined mpg: 36.7
Test mpg: 30.2
CAP Monitor residual value: £18,175/35%
Expenditure to date: Nil
Typical contract hire rate: £970
Figures based on three-years/60,000-miles