Mercedes-Benz S400d

The world’s best car gets better

₹ 2,17,00,000

Probably the most unexceptional heading to an S-class review ever, but also one that holds the most truth. No pressure then! What we have here is the imported (CBU) S400d, but in recent months, Mercedes-Benz India has also started assembling the S-Class in India, significantly slashing its (honestly) irrelevant price tag. If you want an S-Class, you want one, regardless of chump change. So what does more money get you?

Design: Restrained modernity

Benefitting from the extended wheelbase, this imported S400d looks regal from any angle and illustrates why owning an S-Class ranks up there with a corner cabin at the BSE. It’s classy without being ostentatious, attention-grabbing without seeking it and that is the true beauty of this generation of the S-Class…its understated nature. 


Just the Digital LED lights on the new face hold more tech than many ground-up automobile platforms. Made up of a million micromirrors, they illuminate the road ahead with a million pixels (each) and since all those pixels can be intelligently controlled, they don’t dazzle oncoming traffic, can light up corners and even project messages or warning symbols on the road ahead if need be!

Flush door handles, 20in wheels, and sharper taillights are the obvious new bits as you make your way around the car but it’s when you get inside that you come face to face with the future for the very first time. 

The all-new cabin design is dominated by two large screens that make up for the digital instruments and the infotainment control. iPadesque in orientation, the giant 12.8 inches of real estate gives it enough room to have large touch points and brilliant sharp resolution to pan through maps, myriad of vehicle settings and climate control settings. Overall, more than 27 physical buttons have been eliminated from the cabin, thanks to all the virtualisation of buttons. Even the seat controls are touch controls, steering stalks now only hold capacitive controls and even the sunroof slider controls are touch sensitive!

Tech: de force

While it may take a thesis-sized review to unravel all the tech inside the cabin, there are a few highlights that really steal the show. Hands down, the S-Class has the most elaborate ambient lighting system of any car on sale and is punctuated by strips of fibre optics all around the cabin, in two layers. This not only offers you granular control of colour, but also gradation so you can have the cabin sweep from pink to purple and it is also reactive to voice commands and other inputs like climate control, flashing in different colours to indicate inputs. It’s playful and sophisticated at the same time and post sundown, literally creates a whole different world inside the S-Class, regardless of what’s happening outside. 

In another first, the 12.3in digital instrument cluster for the driver can also be viewed in 3D mode and this allows text to float on images, or dials to be ever-so-slightly in the foreground compared to trip information. It’s subtle, effective and most importantly, non-distracting. But, the all-virtual capacitive buttons on the new steering wheel are a hit or miss. Ok honestly, they are a miss most of the time since you have to take your eyes off the road to even hit the right target and the volume and track change are not even on the corresponding stalks on either side, triggering off some peoples OCD.

Of course, you can’t talk about the S-Class cabin and not mention the absolutely OTT Burmester 4D surround sound system. Packing in 39 speakers inside the confines of a car cabin is no mean feat and on the S400d, this includes 31 actual speakers planted strategically around the doors, A-pillars, roof, rear parcel shelf, boot and even the subwoofers bolted to the chassis! Beyond the actual speakers, there are also two “exciters” inside every seat, synced to massage your body with the music so you not only hear the music but also feel it. This boils down to personal preference, but as a novelty feature, it’s best kept at minimum for a pleasant change. 
The level of customization is bewildering, letting you choose a VIP seat for optimised sound for the money maker, level of surround effect, EQ presets and if nothing else works, you can engage in a complete re-profiling of the sonic signature via a guided tutorial! As expected, the result is pretty epic, with a sense of scale and depth that is rarely heard in the closed environs of an automobile. It never leaves you wanting for more power or dynamics and even the timbral accuracy is of a high order, making for an unforgettable drive even at lower than normal or background listening levels. Then, there are the actual theatrics of the tweeters rotating in and out of their sockets when the system is active, along with an ambient lighting ring around them! 
What you’d expect at this level, features like wireless Apple CarPlay, USB-C charging ports, rear entertainment screens with a wireless touchscreen remote controller tablet, massaging seats with heating and cooling are all present. But, it also gets screen sharing, where you can simply drag and drop media content between the infotainment screen in the front and the twin rear passenger screens. A huge sunroof, split into two sections keeps things bright while the rear seat opposing the driver does a whole dance to recline into business-class-like comfort at the touch of a button.

Cameras on every corner stitch up the images to give you a birds-eye view of the S400d but it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of refinement. Nearby objects seem gigantic and the stitching isn’t seamless either, making it more disorienting than assistive. Audi does a much better job at this tech in their flagship cars, if you must know. 
Assistance also comes in the form of active aids such as blind-spot assist, active lane-keeping assist, active braking assist and guided cruise control and while they’re all on the cutting edge of current autonomous technology, in a typical Indian urban environment, they tend to overcompensate. Especially, the active brake assist, which stays on by default after every restart, jams on the brakes automatically the moment it senses any object in its proximity. You can only guess how the story ends during 7 pm peak hour traffic in Dadar!

Drive: effortless

Step inside the wrap-around cabin doesn’t intimidate you at all. The cossetting seats with active bolsters hold you in place while cornering and the silken 6-cyl diesel motor keeps the momentum going as long as your right foot instructs it to. The 9-speed auto is buttery smooth in transmitting the mega 700Nm of torque to all four wheels since the S400d comes in the 4Matic guise, which is MB speak for all-wheel drive. 


It also gets rear-axle steering that turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts at low speeds to aid in tighter turning radius and in the same direction as the fronts at higher speeds for better stability and agility. Indeed, the 330 horsepower doesn’t feel like a rocketship given the weight, but more like a torpedo, just sailing through unfazed, never letting your mind wander about what's going on underneath. The ride is cushy without being soft and the drive modes come in handy, where Sport is the sweet spot. Comfort just makes it a bit too wallowy at high speeds but is great for pottering around traffic. 


Whichever seat you choose to be seated on, the S-Class pampers you with a feel-good factor that’s second to none. Its mix of exquisite design, materials and craftsmanship blended with high-tech is what sets it apart from the other accomplished competition. Going on a 350km round trip, I emerged fresher than at the start, drenched in music and rejuvenated by the vitality programs that hit all the right spots to keep your body from stiffening up. The quietness of the cabin and the smoothness of all the oily bits just remove any discomfort from the equation, leaving just the legend to speak for itself. This really does feel like the best car in the world!

Stuff Says

Regal in appearance and in ride, if you want to emerge fresher at the end of the journey, the S-Class is in a class of its own.
Good stuff
Bad stuff
  1. Comfort second to none

  1. Tech, second to none

  1. Feel-good factor, second to none

  1. Some active safety tech erratic for India

  1. Poor stitching on 360 camera

  1. Capacitive buttons on steering feel like a WIP

Engine: 6cyl diesel
Power: 330hp/700Nm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Drivetrain: 4WD
Weight: 2815kg
Wheelbase: 3216mm