When it comes to full-size luxury sedans, two models set the standards by which all others are judged, and it's been like that for some time now. The two models? The 2017 Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the BMW 7 Series, so let's see how they compare with each other.
As if German luxury manufacturers don't already offer a bewildering enough array of models, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is now offered as a sedan, a coupe, and a convertible. All three are stunning looking cars, but the coupe and the convertible with the roof down take the S-Class to an entirely different level, with a bold and confident design that's hard to fault. A few years ago BMW got quite radical with its designs with the kind of angles and flat surfaces we now normally associate with stealth aircraft and cutting-edge naval destroyers. That look has now been toned down quite a bit and the 7 Series is now more formal, sedate, and, it has to be said, a little conservative. The BMW isn't ugly by any means, but the style award definitely goes to the S-Class.
Interior Comfort & Quality
If you want the definition of a luxury interior, just take a peek inside the 2017 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Although many buyers will want to be driven while enjoying the sumptuous rear seats, the front of the S-Class is equally as opulent. The quilted leather dash and silver-toned trim are as glamorous as anything the German automaker has ever delivered, and the ride is almost beyond description. It's a very similar story with the BMW 7 Series, and if the "standard" rear seat isn't quite up to scratch there's a Luxury Rear Seating Package which adds heated front and rear armrests and ventilated massage rear seats. Good luck finding fault in here, but we'll give the nod to the Mercedes-Benz for the standard seats that are opulent without a special package.
Big, turbocharged engines power the S-Class, but the emphasis is very much on effortless composure rather than sporty power delivery and handling. The S-Class lacks a little of the driver feedback found in many of today's Mercedes-Benz models, but the ride is like sitting on a cloud and the brakes are magnificently well-coordinated. There are engines as big as a 621 horsepower 6.0-liter V-12, but the 577 horsepower 5.5-liter V-8 is actually faster. The BMW starts with an engine as small as a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6, but there's also a twin-turbo V-12 offering 600 horsepower as well. The 7 Series is a little more driver-orientated than the Mercedes, although the ride quality is still as good as it gets. The BMW doesn't handle anywhere near as well without the active roll bars and the Integral Active Steering as it does with them, but even so, the 7 Series has the performance edge over the S-Class.
Because cars like these cost a serious amount of money, they're unlikely to see the inside of the IIHS and NHTSA crash labs anytime soon. Although not officially rated, the S-Class would likely do well if it was put through the testing regime. This is a car Mercedes often uses to launch its newest and most advanced safety features, and every model is bristling with hi-tech safety equipment and features. Being the most advanced of the lineup gives this vehicle the leg up. The BMW is certainly not lacking in safety equipment, though. Even the likes of adaptive headlamps are part of the BMW's standard safety kit, along with a rearview camera and parking sensors and plenty more. Options include the Driver Assistance Plus Package 2, which gets you adaptive cruise control and active lane-keep assist, Side Collision Avoidance, and Traffic Jam Assistant.
It's hard to imagine anyone would find much to complain about with either of these cars. The BMW has the edge if performance is a big factor for you, but most people will concede that the S-Class is a more attractive and more interesting design. Though this is a tough fight, the multiple body options, interior comfort, and safety options give the S-Class the win.