Like a boss: How two flagship sedans from BMW and Mercedes-Benz stack up
The full-size saloon remains a status symbol despite luxury MPV alternatives and the SUV craze.
Nothing says you’ve arrived quite like when actually arriving in a limousine.
Despite the overwhelming popularity of SUVs, and the advent of the large luxury MPV, there is something about the chauffeur-driven, full-size, long-wheelbase sedan that resolutely remains a status symbol.
The S-Class and the 7 Series, respectively, are the two brands’ established and instantly recognisable flagships. Over the decades, they have been ceaselessly refined, with the current models bearing the latest styling and technological updates.
The updated 7 Series is an extensive makeover of the current sixth-generation car. Introduced this year, the 7 Series has shed its previous inhibitions and now looks shinier and more imposing.
A significant change to the exterior styling is the taller front end with an upsized kidney grille. In fact, the trademark BMW grille is now so huge that it is 40 per cent bigger than before and elevates the forward section of the 7 Series by 50 mm. The bold new nose not only projects prestige but also increases air intake for engine cooling with the grille’s active vanes. The profile is equally distinctive, with bulging surfaces and short overhangs to denote power and athleticism – even if this is a really big car at 5,260mm in overall length and 1,902mm in width.
One typical BMW design feature emphasises the 7’s sportiness – the Air Breathers, those air outlets that are integrated into the side panels to optimise air flow through the wheel arches and reduce turbulence.
At the back, the new rear-end design incorporates a full-width light strip, with three-dimensional LED tail lights that are 35mm slimmer for a cleaner, more sophisticated look. Together, they provide the highly distinctive illumination for a unique rear end after dark.
Inside, there is a new and even more luxurious leather interior, a new centre console and instrument display with the BMW Operating System 7.0 and the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant.
But what any big shot who’s going to be driven around in really wants to know is, what’s it like in the back seat?
There are three engine options and they are all offered with the long-wheelbase body variant – the BMW 730Li, the BMW 740Li and BMW 745Le hybrid.
The entry-level 730Li has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder TwinPower Turbo engine to drive the rear wheels through BMW’s silky smooth eight-speed automatic transmission.
It also has sumptuously soft Nappa leather and seat cushions and backrests with a new three-dimensional surface structure.
While the front seats get a massage function as standard, it’s an option for the rear. But the boss in the back doesn’t have to pay extra to enjoy the fragrance of the ambient air package that ionises the cabin with a choice of eight scents.
Then there’s the new 7 Series’ enhanced acoustic comfort, where the optimised shielding of the rear wheel arches cuts tyre noise. Other road noise is tackled by sound insulation in the B-pillar area, seatbelt outlet covers and the rear seat backrest, as well as the thicker laminated glass all round.
All this in a sedan with an eye-popping wheelbase of 3,210 mm, or 140 mm longer than the standard car. With this much space and opulence, this BMW 730Li surely represents the seventh heaven.
Engine – 1,998 cc inline-4 turbocharged
Gearbox – 8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission
Max power – 265 hp @ 5,000-6,500 rpm
Max torque – 400 Nm @ 1,550-4,500 rpm
0-100 kmh – 6.3 secs
Top speed – 250 kmh
Price – S$415,888
VES band – C1 (+S$10,000)
The current S-Class is also the sixth generation of Mercedes-Benz’s flagship sedan and the face-lifted version, although it came out about a year before the updated 7 Series.
The S-Class has always embodied gravitas and engineering excellence. It is often viewed as a symbol of success, thanks in part to its longevity. A first mover in this segment more than 50 years ago, it has become the benchmark limousine for its superlative comfort and refined cabin.
Equally significant about the S-Class is that it is the model from the brand with the three-pointed star that often pioneers the latest safety innovations. This strong emphasis on automotive safety resulted in the S-Class being the first car to offer airbags.
The S-Class was also the first automobile to add padding around the windows and on the steering wheel to literally cushion its occupants during a collision. And to improve visibility while driving in a downpour, a rain-water management system consisting of channels and gutters around the windscreen was introduced to re-direct the oncoming deluge.
The S-Class’ commitment to protecting its passengers includes not just their bodies but their hearing too. If a collision is deemed unavoidable, the S-Class sound system generates pink noise’ that activates an acoustic reflex in the middle ear in order to reduce damage from any loud noises caused by a car crash.
The entry-level variant is the long-wheelbase S320L. Unlike the BMW 730L, the Merc packs 3.0 litres and an extra two cylinders. It also has an amazing nine-speed auto gearbox.
The S320L’s 3,165mm wheelbase is 130mm longer than usual. While those driven in the rear enjoy the pillowy ride and hushed ambience, the chauffeur has a super wide digital instrument panel that is customisable and not only displays driving info but can be used to select other functions like navigation and telephony too.
Luxury is best enjoyed when it blends comfort with technology.
Engine – 2,996 cc V6 turbocharged
Gearbox – 9-speed 9G-Tronic automatic transmission
Max power – 272 hp @ 5,250 rpm
Max torque – 400 Nm @ 1,300-4,500 rpm
0-100 kmh – 7.1 secs
Top speed – 250 kmh
Price – S$408,888
VES band – C1 (+S$10,000)