Mercedes and Rolls Royce up the luxury stakes with new S-Class and Ghost

When it comes to luxury saloons, few can touch, let alone beat, Rolls Royce and Mercedes. Yet they come at the segment from very different perspectives. Mercedes is all about tech whereas Rolls Royce seem to favour good old fashioned stately British luxury. The latest S-Class and Ghost have just upped the ante again.

Let’s start with the Mercedes. The new S-Class is, once again, a technical tour de force. I can’t go through all the new features of the car so I’ll try to pick some of the headline changes. Firstly the look is all new. The more refined and curvy look of the old car has gone and in its place is a more sporty look. It shares its design language with many of the smaller Mercedes models and that’s both good and bad. It’s by no means a handsome vehicle but I don’t dislike it. It doesn’t quite have the luxury look of the old car though and I fear it would be easily mistaken for an E-Class from a distance. That might appeal to some buyers though.

Inside it’s a different story. The interior is a huge departure from the old car. The dash is dominated by a huge central screen that sits atop a huge slap of sloping wood (or whatever finish you choose). It looks amazing and continues Merc’s trend of creating some of the most special interiors this side of a Bentley.

The interior features so much tech that you might need a degree in IT to operate it. Thankfully it’s mostly touch screen or voice activated so if you can use a smart phone, you’ll probably be fine. Everything can be customised to you hearts content and the new layout creates a very smooth and uncluttered driving space. Behind the driver, you’ll find more tech and even more luxury. Select the two rear seat option (a three seat rear bench is available – but why would you want that??) and you have access to a range of reclining seat options, tablets and infotainment. Pretty much everything in the car can be controlled from the back seats and multiple microphones allow voice activation from any seat.

The S-Class comes with a selection of petrol and diesel engines with hybrid and AMG versions coming later. A new rear wheel steering option brings significant improvements to handling and manoeuvrability. Tight multi-story carparks will be a breeze. The defacto air suspension not only provides pillow-like ride but also new safety features. If the car detects a side-impact, it’ll raise the car several inches in a fraction of a second meaning the car hitting you will hit the base of the car and not the door. Protecting the occupants more than before. This is just one of a host of safety features Mercedes have added. Overall the new Mercedes S-Class is once again a masterclass in tech-laden luxury, safety and refinement.

Rolls Royce have tackled the luxury saloon concept in a totally different way. They might say that it is their most technologically advanced car to date but compared to the S-Class, the Ghost is all about simplicity and serenity. Visually it is an evolution of the last Ghost but adds a little more sculpture and whole load more attention to detail.

Starting at the front, the iconic Rolls Royce grille is now illuminated making it part of the day-time running lights. Ideal if you want to make sure that people know a Roller is rolling up behind them. The rest of the fascia is a toned done version of the bigger Phantom. It’s more subtle and maybe more sophisticated as a result. It’s unmistakably Rolls Royce but not too shouty about it (illuminated grille aside).

The side profile see more refinement over the previous Ghost with the most attention paid to the C-pillar behind the passenger door. Look closely and you’ll find that it has no visible shut lines at all. Each car is painstakingly welded by artisans and finished in a way that means you cannot see where the panels are joined. Each side has to be welded at the same time to ensure perfect symmetry and consistency. It’s this painstaking attention to detail that makes the Ghost more than the sum its parts.

Round the back, the Ghost is more sculptural than before. The new rear lights have more flair whilst staying subtle and unoffensive. The Ghost is more imposing and stately than the S-Class. Neither are beautiful but the Rolls has something about it that the Mercedes just can’t match.

Underneath the stately bodywork is an aluminium platform boasting four wheel drive and a 6.75 litre V12. Performance will be effortless and rapid thanks to a total of 570hp and over 800Nm of torque. To help the Ghost feel more agile on tight roads and more composed at high speeds, Roll Royce have included rear wheel steering (just like the S-Class). At low speeds it steers in the opposite direction effectively making the car feeling smaller and more agile. At motorway speeds it steering in the same direction as the front wheels to make lane changes as effortless and composed as possible.

Inside, the Ghost is hardly lacking in technology and shares much of the features you’d find in a top of the line BMW 7-Series. It’s less obvious though. The tech is subtly integrated rather than put front and centre. The dials behind the steering wheel are all digital but still feature solid metal rings to give that classic feel. The main screen on the dash is big enough to be useful but doesn’t dominate. The Ghost utilises exceptional materials to make the interior feel special. It’s more Saville Row whereas the Merc feels more like Milan Fashion Week. Rolls Royce have also gone head over heels with the sound deadening to ensure the interior is as serene as possible. They’ve even tuned the interior components to a specific resonance so they don’t bother you on your journey.

Both cars are the ultimate expressions of luxury motoring but couldn’t be more different in their execution. Personally, I think I’d opt for the tech fest that is the S-Class as the new interior is just on another level. The Rolls is far better looking though.