This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest Mercedes-Benz S-Class review.

Parkers overall rating: 5 out of 5 5.0

Initially there were three petrol engines and one diesel in the S-Class line-up. Top of the range is the S600 which uses an immense 5.5-litre V12 engine with twin turbochargers to deliver an incredibly 517bhp and a 0-62mph time of 4.6 seconds - on par with the high performance AMG versions of the S-Class. There's also a 5.5-litre V8 with 383bhp, giving a storming 0-62mph time of 5.4 seconds and lower down the range is the S350 - a 3.5-litre V6 engine with 272bhp which is exceptionally smooth and quiet - but doesn't have the low down punch of the other engines.

The sole diesel is the S320 CDI which uses the same 3.0-litre V6 engine as many other Mercedes models. On paper it's slightly slower from 0-62mph than the S350 taking 7.5 seconds (compared to 7.2 seconds) but in everyday driving it feels more urgent and has plenty of pulling power for overtaking. For a short time an S280 model was available with 231bhp but this was discontinued in late 2007.

All models bar the S600 have a seven-speed automatic gearbox which changes gears very smoothly and has the option to make changes manually via buttons on the back of the steering wheel. The S600 makes do with a five-speed gearbox.

As you'd expect of the S-Class, its real forte is motorway cruising. This is a car designed for high-speed travel and it's immediately evident with a supremely smooth ride along with minimal road noise. It always feels planted to the road, even at speeds way in excess of the UK motorway speed limits. On more demanding roads the S-Class shows it's one weakness - over-light steering that lacks feel - but it still handles amazingly well considering the sheer size and weight (around two tonnes) of the car.

In corners body roll is kept well in check and there's great grip too - it certainly feels more agile and able than you'd expect. An Active Body Control system, standard on the S600L and optional on other models, keeps body roll when cornering to an absolute minimum.