2022 Mercedes S450 v Lexus LS 500 comparison review

Germany takes on Japan in a battle of large luxury

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Equipment and value

Priced from $240,700, even the entry-level S-Class is a technological showcase with the main exhibit being the latest MBUX infotainment and 12.8-inch portrait-orientated central OLED touchscreen. Eye-tracking technology can recognise the driver and passenger and adjust their preferred settings regardless of where they sit – it also helps create 3D effects on the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

Another useful feature is augmented reality that works with sat-nav to virtually point at your next turn on the central monitor. New safety features include 10 airbags, a display showing surrounding vehicles with distances and stopping times for each, and adaptive cruise control with route-based speed adaption that uses real-time traffic data to prepare it for tackling congestion on the road ahead. Warranty is strong at five years/unlimited kilometres.

At $200,955, the most luxurious LS 500 is almost $40K cheaper than the Merc. Extensive standard features include two reclining rear seats with massage functions. But the LS 500 is encumbered by a dated infotainment system with drab graphics and a fiddly trackpad, though the 12.3-inch monitor is now a convenient touchscreen. Also dated is the Lexus’s voice control system, which I gave up on when trying to dictate a navigation destination.

It has 10 airbags and is the first Lexus model to feature Intersection Turning Assist, which warns if you’re about to turn across the path of an oncoming vehicle. Adaptive cruise control with speed-sign recognition is also standard, as is lane-keeping assist that slows the vehicle to safely negotiate bends when necessary. The warranty period is finally a match for most in the market, at five years and unlimited kilometres.

Mercedes-Benz S450: 22/25

Lexus LS 500: 21/25

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Space and comfort

The short-wheelbase (3106mm) S450 lacks the 200mm-longer S450 L’s ability to provide fancy reclining seats and also misses out on world-first rear front-facing airbags. However the rear pew is very comfortable and spacious, with plenty of leg and headroom and leather upholstery that feels soft and breathable.

The front seats are also ultra luxurious, and include a plush velour pillow that slides up and down the headrest to provide neck support. Other bells and whistles include two-zone climate control, panoramic sunroof, front-seat heating and ventilation, ambient lighting, 710W 15-speaker Burmester premium audio, voice-activated rear-door and rear-window sunshades, power-assisted soft-close doors and acoustic glass. The 550-litre boot is deep and long and can hold four large suitcases.

The LS 500’s 3125mm wheelbase affords enough space to include, as standard, two multi-position reclining heated and ventilated seats with massage functions. The passenger-side seat has an ottoman that allows one to recline with feet raised, business-class style. Rear-seat passengers can control their seat functions with a touchpad located in the centre armrest that also controls the four-zone climate control and media viewed on screens mounted on the front seat-backs.

The front seats are also heated and ventilated and have 23 power settings to facilitate excellent under-thigh, back and hip support. There’s also a wine chiller between the rear seats, active noise cancellation, sunroof, heated steering wheel and 23-speaker Mark Levinson audio system. The 440-litre boot will fit three suitcases.

Mercedes-Benz S450: 22/25

Lexus LS 500: 23/25

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Ride and handling

The S450 rides on front and rear multilink suspension with adaptive dampers that stiffen and lower when selecting their respective Sport and Sport+ modes for improved handling. Whichever driving mode you’re in, there’s a satisfying gliding feel to the ride, with road imperfections well contained with next to no secondary bounce, though you do tend to feel the odd clunk through the low-profile 285/35 R20 Pirelli P Zero rubber.

It has the agility on twisty roads of a much smaller car, also helped by 4Matic all-paw traction, and a taut aluminium-hybrid body shell that’s 60 kilograms lighter than its predecessor. The variable-ratio steering is well-weighted and inspires enough confidence through bends to allow you to barely trouble the brake pedal, and firms up agreeably in either of the Sport modes.

The rear-drive LS 500 Sports Luxury lacks the performance-orientated LS 500 F Sport’s rear-wheel steering, wider rear rubber and active anti-roll bars, yet still feels athletic for such a large vehicle. This is a luxury barge, after all, and while it’s an enjoyable big thing in which to hunt apexes, its priority is ride comfort.

Lexus has gone all out to achieve this, modifying the LS 500 Sports Luxury’s adaptive suspension with larger, liquid-filled bushes in the lower control arms and fitting it with 245/45 R20 Bridgestone Turanza rubber. The result is a ride that feels plush and well damped on most surfaces. Its relatively tight 11.4-metre turning circle helps negotiate its 5235mm length through tight inner-city streets and parking spots.

Mercedes-Benz S450: 23/25

Lexus LS 500: 22/25

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Performance and economy

The 2133kg S450 is capable of 5.1sec 0-100km/h acceleration that’s as quick as a manual Porsche Cayman. At its heart is the 270kW/500Nm M256 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder turbocharged engine that’s carried over from the previous model and mated to a silky nine-speed ‘9G-TRONIC’ automatic transmission.

Peak power comes in at 5500rpm, with all of that 500Nm torque peak present from 1600rpm to 4500rpm, resulting in some decent shove, with an additional 16kW and 250Nm on tap for short bursts courtesy of its EQ Boost 48-volt mild-hybrid system. It’s slippery too, with its drag co-efficient cut significantly compared to the previous model, resulting in a Porsche Taycan-matching Cd figure as low as 0.22. This also keeps the S450’s official fuel consumption down to 8.4L/100km.

The Lexus weighs in at 2220kg but, despite the extra heft over the S450, will pip the German to 100km/h from a standing start by 0.1 seconds, on paper at least, by employing brute force through its twin-turbo 350kW/600Nm V6 with a wide 1600rpm-4800rpm peak-torque band. Power is sent to the rear axle through an intelligent 10-speed automatic transmission that feels incredibly refined.

In Sport+ mode it will adapt to the driving conditions to downshift when braking into corners and hold that gear as long as it detects the steering holding that line. The engine lacks the audacious soundtrack of its predecessor’s 4.6-litre V8 but is almost a second quicker. That said, it makes a nice snarl when you put the foot down. Its official combined fuel consumption is 10.0L/100km.

Mercedes-Benz S450: 22/25

Lexus LS 500: 21/25

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Winner: Mercedes-Benz S450

While excellent for driving passengers around in comfort, both of these flagship sedans are fine driver’s cars that provide an excellent balance between performance, comfort and safety. The LS 500 Sports Luxury shines when it comes to value, and those rear seats gave it the edge in the comfort stakes and would be the clear winner for anyone buying it to ride in the back.

This pair are difficult to split when it comes to driveability, but the S-Class’s overall finish, high-resolution digital gadgetry, infotainment and innovative safety gives it a technological edge that makes it the more persuasive package. The more affordable LS 500 punches above its weight, but overall it’s the technically advanced Mercedes-Benz S450 that feels a generation fresher and more intuitive, and while it costs significantly more, it’s not difficult to account for every extra dollar spent.

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SCORING

Mercedes-Benz S450: 89/100

Lexus LS 500: 87/100

MORE All Lexus
Model Mercedes-Benz S450 4Matic Lexus LS 500 Sports Luxury
Engine 2999cc 6cyl, dohc, 24v, turbo + mild hybrid 3444cc V6, dohc, 24v, twin-turbo
Max power 270kW @ 5500-6100rpm 310kW @ 6000rpm
Max torque  500Nm @ 1600-4500rpm  660Nm @ 1600-4800rpm
Transmission 9-speed automatic 10-speed automatic
Weight 2220kg 2215kg
0-100km/h 5.1sec (claimed) 5.0sec (claimed)
Economy  8.2L/100km   10.0L/100km (claimed)
Price  $240,700 $200,955
On sale Now Now

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