From £70,4709
Hushed, flexible and remarkable value for money. Arguably more fit-for-purpose than any other ‘S’.

Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz S-Class

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the self-proclaimed ‘best car in the world’, is back. Or is it?

What is it?

The Mercedes-Benz S500 Plug-in Hybrid offers something for nothing – in theory. 

As well as being the latest addition to the S-class range, it looks like a bit of a no-brainer for the chauffeurs and fleet drivers that make up the majority of the car’s customer base.

The list price of the car may be £90k, but with this car saving your typical 40 per cent BIK-rated company car driver just over £300 per month compared with the S300 Bluetec Hybrid, the S500 Plug-in Hybrid works out level on price with the cheapest-to-run diesel on a monthly basis – and quite a lot cheaper if you happen to live in London and regularly pay the congestion charge.

It’s powered by a 328bhp twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine working in tandem with a 114bhp electric motor. The former may come as a disappointment to Merc’s traditional customer if they’re expecting the S500 badge to grace a V8-powered limousine as it always has before.

But they won’t have much to moan about when they learn of the S500’s vitals. The 443bhp combined output is as much power as any non-AMG-branded V8 might provide, while the hybrid system’s 479lb ft of torque – available from just 1600rpm – is considerably greater.

The new S500 has an 8.7kWh lithium ion battery that can be charged via a seven-pin Mennekes-style cable or from a three-pin domestic outlet, the latter taking five hours from flat. It weighs 180kg more than the Bluetec Hybrid, but it’s still 2.6sec faster to accelerate from rest to 62mph, and it has an electric-only range of 18 miles.

What's it like?

The market is filling up with plug-in hybrids that make a lot of sense on paper but whose appeal slowly erodes as you become familiar with their real-world capabilities. The S500 is not one of those cars. It’s as driveable and easy to use as any S-class in the range, but more refined and impressively frugal within its comfort zone.

Once the battery’s flat, in normal mixed-road commuter use, it’ll return around 30-to-the-gallon. Most owners are expected to tackle shorter trips and a greater proportion of city roads than that usage pattern contains, and our test route suggests that doing so could add 50 percent to that real-world return.

The car’s four drive modes allow it to juggle electric and petrol power in ‘hybrid’ mode, to run exclusively on battery power, to maintain the current battery charge level in ‘Save’ mode, or to return the battery to full charge via the combustion engine in ‘Charge’.

The controls are light and undemanding, just as they are in any S-class – designed to be easy to modulate for unerringly smooth progress. The inconsistent pedal response of Mercedes’ lesser hybrids would never do for an S-class, but this one doesn’t suffer with it. There’s pleasing progressiveness to the initial brake pedal travel, and while you can just about hear the petrol engine starting and stopping as you vary your accelerator inputs, the engine response is always predictable.

Having almost 500lb ft available so far below 2000rpm makes a telling contribution to flexibility. You can make supremely laid-back progress in this car without dawdling or holding anyone up, simply because all that torque allows you to slip away from standing so effortlessly.     

Refinement in the car is genuinely outstanding. If anything, the absence of combustion noise just gives you a greater sense of awe about the cabin’s suppression of road and wind noise, barely a whisper of air or rumble of tyres being allowed to disturb the onboard calm. The car’s ride is pillow-soft and quiet, taking the edge off both gentle and sharp intrusions brilliantly.

The S500’s luxurious bubble can be burst if you hurry it – not that you ever feel remotely inclined to. This car’s dynamic brief is about as single-minded as they come: be comfy. It’s wonderful if you drive it with the dignified restraint you’d need to keep a knight of the realm in the back seat from looking up from his iPad. Body control becomes imprecise, and the steering a bit vague, if you try to hustle it too quickly.

Should I buy one?

On the evidence of a fairly short test drive, and assuming you’re a company car tax payer and a city dweller, definitely yes. 

Expect further coverage and a more detailed verdict before too long. But on face of it, this could be the definitive version of what, for many, is the world’s definitive luxury car.

Apparently uncompromised to drive and to use, it will deliver peerless luxury, fine urban economy and remarkable relative value to a good proportion of heartland S-class buyers who’ve been ill-served by noisy diesels and thirsty petrols for decades.

The S500 Plug-in Hybrid doesn’t render other versions of the car any less important, and there are limousines with a more balanced blend of dynamic talents for owner-drivers. But it’s an outstanding example of electric powertrain technology intelligently applied and thoroughly executed.


Mercedes S500 Plug-in Hybrid AMG Line L


Price £87,965; 0-62mph 5.2sec;
 Top speed 155mph (limited);
 Economy 100.9mpg (combined);
 CO2 65g/km; 
Kerb weight 2215kg;
 Engine V6, 2996cc, twin-turbo, petrol, plus electric motor;
 Power 443bhp at 5250-6000rpm;
 Torque 479lb ft at 1600-4000rpm;
 Gearbox 7-spd automatic

Join the debate

Comments
21

15 December 2014
Only a journalist who never has to pay for a car could say NINETY THOUSAND POUNDS, yes £90k is good value. How out of touch with the reality of life for the vast majority of the population and even readers here is that!

jt

15 December 2014
jtwarwick wrote:

Only a journalist who never has to pay for a car could say NINETY THOUSAND POUNDS, yes £90k is good value. How out of touch with the reality of life for the vast majority of the population and even readers here is that!

I have to assume you have not read and understood the article properly.

 

I'm a disillusioned former Citroëniste.

15 December 2014
Frightmare Bob wrote:
jtwarwick wrote:

Only a journalist who never has to pay for a car could say NINETY THOUSAND POUNDS, yes £90k is good value. How out of touch with the reality of life for the vast majority of the population and even readers here is that!

I have to assume you have not read and understood the article properly.

I read it very carefully, and again just now, and still i could fine no mention of hideous depreciation over the next couple of years. Good value? haha

jt

15 December 2014
jtwarwick wrote:

Only a journalist who never has to pay for a car could say NINETY THOUSAND POUNDS, yes £90k is good value. How out of touch with the reality of life for the vast majority of the population and even readers here is that!

As mentioned by other posters, there must surely be several persons who are considering this type of vehicle (even if perhaps you and I can't afford it) and read Autocar.
In addition, considering the reduced taxes/charges, ample performance yet good real-world economy and the fact that this is arguably on par with - and perhaps even better than - the ultra-luxurious Rolls-Royce Phantom costing several times more than this car with significantly higher running costs...then this really does appear 'good value' compared to the RR, Bentley etc.

 

- Follow your own star -

289

15 December 2014
...if the Manufacturers thought for one minute that Autocar's opinion about high end vehicles, (or any other auto mag for that matter), was irrelevant - you could be sure that they wouldn't go to the trouble of inviting them to launches or lending them cars to thrash.
Also, when you are in this end of the market, depreciation is irrelevant and tax deductible anyway, so the potential buyer really doesn't give a damn.
Depreciation is only of interest to people like me who enjoy the fantastic value for money premium cars represent at 2-3 years old!!

15 December 2014
Do you think only poor people read Autocar then? Or that a limit on the value of a car being reviewed should be set so that only cars below 30k get lineage? That excludes most Porsches then, Lambos, Ferraris and many more interesting vehicles that most of us want to hear about. Just have a walk round Kensington or Knightsbridge to see how important this review actually is.

15 December 2014
i did not say this car was a bad car, or any of the other prestige marques come to that, nor did i make a patronising comment about 'poor people', but what i totally stand by is the fact that a purchase today for £90k, that in 3 years will probably lose £60k, would only ever be described by someone who doesnt spend his own money, as remarkable value for money

jt

17 December 2014
jtwarwick wrote:

i did not say this car was a bad car, or any of the other prestige marques come to that, nor did i make a patronising comment about 'poor people', but what i totally stand by is the fact that a purchase today for £90k, that in 3 years will probably lose £60k, would only ever be described by someone who doesnt spend his own money, as remarkable value for money

The first three years depreciation is the real irrelevance here as the vast majority of these cars are leased by business users. I currently lease an E-Class (a wonderful car and genuinely good value as a lease proposition) through my business and have every intention of replacing it with an S-class when the lease is up. It is all about the monthly payment and the BIK. the BIK on this plug-in hybrid version is so low that it would seem stupid NOT to choose it. Depreciation has nothing to do with it.

15 December 2014
I still find it amusing that magazines still persist in reviewing these cars with reference to things like fuel economy, although at least this review gives a nod to the one and only true purpose of hybrids today - (legal) tax evasion. This car has just enough battery and motor to get it through the short official test pattern and get a ludicrously low CO2 rating and hence low BIK. If the owner doesn't bother plugging it in (and why would they if you can afford a £90K car saving a couple of gallons worth by using electricity isn't even going to be on your radar, why get ones hands dirty) then it won't ever see near 65g/km ever again. Which is why I have an Outlander PHEV on order, I don't care how much fuel it really uses as I don't pay for it. I do pay too much tax though, but not for long!

15 December 2014
They are changing the fuel economy testing procedure in the EU so it reflects real world driving conditions in 2017,.. You might not be paying low taxes for long.

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