The driver’s seat is even better than the back seat.
The back seat of the S-class is fit for CEOs and dignitaries, but the driver’s seat isn’t just for chauffeurs. Mercedes-Benz’s flagship is also a driver’s delight, thanks to its balanced chassis, superb steering, and supple ride. Efficiency-minded buyers have their pick of hybrid or diesel with the S-class. The refined, authoritative turbo-diesel V-6 is projected to earn a rating of 20/31 mpg from the EPA, but it is slow to respond of the line and during downshifts. For now, though, Mercedes is the only company to offer a diesel in a flagship luxury sedan. The S400 Hybrid was the first gas/electric car to use lithium-ion batteries. It delivers impressive fuel economy and smooth acceleration from its V-6 engine and electric motor, but at 19/25 mpg, it isn’t as efficient as the diesel. The rest of the lineup focuses on speed, not economy. The S550 is powered by a 4.7-liter twin-turbo V-8 and accelerates to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. Next up the food chain is the 510-hp S600 supersedan with a twin-turbo V-12 engine that accomplishes the same task in 4.5 seconds. Then there’s the 536-hp S63 AMG with the twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V-8 that has replaced the 6.2-liter normally aspirated V-8. All those luxorockets, however, are left behind by the ludicrously fast S65 AMG and its twin-turbo V-12 that makes 621 hp and a massive 738 lb-ft of torque.
new for 2013
The current S-class is nearing the end of its life cycle, and it shows in that Mercedes has hardly touched the car for 2013. The Premium 2 package, with massaging front seats, push-button ignition, and parking sensors, is now standard on the S350 BlueTec, S400 Hybrid, and S550. Expect significant changes in a year or two; the next S-class should arrive with more than one body style.
ABS; front, side, and side curtain air bags; traction and stability control; tire-pressure monitoring; and driver-drowsiness alert are standard. Buyers can opt for night vision with pedestrian detection, a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, parking sensors, and adaptive cruise control.
Diesel and hybrid options
Not as agile as an A8 or a 7-series
In need of a redesign
Base Price Range: $93,255–$212,905
DRIVE: Rear-wheel, 4-wheel
TRIM LEVELS: S350 BlueTec, S400 Hybrid, S550, S600, S63 AMG, S65 AMG
BODY STYLE: Sedan, 5-passenger
ENGINES: 3.0L turbo-diesel V-6, 240 hp, 455 lb-ft
3.5L V-6/electric hybrid, 275 hp, 258 lb-ft
4.7L twin-turbo V-8, 429 hp, 516 lb-ft
5.5L twin-turbo V-8, 536/563 hp, 590/664 lb-ft
5.5L twin-turbo V-12, 510 hp, 612 lb-ft
6.0L twin-turbo V-12, 621 hp, 738 lb-ft
TRANSMISSIONS: 5- or 7-speed automatic
PASSENGER VOLUME: 125.0 cu ft
CARGO SPACE: 16.4 cu ft