You might not think of the 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, a full-size luxury sedan whose price starts at just south of $100,000, as being particularly green. But the $90,000 base model, the S 400 Hybrid, offers truly remarkable fuel economy for a car as large, heavy, and luxurious as the S-Class.
The current S-Class debuted in 2007, and the conservative looks cloak a spacious, comfortable, smooth car that’s filled with features far too numerous to cover here. The S-Class has been the car that generations of German burgermeisters aspire to, and that hasn’t changed. In this case, you get what you pay for, and you pay a lot. The addition of a green model, however, is new.
Hybrid version aside, the engines in the S-Class range from a powerful 382-horsepower V-8 in the S 550 to a very, very powerful 604-hp V-12 in the top-of-the-line hot-rod AMG S65. So the S 400 Hybrid’s 275-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 stands out for its moderation right at the start. It’s mated to the company’s standard seven-speed automatic transmission, but between the two is a 15-kilowatt (20-hp) electric motor that adds torque to supplement engine power, recharges the lithium-ion battery, and restarts the engine when the big car moves away from rest.
The EPA rates the S 400 Hybrid at 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, and a combined 21 mpg. But during a lengthy test drive over several hundred miles, we logged an actual 26 mpg—to our shock—which, considering that the S-Class feels as long as a school bus, is quite something indeed.
Mercedes-Benz has done a much better job with its mild hybrid system than BMW, which shares the same hardware for its ActiveHybrid 7 sedan. The Benz system works smoothly and due to the copious sound insulation, the driver is rarely aware of the engine shutting off. There’s little of the surging or grabbing that first-generation hybrids sometimes suffer, and the system delivers gas mileage that’s exemplary for a car this large, with its cavernous rear compartment.
Despite being the “entry-level” model, the S 400 Hybrid shares essentially all the luxury features of other S-Class models, including heated steering wheel, superb 14-way power heated front seats, leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, and even a rear window shade that’s power-operated. The only exceptions are the loss of automatic high beams and ventilated front seats.
The Active Body Control software aids both the ride and the handling, subtly dialing down the speed if you toss the big car into too tight a turn—often without the driver even noticing. That means that the S-Class handles like a much smaller car than it is. And the safety features are top of the class.
For more details, see the full review of the 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class on our sister site, TheCarConnection.
|4-Door Sedan (1)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|4MATIC S550 Specs||$96,000||$89,280||14||21|
|4-Door Sedan RWD (6)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|6.3L V8 AMG Specs||$138,000||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|S400 Hybrid Specs||$91,000||$84,630||19||25|
|S63 AMG Specs||$138,000||$128,340||15||22|
|S65 AMG Specs||$209,000||$194,370||12||19|