2010 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid Performance
In Europe, Mercedes has sold a V6-powered S-Class sedan for years. American buyers, however, tend to expect extraordinary V8 or even V12 acceleration for a super-luxury price tag. By that standard, reviewers say, the S400 hybrid will feel a bit slow. But it has nothing to be ashamed of, with nearly 300 horsepower and a strikingly balanced ride. Reviewers like its adjustable air suspension and light steering, but clearly say that those looking for a powerful luxury hybrid should look to the Lexus LS600h, or even wait for the highly anticipated 2011 BMW 7-Series Hybrid.
- "Instead of promising performance similar to an S-class with a larger engine, Mercedes chose to introduce its hybrid model as a more environmentally conscious way of traveling in luxury." -- Automobile Magazine
- "While slowing, the engine usually switches off at 15 mph and, frankly, you have to watch the instrument display's icon representation of the hybrid's goings on to recognize any of this.” -- Motor Trend
Acceleration and Power
Where raw power is concerned, the S400 Hybrid departs from the standard Super Luxury Sedan formula. All of its rivals, even the hybrid-powered Lexus LS600h, offer blistering acceleration. The S400, quite simply, does not. Mercedes engineers decided to emphasize fuel economy over power, giving the S400 a 3.5-liter V6 engine and a small electric motor, good for a combined total of 295 horsepower. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but it trails even the weakest conventional S-Class car by nearly 100 horsepower -- and trails the LS600h by more than 140.
The combination, Mercedes says, is good for a zero-to-sixty time of just over seven seconds. That would be a respectable time in the affordable large car class, but trails most of its super-luxury competitors by nearly 2 seconds.
Reviewers don’t tend to say that the S400 feels sluggish. It merely seems to have a different purpose than other super-luxury cars, offering V6 power in a class where V8 power is the norm, and where even Lexus’ hybrid car claims to offer V12 power in a V8 package.
The S400 has an EPA- estimated fuel economy of 19 miles per gallon in the city and 26 on the highway -- besting the Lexus’ 20/22 mpg rating, and making the S-Class Hybrid the most fuel-efficient super luxury sedan.
- “Acceleration is liquidy-smooth, capable of hitting 60 mph in an estimated 7.1 sec and a top speed limited to 130 mph." -- Motor Trend
- "The S400 Hybrid, Mercedes says, reaches 60 mph in about seven seconds, but it can't come close to matching the sports-car-like S550, which takes only 5.4 seconds. The payoff in fuel economy, though, is substantial. Mercedes estimates that the S400 will achieve 23 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.” -- Automobile Magazine
Handling and Braking
Like its conventionally-powered cousin, the 2010 S-Class Hybrid features an electronically-adjustable air suspension. The car’s driver can adjust the firmness of the ride, allowing for soft highway cruising or sporty cornering, depending on mood and driving conditions. Reviewers are impressed with the system, but it’s nothing unique -- all of the Super Luxury Sedans now offer the same sort of suspension.
The S-Class Hybrid uses an electric power steering system, borrowed from the S550, rather than the hydraulic power steering most drivers are accustomed to. The electrically-assisted steering requires very light effort, making the big car easy to drive even at parking lot speeds. However, some reviewers say it numbs road feel too much for their taste. Those looking for a sporty large sedan might consider, instead, the BMW 7-Series. A hybrid edition of that car, with its exceptional four-wheel-steering system, will reportedly be offered for the 2011 model year.
- "Another feature, Torque Vectoring Brake, aids turn-in crispness via a polite squeeze of an inboard rear brake to help rotate the car. … A rare non-electronic enhancement is Direct Steer, which amounts to a simple mechanical-based solution for variable-ratio steering keying purely off steering angle. Mercedes claims it improves steering feedback." -- Motor Trend
- "The steering is fairly quick and precise with a decent heft to the wheel, though we'd still give the BMW 7 Series a slight edge in road feel." -- Edmunds
- “Considering its size and heft, the S-Class is surprisingly poised and sporty, with an uncanny ability to maintain composure in bumpy turns. The steering is perfectly weighted, and the brakes easily modulated. … The available 19-inch tires on the S550 cause more road imperfections to be felt in the cabin than the standard 18-inch treads.” -- Consumer Guide