2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid Performance
This performance review was written when the 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid was new.
Compared to other super luxury cars, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid might feel a little slow, but what this hybrid flagship lacks in power it makes up in fuel economy and its balanced, comfortable ride. Reviewers like the S400 Hybrid’s adjustable air suspension, but the jury is still out on this hybrid’s electric power steering. Some reviewers like its feel and light effort, while others think it’s numb.
Another point of contention is the S-Class Hybrid’s regenerative brakes, which capture braking energy to charge the electric motor’s battery. Many reviewers don’t like the spongy pedal feel. This is a common complaint among hybrid vehicles, but not all automakers suffer from this critique. For a regenerative braking system that the automotive press favors, check out the BMW 7-Series Hybrid.
- "The hybrid in particular is a smooth operator. Were you not aware it was a gas/electric car, you probably wouldn't know." -- Consumer Guide
- "The 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class rides just as you'd expect from a top-tier luxury sedan. The compliant suspension ably cancels out road imperfections while also keeping body roll in check, and the cabin remains as quiet as a library even over rough pavement." -- Edmunds
- "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
The EPA estimates that the S-Class Hybrid gets 19 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. Its hybrid competition, the BMW ActiveHybrid 7i and Lexus LS 600h get 17/24 and 19/23 mpg city/highway fuel economy, respectively.
Still, super luxury car shoppers who want to save at the dealership and at the pump would do well to consider the six-cylinder BMW 7-Series – the 740i. With its 17/25 mpg city/highway fuel economy, the 740i matches the EPA’s annual fuel cost estimations for both the Lexus LS Hybrid and the BMW 7-Series Hybrid. Then there’s its base price: at under $71,000, it also costs significantly less than any of its hybrid competitors.
- "I'm not that impressed by the fuel economy figures of 19/25 city/highway. If they were more like 25/30, that would be something worth writing home about." -- Automobile Magazine
- "An S400 Hybrid averaged an outstanding 24.2 mpg." -- Consumer Guide
- "While the fuel economy is quite good for a luxury sedan of this size -- we recorded an average of between 22.5 and 24 mpg on two tanks of fuel -- what was even more amazing was the range. The car traveled more than 450 miles before the low fuel warning light came on. And our average was slightly better than the EPA estimate of 21 mpg combined." -- Road and Track
Acceleration and Power
The S400 Hybrid doesn’t offer the ample power often seen in super luxury cars. Other hybrid competitors like the Lexus LS 600h and the BMW 7-Series Hybrid match their non-hybrid rivals in terms of power, but the S-Class hybrid strays from this formula. Instead, this Mercedes trades power for fuel economy. Under the hood, the S400 Hybrid has a 3.5-liter V6 engine and a small electric motor which generate a total of 295 horsepower.
That makes it the least powerful car in its class, trailing six-cylinder BMW 7-Series and Porsche Panamera models by 20 and five horsepower, respectively. Compared to hybrid competitors, the S-Class Hybrid is the least powerful by a long shot. The BMW 7-Series Hybrid has 160 more horsepower and the Lexus LS 600h beats it with 140 additional horses. Reviewer opinion on the S400’s powertrain varies. Some say that it’s sluggish – at least around town – while others say that it’s an adequate performer at highway speeds.
- "The S400 is a big car, and powered by only a V-6 - even supplemented by the electric motor - it felt much too sluggish for a vehicle of its stature; I expect more oomph from an S-Class. Once going, it's, well, an S-Class: solid, planted, plush, yet still responsive." -- Automobile Magazine
- "S400 Hybrid has sufficient power for most driving situations, though some testers found the transmission slow to downshift when most needed. Hybrid's stop/start feature is nearly transparent in operation." -- Consumer Guide
- "While the performance wasn’t as thrilling as, say, a V-8- powered model, the car was able to hold its own on the freeway and was reassuringly quick enough in making passes on two-lane roads during a trip up and back from Newport Beach to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance." -- Road and Track
- “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
Handling and Braking
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid comes standard with an adjustable air suspension, which allows you to adjust the settings for a more comfortable, or sportier, ride. Reviewers like the balanced ride of the S-Class Hybrid, which soaks up bumps and road imperfections with ease. Still, some say that if you’re looking for a car with nimbler handling the BMW 7-Series Hybrid might be a better choice.
Not all reviewers like the electric power steering system in the S-Class Hybrid. It’s the same system that Mercedes puts in the non-hybrid S550, and while some test drivers like the system’s weight and feel, others have called it numb or commented that it lacks road feel. Reviewers are also unimpressed with the S400’s brakes, which lack feel due to the regenerative braking system that recharges the hybrid’s battery. BMW also employs a regenerative braking system in their 7-Series hybrid, but the automotive press likes that system, saying that it’s linear and has good pedal feel.
- "I also noticed the brake issue. As my colleagues have duly noted, this spongy, "air-in-the-lines" feeling is common among hybrids with regenerative braking, but most hybrids are not massive 4500-pound sedans. For this inconvenience, you get a razor-thin, 1-mpg advantage in fuel economy over a BMW 740Li." -- Automobile Magazine
- "All S-Class models exhibit a peerless blend of control and comfort. The suspension offers Sport and Comfort firmness settings; Sport makes the ride slightly more taut but at little sacrifice in comfort." -- Consumer Guide
- "A little less satisfying was the brake-by-wire system which employs regenerative braking to recharge the battery pack. It made for a less than linear feel when using the brakes, dependent on how much regen was being asked from the system on a particular stop." -- Road and Track
- "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