2012 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid Performance
This performance review was written when the 2012 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid was new.
Reviewers say that compared with other super luxury cars, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid might feel a little slow. While the S400 Hybrid made up for that deficit in the past with good fuel economy, newer entries in the segment are quicker, or use less fuel. Still, the S400 handles just like the non-hybrid S-Class, which consistently earns praise for its balanced, comfortable ride.
While reviewers like the S400 Hybrid’s composed handling, many critics don’t like the S-Class Hybrid’s regenerative brakes. Many say that the S400 has a spongy, unnatural pedal feel.
- "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." -- Consumer Guide
- "However, how an S-Class drives is incredibly dependent on which engine is chosen. The S400 Hybrid is slower and has a less natural-feeling brake pedal, but otherwise it drives just like you'd expect from a Mercedes-Benz." -- Edmunds
- “Handling and steering feel are quite good, but the brakes feel unnatural (although not as bad as those in most Toyota hybrids), and acceleration, particularly off the line, is a bit sluggish for a car of this class.” -- 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
While other super luxury cars, such as the BMW 7-Series and Porsche Panamera hybrids, match or exceed their gas-only counterparts in terms of horsepower, the S400 Hybrid comes up a little short. Compared with the Mercedes S550, the S400 Hybrid trades power for fuel economy. For the most part, it’s an acceptable tradeoff.
The S400’s 3.5-liter V6 and electric motor generate 295 horsepower, which most test drivers say is sufficient. However, the introduction of the diesel-powered Mercedes S350 Bluetec means that the S400 no longer has the best fuel economy in the lineup. And to make matters worse, the S350 achieves better fuel economy estimates with standard all-wheel drive. The S400 Hybrid, however, is only available with rear-wheel drive. A seven-speed automatic transmission is standard.
The EPA estimates that the S-Class Hybrid gets 19/25 mpg city/highway. If you’re looking for a fuel-efficient super luxury car, you can do better. Mercedes’ own S350 Bluetec gets 21/31 mpg city/highway, while the Porsche Panamera Hybrid manages 22/30 mpg city/highway.
- "S400 Hybrid has sufficient power for most driving situations, though some testers found the transmission slow to downshift when most needed." -- Consumer Guide
- "With the S350 Bluetec model, a turbodiesel returns to the Mercedes flagship for the first time in 21 years. This time, however, it's a thoroughly modern unit with a prodigious output of 455 pound-feet of torque and no black smoke belching out the back. It also delivers substantially better fuel economy than the carryover S400 Hybrid." -- Edmunds
- "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
- "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 2012 S400 Hybrid comes standard with an adjustable air suspension, which has selectable Comfort and Sport modes. 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.
Although the S400’s suspension earns praise, reviewers take issue with the S-Class Hybrid’s brakes. Like other hybrids, the S400 features a regenerative braking system that recharges the hybrid’s battery, but many critics note that the system feels artificial or spongy. BMW also employs regenerative brakes on the 7-Series Hybrid, but the automotive press likes that system for its natural, linear feel.
- "S-Class exhibits 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 to comfort." -- Consumer Guide
- "It simultaneously gives you that stately luxury-car feel, without making you feel overly isolated from driving." -- Edmunds
- "An artificial, inconsistent pedal feel emerges as the car switches from electric regeneration to conventional discs. This is very unlike Mercedes, which clearly has a lot to learn about hybrids." -- Boston Globe
- "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
- "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