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Original MSRP: $86,700 - $194,000
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2008 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Review

This review was written when the 2008 Mercedes-Benz S-Class was new.

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the flagship car of one of the world's most storied luxury automakers. Mercedes-Benz has now been manufacturing cars for more than 100 years, and the S-Class is what the company has arrived at. It offers a state-of-the-art luxury interior, the handling and acceleration of a sports car and prestige like almost nothing else. But it can be far more expensive than its competition, and some find its electronic driver interface needlessly complicated.

The Mercedes S-Class is the flagship luxury sedan from Mercedes Benz. It is its largest, highest-performance, most luxurious model. It is very powerful, its interior is opulent and it features every technology the automotive industry can imagine. "The S-Class defines personal luxury," raves the Chicago Tribune. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel comments, "If there is such a thing as an embarrassment of riches, surely the Mercedes-Benz S550 luxury sedan is somewhere on the list." 

S-Class sedans offer some of the most powerful engines available on any sedan, combined with nimble handling that belies their large size. Inside, they are so luxurious that the seats themselves are built around 11 separate air chambers that each driver and passenger can inflate to varying degrees to fit the seat to hir or her own form. Those chambers will then inflate and deflate in response to the car's movements to better hold each passenger in place as the driver takes advantage of that handling. There's simply nothing else like that experience, even in this class.

But the S-Class sometimes tries to be too many things to too many segments of the market. In its lowest trim, the S-Class competes with the Lexus LS, Audi A8 and other premium luxury sedans -- and it's more expensive than all of them. Its higher-priced models challenge hand-built vehicles from ultra-premium makes like Rolls Royce and Bentley. The most expensive S-Class costs as much as two of the least expensive, plus a Honda Civic. With that incredible span, Mercedes has produced a car that might be too expensive for the competition in the super luxury class, and not exclusive enough to compete in the rarified air above it. Car and Driver says that the S65 AMG "costs as much as 15 Ford Focuses," but "looks like the neighbor's half-as-expensive S-class." That could push some premium buyers to more exclusive nameplates. The only other consistent complaint we can find among reviewers is that Mercedes' COMAND (Cockpit Management and Data) driver-interface, which controls most of the car's electronics through one screen, is not for everyone. Some find it difficult to learn, while others do not. Test drive it to know which group you fall into.

The S-Class is sold in an S550 model and an all-wheel-drive S550 4Matic edition powered by a 5.5-liter V8 making 382 horsepower. An S63 AMG edition ups the ante with a 6.2-liter V8 at 518 horsepower. Both hose models use a seven-speed automatic transmission.

A mid-level S600 is driven by a 6.2-liter twin-turbo V12 putting out 510 horsepower. Finally, nearing a $200,000 purchase price, an S65 AMG ultra-high-performance edition lays down an eye-watering 604 horsepower. Mercedes says this model goes from 0 to 60 mph in slightly more than 4 seconds. And this is a large, stately sedan. The V12 models both use a five-speed automatic transmission. 

With fuel prices reaching record highs in 2008, some may wish to consider the fuel economy of the varied models. S-Class sedans achieve mpg ratings varying from 14/21 (for the S550) to 11/17 (for the S65 AMG).

  • "The planet's best luxury car." -- Car and Driver
  • "There probably is something the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan can't do.  What that may be escapes us at the moment." -- Chicago Tribune
  • "Mercedes is making one giant leap with this flashy, technology-packed new edition of its iconic sedan. Not only does the ... S-Class represent a significant advance in automotive wizardry, it's also a radical departure from the stoic, conservative big Benzes of yesterday." -- Motor Trend
  • "It's easy to sum up our experience with this new flagship of the Mercedes-Benz lineup. Wrote the Editor-in-Chief, 'This is the best S-Class I've ever driven.'" -- Road and Track
  • "It's another gorgeous German V8 luxury limo, with its cloud-like air suspensions, big tires, massive brakes, perfect steering -- a great walloping overload of effortless performance and pleasure, an endless source of sweet machine satisfaction, more car than you would ever need, a sheer, decadent surfeit." -- Los Angeles Times
  • "The only reason I think Mercedes-Benz built the S63 AMG was to show the world it could." -- Detroit News
  • "The car was loaded with everything you would expect in a premium luxury automobile -- an interior of supple leather and rich wood veneer, a beautiful sound system, theater lighting. And there were many things that went beyond expectation." -- Washington Post
  • "How do you improve on an $85,000 luxury sedan so awesomely smooth that even the most spoiled of passengers are impressed -- a car so packed with technology its owner's manual is 700 pages?  Well, you could make it faster, offer it with more standard equipment -- and charge more for it. Which is what Mercedes has done with its flagship S-Class." -- Newsday
Review Last Updated: 4/25/13

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