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2009 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Review

This review was written when the 2009 Mercedes-Benz S-Class was new.

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the flagship of the world's oldest automaker, and a showcase for what automotive engineering is capable of after more than 100 years. But it's on the way out, with a redesigned S-Class reaching dealerships for the 2010 model year.

"If there is such a thing as an embarrassment of riches, surely the Mercedes-Benz S550 luxury sedan is somewhere on the list" writes the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.  That statement sums up what the automotive press has to say about the S-Class well.

Yet, the 2009 S-Class is being replaced.  An all-new model, set to reach dealerships in the summer of 2009 for the 2010 model year, will up the luxury and performance ante while also offering the German automaker's first hybrid drivetrain.  Its arrival may present buyers with a unique opportunity to negotiate the price of the 2009 S-Class -- a car that is rarely ever discounted.

It offers sports car speed, exceptional handling for its size, and an incredible array of luxuries.  Standout features include an adjustable air suspension that allows the driver to adjust ride firmness to driving conditions as well as the car's extraordinary seats -- which use 11 separate inflatable air chambers to change shape, keeping occupants stable even through aggressive maneuvers.

But the S-Class sometimes tries to be too many things to too many segments of the market. The least expensive S-Class, the S550, competes with the Lexus LS, Audi A8 and other premium luxury sedans -- and it's more expensive than all of them. The most expensive S-Class, the extraordinary S65 AMG, costs more than twice as much as the S550 - nearing the price tag of vehicles from ultra-premium makes like Rolls Royce and Bentley.

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. A more athletic S600 is driven by a 6.2-liter twin-turbo V12 putting out 510 horsepower. Two high-performance AMG editions are reviewed separately.

For 2009, some previously-optional features are offered as standard equipment. These include a leather-wrapped wooden steering wheel, a pair of steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters, and the S600's 19-inch wheels.

  • "The planet's best luxury car." -- Car and Driver
  • "One of the finest luxury sedans one can buy short of much more expensive options from Bentley, Maybach or Rolls-Royce. The 2009 Mercedes-Benz S-Class will no doubt satisfy just about any ultra-luxury-sedan buyer. But it's still worth taking a look at other options. Specifically, the all-new 2009 BMW 750i should be a more athletic-handling alternative to the S550, and the often-overlooked Audi A8." -- Edmunds
  • "S-Class defines luxury motoring. Encompassing serenity and inspiring road manners are among its hallmarks. Unfortunately, cars of this caliber also force the driver to interact with diversionary hi-tech features, many of which require far too many steps to adjust. In that regard, the S-Class runs with the pack." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The Mercedes-Benz S-class has been the best-selling car in its class for decades because it looks good (unlike the BMW 7-series), it has a reputation for quality (unlike Cadillac and Jaguar), and the three-pointed star on its hood is a beacon of status and wealth (unlike Audi)." -- Automobile Magazine
  •  +"There probably is something the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan can't do. What that may be escapes us at the moment." -- Chicago Tribune
  •  +"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
Review Last Updated: 4/15/10

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