Mercedes-Benz S-Class Performance
There are no poor-performing Super Luxury Sedans. All offer abundant power and surprising balance considering their massive curb weights (a fully-equipped S600 weighs nearly as much as two Honda Civics). The S-Class is no exception, offering a choice of two powerful engines, and a driver-adjustable suspension that gives owners the choice between a pillowy highway cruiser and a crisp-handling sport sedan depending on road and traffic conditions. But the S-Class is clearly not the athlete of the super-luxury class -- it won’t corner with the precision of the BMW 7-Series or keep up with the eye-watering acceleration of the Porsche Panamera -- and some reviewers dislike a new steering system on the 2010 S550.
- "The handling and performance of a smaller sport sedan." -- Edmunds
- "There's no glaring weakness in the driving experience." -- Car and Driver
Acceleration and Power
The 2010 S-Class is offered with a choice of two engines. S550 models are powered by a 5.5-liter V8 making 382 horsepower. Power is sent through a seven-speed automatic transmission, which can be shifted manually using steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters. Reviewers say this engine provides more than enough power for everyday driving situations. Still, the S550 faces a power deficit when compared to the BMW 7-Series.
Those looking for extraordinary power might want to consider, instead, the S600. It carries a 510-horsepower, twin-turbo V12 -- more raw power on paper than even the Porsche Panamera Turbo S, though the Porsche still offers faster acceleration times. The S600 sends power through a five-speed automatic, with the same set of paddle shifters, but the loss of two gears doesn’t seem to bring any complaints from reviewers.
The S550 has an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 14 miles per gallon in the city and 21 on the highway, while the S600 is rated for 11/17 mpg.
- “S550's swift takeoffs support Mercedes' claim of 5.4 seconds 0-60 mph. Highway-speed passing power is particularly impressive. There's no discernible difference in acceleration with the AWD S550 4Matic. The S600 is stronger still, with abundant passing reserve. Both engines are silky smooth.” -- Consumer Guide
- "Although the S-Class has a bulky curb weight to match its imposing street presence, any of the available engines can pull the sedan's weight with ease." -- Edmunds
Handling and Braking
Every 2010 Mercedes-Benz S-Class features a well-reviewed electronically-adjustable air suspension, which allows the driver to adjust the firmness of the ride, allowing for soft highway cruising and sporty cornering as road conditions dictate. Reviewers are not as universally impressed with the big car’s steering.
S550 editions get a new, variable-ratio electric power steering system for 2010. Reviewers say it makes the car easy to drive, with light steering effort, but some have called it “numb,” saying it blunts road feel. S600 models get a hydraulic power steering system that seems to please driving enthusiasts more. Those looking for a sharp-cornering Super Luxury Sedan, however, may still want to consider the BMW 7-Series. Its four-wheel-steering can’t be matched at this price point. The all-new Porsche Panamera is also available for a similar price, and offers unparalleled sporty handling for such a large car.
Reviewers are unanimously impressed with the remarkably strong brakes of the S-Class. Few reviewers have tested the available All-Wheel-Drive system.
- "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
- “ABC-equipped cars (all S600s include it as standard) have hydraulically boosted steering, whereas those without ABC have-gulp!-electric-assisted steering. It might not sound like much, but the difference is like having a drink made with well liquor or with the stuff pulled from the top shelf. It'll do the job, but it's nowhere near as smooth and satisfying.” -- Car and Driver
- “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