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Avg. Price Paid:$44,645 - $76,408
Original MSRP: $93,000 - $158,050
MPG: 15 City / 23 Hwy
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2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Review

This review was written when the 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class was new.

For 2011, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class continues to offer an ultra-luxurious interior, powerful engines and an impressive suite of cabin and safety electronics. However, the S-Class is pricey, even among super luxury cars, and reviewers note that its COMAND interface is still confusing.

If a well-balanced super luxury car with an opulent, roomy interior is what you seek, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class should be high on your shopping list. It’s available with two powerful engines and features a standard adjustable air suspension that reviewers love. They say that it’s compliant and comfortable, yet the sport setting can improves cornering ability nicely.

 Still, reviewers say that if you’re looking for sport sedan handling, the S-Class isn’t the best option. It can’t match rivals like the BMW 7-Series or the Porsche Panamera on windy roads, and some mention that its steering feels numb, isolating the driver from the road. Additionally, some reviews write that the transmission – although smooth and composed – can be slow to downshift to a lower gear when duty calls.

Inside, the S-Class offers all the luxury you’d expect from Mercedes’ flagship sedan. The cabin features classic design cues with leather seating and burl walnut trim, and the seats are roomy and comfortable at all four corners. Additionally, the S-Class provides a long list of standard tech and comfort features that include navigation, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, heated and ventilated front seats and dual-zone climate control.

Despite these pluses, not all reviewers are floored by the S-Class’ features. Many note that Mercedes’ COMAND interface – which absorbs many audio, navigation and comfort functions – is not the most intuitive. Simple tasks like seat adjustments require using COMAND’s knob interface to navigate on-screen menus. Passengers more than six feet tall might also like more headroom. But the biggest quibble when considering the S-Class is the price. Starting at $93,000, there are much more affordable options in the super luxury car class.

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Other Cars to Consider

If you’re interested in a large sedan with a posh interior, you can save thousands by considering the Lexus LS. Starting at about $66,000, the LS comes in around $27,000 cheaper than the base S-Class and offers a similar level of comfort. The trade-off most reviewers note is the ride. The LS’ suspension is clearly geared for comfort, while the S-Class straddles the middle ground between the Lexus’ posh ride and more nimble rivals.

If whipping around corners in extreme luxury is important to you, the BMW 7-Series and the Porsche Panamera might catch your eye. Base model 7-Series and Panameras are also significantly cheaper, although you’ll have to opt for higher trims to match the S-Class in terms of power. The 7-Series starts at under $71,000, while the Panamera can be had for less than $75,000. What’s more, opting for a mid-level BMW 750i or Porsche Panamera S will best the S550 in terms of power and still cost less. The 750i starts at $82,500, while the Panamera S’ base price is just under $90,000.

One thing that all three of these competitors offer is better fuel economy. The EPA estimates that the base LS gets 16 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, while the base 7-Series and  Panamera get 17/25 mpg city/highway and 18/27 mpg, respectively. These numbers are marginally better than the rear-wheel drive S550’s 15/23 mpg city/highway fuel economy. If you like the S-Class, but wish you could get more miles per gallon, look to the S400 Hybrid. A diesel S-Class, which will likely have better fuel economy, is expected later this year.

Savvy shoppers might also notice that the Mercedes E-Class offers much of the same appeal and safety features at a lower price. The E-Class is also an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety “Top Safety Pick”.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class: The Details

With the exception of a yet to be released BlueTEC diesel model, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class hasn’t changed much for the 2011model year. Currently, there are three models in the S-Class line, as well as two performance models made by AMG. The S400 Hybrid differs somewhat from its conventionally-powered siblings, so it’s reviewed separately. The AMG S63 and S65 also get separate reviews.

The two remaining trims are the V8-powered S550 and the twin-turbo V12 S600. Starting at $93,000, the S550 comes fully loaded with standard equipment that includes an adaptive air suspension, adaptive headlights, a power trunk lid, 14-way power-adjustable front seats that are heated and cooled, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth, navigation and a 15-speaker Harman Kardon stereo with a six-CD changer and iPod interface.

At a little over $158,000, the S600 comes with all of the features listed above, as well as push button start, front and rear parking sensors with backup camera, adaptive cruise control, a lane departure warning system, front seats with massage, four-zone climate control and a Bang & Olufsen stereo.

  • "S-Class defines luxury motoring. Encompassing serenity and inspiring road manners are among this Best Buy's hallmarks." -- Consumer Guide  
  • "Competitors are trying to reinvent the wheel, but I don't think a luxury flagship needs to be a sport sedan, too. Mercedes knew its mission, and it hit the nail on the head." -- Cars.com
  • "The S-class in any incarnation is still one of the finest cars in the world. It's ultra-luxurious, ultra-refined, and ultra-comfortable, and it doesn't shy away from being hustled. The refreshed 2010 S-class is-as the S always has been-satisfying in a way other cars simply aren't." -- Car and Driver 
Review Last Updated: 5/11/11

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