Mercedes S500 Adds Plug to World's Best Luxury Sedan
The German magazine AutoBild last week published a comparison test between the world's best luxury sedans. It pitted the latest Mercedes S-Class versus the top sedans from BMW, Lexus, Maserati, Porsche, and also the Tesla Model S. The journalists observed that the American EV had a limited range, a poor top speed, and uncomfortable seats, so it finished in fourth place. The Mercedes S500-L won the comparison because it was the best overall vehicle.
For several decades, the S-Class has been the benchmark for luxury cars, and the latest model continues to deserve that reputation, according to the few people who have already tested it. The big Mercedes is the best sedan in the world when it has a large V8 under the hood—or even better with a V12. But now there's something new: a plug-in hybrid version.
Will the S500 plug-in hybrid be the best sedan, or plug-in hybrid, in the world? It would take a test drive to give a correct answer, but the odds aren't great, considering that range on electric power is a modest 18.6 miles. The Chevrolet Volt offers about twice as much EV range.
But at least Mercedes doesn't inflate the range like some manufacturers do. The battery stores 8.7 kWh, or enough to drive about 30 miles in a Nissan LEAF. The comparison with that Japanese electric makes sense as both models have a 80-kW electric motor, but the one in the Mercedes makes more torque: 251 lb-ft.
The Mercedes model also has a twin-turbocharged V6, good for 333-hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. This delivers great performance with the 0 to 62 mph exercise accomplished in 5.5 seconds, while top speed is electronically limited at 155 mph. This is what makes the S500 plug-in hybrid different from all the other plug-ins: before it's a plug-in, it's an S-class. That means a car able to cruise all day on the autobahn at 140 to 150 miles per hour in the highest comfort. It doesn't matter that high speed driving is illegal in most countries. People all over the world buy big Mercedes cars because they know that if given the opportunity to drive fast, the S-class will be superbly competent.
Business executives will enjoy a no-compromise car for all their trips, with the added ability of zero emission driving for their daily commute. Trunk space in the plug-in is reduced by about 20 percent, but that should not be much of a pain point. The plug is below the right tail light, and like most EVs, it is possible to command the climate control while the car is charging. The driver will find four operating modes: HYBRID, which is the standard all-automatic mode; E-MODE for electric driving; E-SAVE when the driver wants to keep the battery fully charged for later zero emission driving; and CHARGE, when the battery is charged while driving.
Mercedes also says its car has a second-generation recuperative braking system, and that means more efficiency, which official European figures put at a combined rating of 78 mpg. That doesn't sound realistic, and it isn't. Europe needs a new test to measure fuel economy of plug-in hybrids, but what matters to Mercedes is that its car beats the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid.
Drivers, on the other hand, will appreciate a car with much fewer emissions than the standard S500, which has a twin-turbocharged V8. To help the driver achieve the best possible fuel economy, engineers have built a point of resistance on the accelerator pedal before the engine starts. Then the hybrid onboard computer works with the navigation system for the next eight kilometers to optimize everything according to inclines, downhill roads, and speed limits.
At the end of the day, the S500 plug-in hybrid's equipment and appointments will be fabulous, with massaging seats and heated armrests. While this Mercedes may not be the absolute benchmark for plug-in technology, it is for everything else.
New to EVs? Start here
What Is An Electric Car?
Before we get going, let's establish basic definitions.
A Quick Guide to Plug-in Hybrids
Some plug-in cars have back-up engines to extend driving range.
Electric Cars Pros and Cons
EVs are a great solution for most people. But not everybody.
Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
Federal and Local Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
Eight Factors Determining Total Cost of Ownership of an Electric Car
EVs get bad rap as expensive. Until you look at TCO.
Quick Guide to Buying Your First Home EV Charger
You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.
Electric Car Utility Rate Plans: Top Five Rules
With the right utility plan, electric fuel can be dirt cheap.
The Ultimate Guide to Electric Car Charging Networks
If you plan to charge in public, you'll want to sign up for charging network membership (or two).
Eight Rules of Electric Vehicle Charging Etiquette
Thou shalt charge only when necessary. And other rules to live by.