Mercedes S550 Plug-in Hybrid

The 2019 S-Class Plug-in Hybrid will carry a S560 badge.

Styling

Critics use these superlatives to describe the style, performance, and comfort of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class: divine, opulent, exquisite, and spectacular. The S-Class is widely regarded as one of the finest luxury cars you can buy. The exterior styling—as with every feature inside and out—exudes class and refinement, with sleek lines providing elegance to a large comfortable sedan.

Besides the addition of a charging port—and badging to describe the ability to take on grid-supplied energy—the plug-in version of the S-Class will retain its handsome looks.

Performance

The 2019 powertrain is comprised of a gas-powered 362-horsepower V-6 engine and an 90-kilowatt electric motor (pulling juice from an 13.5 kilowatt-hour battery)—all integrated with a Mercedes nine-speed automatic transmission. Put that together for about 450-plus horses worth of oomph. (Mercedes has not yet released official horsepower numbers.)

The battery’s pack energy storage means up to about 30 miles of all-electric driving if traveling below 87 mph. After those electric miles, the capable V-6 is put to use, with a top speed governed at 130 mph. A haptic kick down-like mechanism on the accelerator pedal helps drivers maintain electric mode, and otherwise drive with maximum efficiency—or consciously decide to push into the pedal for more power.

Four different modes allow drivers to decide to emphasize when to use or save the battery’s energy. Or you can simply allow the computer to make the decision. Those decisions are probably smarter than your own—especially when using the S-560’s navigation system. That’s because the navigation, along with radar guidance, will use data about hills, valleys and other topography to calculate the best mode for optimized performance, energy regenerative and overall efficiency.

Reviewers say the outgoing S550 plug-in hybrid handles exactly like the gas version, while others believe the extra 650 pounds makes the car less adept at cornering. While that point is debatable, there’s no doubt that the V-6, even with the electric boost, is not as speedy and smooth as the non-plug's V8. The same concerns were expressed about the regenerative braking, which to some felt different than traditional brakes. Others, such as Road and Track, say that Mercedes is among the first automakers to “get regenerative brakes done right” and that it’s “natural and almost entirely seamless.”

Efficiency/Range

If you plug in every night, and just let the S560 plug-in hybrid work its magic, you’re likely to break 40 miles per gallon as an average. That’s impressive for a vehicle of the S560's size and capabilities.

But as with every car on the road, efficiency depends on how you drive. And as with other PHEVs, it’s a matter of how often you recharge and how far you commonly drive. Stay within the all-electric range of about 30 miles—and use a feather foot—to achieve mpg numbers on par with many gas hybrids, even the conventional Prius.

However, if you neglect to charge, drive like a demon or cruise for hundreds of miles, the mileage will be more in line with large powerful luxury sedans. And yet, even after the relatively large battery pack is depleted, the vehicle is still a hybrid that can provide a 10 to 20 percent increase in efficiency over more powerful S-Class models.

Charging

There’s nothing unusual about the S560’s charging process. If the pack is completely depleted, you can fully replenish it in about two hours from a 240-volt charging station. Or if you choose to use a standard 120-volt outlet, expect a charging time closer to four or five hours. That’s easily accomplished by plugging in every night. Still, it’s nice to be able to come home for a quick pit stop to maintain more all-electric driving—so a home 240-volt charging station is recommended.

The investment in a good home charging setup will come in handy for future possible electric cars with bigger batteries. At some point, you might want an all-electric BMW, Mercedes or Tesla as a garage mate to your plug-in S-Class.

Passenger/Cargo Room

The Mercedes S-Class sits at the top of the list for most luxurious and comfortable interiors. The detailing of the appointments is impressive: diamond-stitched leather, soft touch armrests, footrests for backseat passengers and Alcantara lining on the ceiling.

You’ll have to search hard for faults with the interior of an S-Class. And yet, on the plug-in model, Mercedes engineers use part of the trunk to store the battery pack—thereby its capacity from a cavernous 18.7 cubic feet to a merely decent 13.9 cubes.

Safety

Mercedes throws the kitchen-sink of advanced safety features at the S-Class, including the S560 PHEV. We haven’t yet seen the full options list, but expect to see all kinds of sensor-based warning systems, and automated features for keeping lanes, avoiding blind spots, and automatic braking. It’s a showcase for safety.

Price

The outgoing S550 started at about $113,000. Pricing for the 2019 S560 plug-in hybrid is not yet available.

Mercedes S560 Plug-in Hybrid specifications

Availability: Now
Base MSRP: $113000
Est. tax credit: $4500
Technology: Plug-in Hybrid
Body type: Sedan
Seats: 5
EPA Range: 30 miles electric + gasoline
Battery size: 13 kWh
Charging rate: 3.6 kW

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.