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Mercedes-Benz S-Class S500 2016 Review

Meet the 2.2-tonne limousine that sips less fuel than a Toyota Prius.

The first Mercedes-Benz plug-in hybrid can cover 33km on battery power alone. Cut over to the petrol V6 and continue for another 800km.

Then there’s its party trick: you can tell it to cool itself on a hot day, even if it is parked several blocks away. Activate its smartphone app and this mega Mercedes will use the hybrid battery pack to power the aircon, up to 10 minutes before you’re ready to roll.

If only it could wipe the sand from your feet, it would be the perfect car for the beach.

There is also the matter of the cool $310,000 price-tag when it arrives in Australian showrooms next year.

The Mercedes-Benz S500 plug-in hybrid will be the first of 10 such cars from the maker over the next three years, or one every four months. Next year this technology will appear in the E-Class sedan, for the mere mortals, priced at or below the $100,000 mark.

TECHNOLOGY

With its twin-turbo petrol V6 backed up by a powerful electric motor, this “eco car” has as much grunt as a V8.

Mercedes claims 5.2 seconds for the 0-100km/h dash in sport mode, with petrol and electric giving their all.

In regular mode it will switch from petrol to electric power as required. In eco mode it will try to favour the electric motor as much as possible.

Another trick: using on-board GPS, the S500 will plot your route and determine when petrol or electric power is more appropriate.

For example, if there is a long downhill run at journey’s end, it uses most of the electric power at the beginning of the trip, anticipating a “free” recharge when driving downhill for extended periods.

If all that fails, the car can even top up the battery via petrol power. In common with the Porsche Panamera and Holden Volt plug-in hybrids, it can use the engine to top up the battery pack if there are no recharge points.

DRIVING

Confession time. If not for the gigantic display screen I would not have picked how the hybrid setup is working.

Power delivery is seamless and instant, the ride is pillowy, silent and smooth, and the steering is as agile as a regular car, even though the hybrid gear adds 250kg.

The acceleration doesn’t feel all that brisk at first, and nowhere near the claim of 5.2 seconds (as fast as a HSV Clubsport R8).

Mercedes minders point out I must hit the sport button to unleash all the power from each source. Suffice to say I’m convinced now.

There are four driving modes from which to choose, depending if you want to save fuel or save time, but all work with equal ease.

The display screen will tell you exactly how many petrol-free kilometres you have left, how much battery power remains, and how much petrol is in the tank.

It will also show you exactly which motor is powering the car at any given time, and when the battery pack is recharging.

After going giddy trying all the settings, I do what most people do and resort to driving in D for “der”.

Pricing guides

$101,394
Based on 2 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$99,900
Highest Price
$102,888

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
S500 4.7L, PULP, 9 SP AUTO $232,210 – 266,970 2016 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2016 S500 Pricing and Specs
S500 4.7L, PULP, 9 SP AUTO $178,090 – 204,710 2016 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2016 S500 Pricing and Specs
S500 4.7L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $149,050 – 171,270 2016 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2016 S500 Pricing and Specs
S350 d 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $99,900 – 102,888 2016 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2016 S350 d Pricing and Specs