IN TECHNOLOGICAL terms, the high point of the S-Class range has to be the hybrid variant. While the diesel model offers a more economical and tax-friendly experience, for those seeking a quieter cabin ambience this petrol-electric S 400 Hybrid should be on your shopping list.
Parallels will be drawn with the likes of Toyota’s Prius, and it’s true that Mercedes’ take on the hybrid concept does offer the usual combination of electric-only running, petrol engine power and the two modes combined for extra performance. Motive power for this S-Class is a little different to the Prius, however. Up front there’s a 3.5-litre V6 petrol unit producing 302 horsepower, plus the accompanying 20kW electric motor. Drive to the rear wheels is via Mercedes’ familiar seven-speed automatic gearbox.
Thanks to the car’s large main displays, you can monitor its regularly-changing power status. For all the tech, powerful electric motor and fancy battery, the real world experience is refreshingly drama-free. When moving off under electric power, the S 400 is more hushed than a regular S-Class. You have to be watching the displays closely to spot the transition to petrol power – usually after a short distance or when you use a fair bit of throttle.
Cruising at a constant speed and, most often, when you’re coasting or coming to a stop, sees the petrol engine cut out. Hit the brakes and you’ll see the battery charge indicator rise, allowing you to recharge on the go. That all makes for a busy car under the skin but, thankfully, you’re blissfully unaware when inside the S-Class’ plush cabin.
Equally satisfying are the S 400’s green credentials. Remember, this is a big car capable of accommodating four adults in the lap of luxury. That said, in default long wheelbase guise, you’re looking at 44.8mpg and 154g/km CO2. While that performance puts it surprisingly close to the all-conquering diesel S-Class, once you factor in the lower noise and quieter cabin, it’s easy to see why the hybrid might find favour with execs
For some, the ability to emulate a Rolls-Royce or Bentley experience for a fraction of the cost easily negates a few pence saved at the black pump. And with the latest S-Class it’s clear that Mercedes wants to challenge the best that Britain can offer. It’s obvious from the moment you open the door of the latest generation S-Class that Mercedes has pulled out all the stops. From the car’s expert fit and finish to its plush cabin and the choice of materials, the German firm is keen to keep hold of its luxury saloon crown. Be it the car’s trick air suspension, the option of reclining and massaging rear seats and an entertainment system to shame most first class airline seats, there’s little to touch the S-Class for the money.
Assuming you’ve risen to such ranks that you can afford to sit in the back, it’s worth noting that the driver is also blessed with an embarrassment of riches. While you’re sipping bubbly, there’s the likes of night vision, intelligent cruise control and lane keep assist to keep you safe.
That a smoother, quieter alternative to diesel power exists for buyers seeking a more hushed experience is a testament to Mercedes’ engineering and marketing nous. And with barely a hint of a compromise if you choose the hybrid, this is exactly how S-Class ownership should be.
Car Mercedes-Benz S 400 Hybrid L SE
Price From £69,650
Engine 3.5-litre petrol V6, 302bhp plus 20kW electric motor
Performance Max speed 155mph; 0-60mph 6.8 secs
Economy 44.8 mpg
CO2 emissions 147g/km