Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - S-Class - S300 BlueTec Hybrid
Typical S-Class quality, silky ride, surprising performance, outstanding fuel economy
Room for improvement
Cost - despite being the cheapest, No S400 Hybrid variant
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14 Nov 2014
HERE is some trivia for you. The term S-Class is a shortened version of the German ‘Sodenklasse’, which translates to ‘Special Class’ in English.
While there may be sportier Benzs out there, none will get you from A to B in a more luxurious, technologically advanced and refined way than an S-Class.
The first five variants arrived in November with the final four rolling out this week, and while all variants are truly Sodenklasse cars, the S300 BlueTech Hybrid is notable for other reasons, too.
The S300 Hybrid is an important car for Mercedes-Benz. So much so that at the launch of the long-wheel base S400, S63 AMG and S600, only the BlueTEC Hybrid was on test.
Despite Mercedes' pride in their new machinery we wanted to compare the new S400 and S300 Hybrid back to back-to-back - and Mercedes agreed.
Hybrid cars have been around a while now, but we still find starting them hard to get used to - you press start button and it just sits there in total silence waiting while you wonder if it’s on or not.
It’s the same in the S300 hybrid, only it gets a little creepier as you press the accelerator and 2.1 tonnes of limousine slides quietly through the car park.
As you head out onto the road the diesel engine kicks in and you’re away, almost forgetting what’s powering you.
The drive train is made up of two power plants.
There’s the 2143cc (Mercedes calls it a 2.2-litre) four-cylinder diesel engine which produces 150kW and 500Nm.
The second unit is an electric motor, which makes just 20kW but a more hearty 200Nm and is engineered as part of the seven speed transmission.
Regenerative braking produces electricity, which is stored in lithium-ion batteries housed under the boot area for use when you’re just coasting – say around the car park.
Power from the electric motor is sent to the rear wheels via a regular drive-shaft and the diesel engine only comes to life if you put your foot down further.
We had a good opportunity to drive the S300 on a wide range of different roads and traffic conditions, starting with a 100km/h cruise into the city from Melbourne airport along the freeway.
The diesel engine powers up to 100km/h, but the electric motor can keep it there as you ease off the throttle, and by feathering the accelerator you can make the electric motor do all the work.
As we arrived in the city and joined the a traffic jam, the beauty of the electric motor came into effect again – we were hardly ever traveling more than 15km/h as we made our way silently up Finders Street under just electric power.
Sitting in traffic gives you the chance to look around and it’s hard to ignore where you’re sitting in a car like this.
The interior of the S300 is beautiful and comfortable, with the wood grain and stitched leather dash sweeping across the front passengers and through into the doors.
A blue strip of lighting follows this sweeping line into the rear of the cabin and can be changed through purple, red, orange and white.
The seats in the front are large, but still hold you supportively and they’re leather of course.
The two-spoke steering wheel has Mercedes-Benz written in cursive at the base, while two enormous 12.3inch TFT screens sprawl across the dashboard – one for the digital instrument cluster and the other for the infotainment system.
But confining an S-Class to city driving just wouldn't do it justice, and a jaunt in to the challenging roads and country north of Melbourne showed another side of the big Benz.
Pushing the S300 through twists and turns revealed a car that gripped impressively well for its size with excellent handling too.
The diesel and electric motors were working hard, but the torque from the S300 is more than enough to flatten hills.
Most impressive was the ride. The S300 was bolting along rough roads but the air suspension had it gliding with only the biggest potholes disturbing what was an almost perfect performance.
After swapping in to a more 'regular' S-Class and following the same test route, we were expecting the S400 to be a very different experience.
With the same suspension set up, but twin turbo 3.0-litre 245kW/480Nm V6 instead, the S400’s ride is virtually identical to the S300, so too is the handling.
Sure there’s a bit more power, but it doesn’t have the torque of S300, but if you're wondering whether the S300 drives as an S-Class should, the answer is yes, absolutely.
In actual fact the S300 Hybrid for $195,000 is the identical twin of the S350 for $215,000 in short wheelbase form. The only difference being that the S350 has a 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel engine in place of the hybrid system, and has the LED intelligent light system and sound package.
Swapping back in to the S300 we reset the trip meter and took the long way back to the hotel on the other side of Melbourne, through the country, then highways, into the city and out the other side.
During our short time with the S-Class we didn't have time to accurately calculate its fuel consumption, but the on-board computer told us that the average fuel consumption for the 49km trip back was 4.7L/100km.
We weren't trying to get a good figure – We had forgotten all about that, and that's what is so special about this car.
The technology in this drivetrain is so good and works so well, that it drives and feels like an S-class should - and that’s special.
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