Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid

    When Mercedes-Benz decided that it was time for the S-Class to receive a nip-tuck-style face-lift for 2010, it also chose to offer a model that would appeal to a more discriminating driver: one that concedes to environmental concerns, rather than carelessly burning rubber at every stoplight. The S400 Hybrid ($87,950) is the manufacturer’s first-ever hybrid model. With this sedan, Mercedes-Benz pushes the technological envelope—this is the first mass-production car that utilizes a lithium-ion battery pack—and follows the street initially paved by the Lexus LS 600h L. The S400 produces 295 horsepower from its 3.5-liter V-6 (275 hp from the gas engine, plus 20 hp from the electric motor), which is rather inadequate to motivate a 4,475-pound car with any sense of urgency. This becomes evident when you compare the acceleration times of the standard models with the hybrid: Mercedes’ entry-level S-Class, the V-8-equipped S550, goes from rest to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, while the hybrid takes 7.2 seconds. But all is forgotten—and forgiven—on the highway, as the S400 performs and handles just like your everyday S-Class while returning up to 26 mpg. But the hybrid system’s most useful fuel-saving feature—its start-stop technology—is best felt driving through the city. Stopping at a light or in traffic will automatically shut down the engine until you lift off the brake—this is really where most owners will notice a difference. Those looking for a powerful full-size sedan should look into the S65 AMG, but for those interested in driving a big, comfortable car that gets respectable fuel mileage, the S400 Hybrid is at the top of the list.

    Pros: With five different power train options, what's not to like?
    Cons: The exterior packaging is a bit blasé.

    Photo by Jim Fets
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