Full 2010 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Review
What's New for 2010
The Mercedes-Benz flagship gets a mild restyling for 2010, though the big news is that the S-Class gains a hybrid model that features the industry's first production use of a lithium-ion battery. There are also several new or enhanced electronics features.
Since 1954, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has represented the pinnacle of European automotive engineering, design and trendsetting. Features like crumple zones, disc brakes (later of the antilock variety), air suspension, airbags, radar-based cruise control and navigation were just some of the things popularized by the Mercedes flagship over the years. Like watching a fashion runway show to see what'll be in your closet next fall, the S-Class is like looking into what you'll be driving in the future.
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz S-Class brings innovation to this fabled car nameplate, thanks to the new S400 Hybrid. Featuring the world's first application of a lithium-ion battery in a production hybrid, this allows the usual bulky battery pack to be packaged in the engine bay where the regular battery would be rather than taking up valuable real estate in the trunk. This also keeps weight down, and indeed, the S400 Hybrid weighs less than the S550. However, the S400 is considered a mild hybrid, meaning that the electric motor only aids the 3.5-liter V6 rather than being able to provide propulsion by itself like the Lexus parallel hybrid system. Even so, the Benz manages to match the combined fuel economy of the Lexus LS 600h while costing almost $20,000 less. Purchasing a hybrid model rarely makes financial sense and sometimes not much environmental sense either, but the S400 could be an exception to both.
Elsewhere in the S-Class -- which ranges from the hybrid to the 604-horsepower S65 AMG über-flagship -- a minor exterior redesign keeps things fresh. A few lines are sharper, and available LED daytime running lamps give the front end a more modern appearance. The meticulously crafted interior was left alone, and that's just fine by us, considering how great everything looks and feels.
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz S-Class remains a trendsetter despite being in a class full of them. The BMW 7 Series and Jaguar XJ have recently been redesigned with phenomenal success, and an all-new Audi A8 is just around the corner. Porsche's new Panamera is an astonishing sedan that drives like a proper Porsche, and the Maserati Quattroporte is yet another worthy competitor. It's hard to say a bad thing about any of those, but the S-Class provides the sort of engineering, design and high-tech features that we've come to expect for 55 years.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is available as the S400 Hybrid, S550, all-wheel-drive S550 4Matic, S600, S63 AMG and S65 AMG. Standard equipment on the S400 Hybrid includes 18-inch wheels, air suspension and adaptive damping, automatic wipers, a sunroof, automatic headlights, power-folding heated mirrors, a power rear sunshade, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, 14-way power front seats, front seat memory functions, heated front seats and leather upholstery. Also standard are Bluetooth, a navigation system, the COMAND electronics interface and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon stereo with six-CD changer, auxiliary audio jack, an iPod interface, HD radio and satellite radio. The Premium 1 package adds adaptive bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, adaptive high beams and ventilated front seats. The S550 comes standard with the Premium 1 package but is otherwise equally equipped.
Fitting the S400 and S550 with the Premium 2 package gets you upgraded front seats, keyless ignition and entry, front and rear parking sensors, and a rearview camera. An upgraded Active Body Control suspension is offered on the rear-drive S550. All the above equipment comes standard on the S600, S63 and S65. The Sport package adds to the non-AMG models a sport body kit and 19-inch AMG wheels, while the Sport Package Plus upgrades to 20-inch rims. The S63 and S65 AMG models have AMG-calibrated adaptive suspension, high-power brakes, 20-inch wheels, styling enhancements, a sport exhaust and a sport steering wheel.
The following packages are optional on the S400, S550 and S63 and standard on the S600 and S65. The Driver Assistance package adds a blind-spot warning system, lane departure assist and adaptive cruise control. The Rear Seat package adds eight-way power outboard rear seats, four-zone automatic climate control, and heated and ventilated rear seats. The Rear Seat Entertainment package includes a pair of headrest-mounted screens and two remote controls.
Power rear side window sunshades are standard on the S600, S63 and S65 and optional on the S400 and S550. A heated steering wheel is optional on all but the S600, which has it standard. A panoramic sunroof and infrared night-vision assist are standard on the S600 and S65 and optional on other models.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz S550 sports a 5.5-liter V8 that makes 382 hp and 391 pound-feet of torque. In testing, we've found that this is enough for a 5.7-second 0-60-mph time. A standard seven-speed automatic transmission routes power to the rear wheels. The S550 4Matic is all-wheel drive. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 15 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined with rear-drive and 14/21/17 with 4Matic. All V8-powered S-Class models get a seven-speed automatic transmission, while V12s are attached to a five-speed capable of handling their prodigious torque.
The S400 Hybrid features a 3.5-liter V6 coupled to a mild hybrid system (an electric motor provides additional boost for acceleration but cannot motivate the car by itself). The result is 295 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque and an estimated 0-60 time of 7.2 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 19/26/21.
The S600 gets a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V12 that pumps out 510 hp and 612 lb-ft of torque on its way to a Mercedes-estimated 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds. Fuel economy is 11/17/13.
The S63 AMG features a 6.2-liter V8 with 518 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. It goes from zero to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and achieves fuel economy of 11/18/14. The S65 AMG has a twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 that produces an earth-orbit-altering 604 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. It hits 60 in 4.4 seconds. Fuel economy is 11/17/13.
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz S-Class comes packed with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver fatigue and inattention warning system. Also standard is Mercedes' PreSafe system, which can sense an impending crash and automatically tighten the seatbelts and reposition the power seats for maximum airbag protection. Optional features, depending on the trim, include a lane departure warning system, a blind-spot warning system, infrared Night Vision Assist and PreSafe braking, which uses the optional adaptive cruise control radar system to sense an impending crash and automatically apply the brakes.
In Edmunds brake testing, the S550 came to a stop from 60 mph in an excellent 108 feet. Surprisingly, the S63 and S65 took longer to stop (though not a lot) at 118 and 111 feet, respectively.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Mercedes flagship embodies craftsmanship and attention to detail. Panels are precisely placed, and materials quality is beyond reproach. Burnished wood and pliant leather gloss almost every nook and cranny, and the plastics used are soft and pleasantly textured. The COMAND electronics system uses a control knob and screen to operate most entertainment and navigation functions, but lacks the physical dash buttons of the more recent E, C and GLK Classes that make calling up frequently used functions easier. It may come as a shock, but we actually think the BMW 7 Series' latest version of the once-vilified iDrive is better.
Space is plentiful in the S-Class, even if there's no extended-wheelbase version like what is offered for some of its competitors. The front and rear seats can be equipped to heat you, cool you and massage you. Adjustable bolsters up front keep you in place through corners. The trunk offers 16.2 cubic feet of space, more than enough for golf clubs and a few suitcases.
Ride and handling on the 2010 Mercedes-Benz S-Class are compliant and fitting for a luxury sedan, yet the heavyweight four-door's capabilities go beyond what you'd expect. The Airmatic suspension system does a fine job gliding over bumps and ruts, and body lean is effectively kept in check. The steering is fairly quick and precise with a decent heft to the wheel, though most competing luxury sedans are more fun to drive. Nevertheless, the S-Class feels smaller than it is, even if we wouldn't exactly call it athletic.
The AMG nameplate takes the civilized S-Class and turns it into a suit-wearing goon who'll frighten your mother and make you think twice about messing with it. The S63's warbling V8 is blisteringly fast; the S65's twin-turbo V12 -- well, that's actually under consideration by NASA for its new Ares rocket. With 738 lb-ft of torque being sent to the rear wheels, you'll be going through an awful lot of rubber if you keep the traction control turned off.