Full 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Review
What's New for 2011
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class sees numerous enhancements for 2011. The S63 AMG receives a smaller but more powerful V8 engine, while the S65 AMG gets a slight bump in horsepower. The lane-departure and blind-spot monitoring systems now feature automatic brake intervention. A new split-view display screen also debuts. Lastly, a Bluetec diesel model is expected later in the model year.
If you ever want to see how the automobile has progressed over the last 50 years, look no further than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The name itself comes from sonderklasse, which is German for special class. Over the years, the S-Class has been a standard-bearer for technology, design, innovation, safety and performance.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class continues the tradition with a few new features. On the technology front, the interior display screen now allows the driver and front-seat passenger to view separate on-screen content, entertaining the passenger without distracting the driver. The lane-departure and blind-spot monitors have been enhanced by the ability of the brakes to engage and keep the vehicle in its lane. Later in the 2011 model year, a Bluetec diesel model will debut.
The diesel should complement the S-Class lineup nicely. Currently, the least expensive model is actually the S400 Hybrid, and it has all of the model's prestige but with tangible improvements in fuel economy. The standard S550 is available with the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, while the raucous S63 and S65 AMG deliver stunning levels of performance. Whichever S-Class pulls at your heartstrings, you're guaranteed the highest level of comfort in a cabin that embodies luxury.
Of course, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is not without rivals. The new Audi A8, recently reworked BMW 7 Series and stylish Jaguar XJ represent more modern interpretations of the S-Class theme. The Porsche Panamera offers up the best handling of the segment, while the Maserati Quattroporte provides a welcome dose of Italian passion. But in some way, all the others are obliged to pay homage to the special and evolved Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class lineup comprises the S400 Hybrid, S550, AWD S550 4Matic, S600, S63 AMG and S65 AMG.
Standard equipment on the S400 Hybrid, S550 and S550 4Matic includes 18-inch wheels, an adaptive air suspension, automatic wipers, a sunroof, automatic adaptive bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, adaptive high-beams, foglights, power-folding heated mirrors, a power rear sunshade and a power trunk lid.
Inside the cabin, the S400 and S550 also feature a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirrors, 14-way power-adjustable front seats, heated and ventilated front seats, front seat memory functions, leather upholstery and a wood-and-leather steering wheel. Also standard are voice control (for audio, phone and navigation), Bluetooth, a navigation system, the COMAND electronics interface and a 15-speaker Harman Kardon stereo with six-CD changer, auxiliary audio jack, an iPod interface, HD radio and satellite radio.
Optional on the S400 and S550 is the Premium II package which adds upgraded front seats, keyless ignition/entry, front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera. An upgraded Active Body Control suspension is offered on the rear-drive S550. All of the above equipment comes standard on the S600 along with 19-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, a lane-departure warning and prevention system, a night-vision system with pedestrian monitoring, upgraded leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, massage functions for the front seats, four-zone automatic climate control, power rear side window sunshades and a premium Bang & Olufsen sound system.
Making the leap to the S63 or S65 AMG will add 20-inch wheels shod with high-performance tires, aerodynamic and styling enhancements, a sport exhaust, larger brakes, a sport-tuned suspension, premium leather upholstery, heated and ventilated power rear seats with memory, a rear-seat entertainment system, a unique steering wheel with shift paddles and an AMG instrument panel with a race timer. The S63 reverts back to the Harman Kardon audio, while the S65 receives the Bang & Olufsen system.
Many of the features found in the higher trim levels are available as part of several option packages for supporting models. Other add-ons include an AMG Performance package (for the S63 only) that includes a power increase of 27 hp and 74 pound-feet of torque and ups the top speed to 186 mph.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz S550 is powered by a 5.5-liter V8 that produces 382 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds testing, the S550 required only 5.7 seconds to accelerate from zero to 60 mph. A standard seven-speed automatic transmission directs power to the rear wheels. The S550 4Matic is motivated by the same engine and sports 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 mpg with the 4Matic. Every V8-powered S-Class gets a seven-speed automatic transmission, while the V12s are attached to a five-speed capable of handling prodigious torque.
The S400 Hybrid features a 3.5-liter V6 coupled to a mild hybrid system (it stops and restarts the engine at stoplights but cannot motivate the car by itself). The combined output is 295 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque that's good enough to reach 60 mph in 7.7 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 19/25/21 mpg. 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 12/19 mpg.
The S63 AMG features a new twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 with 536 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. It's expected to hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds (4.3 seconds with the AMG Performance package) and achieves fuel economy of 14/22. The S65 AMG has a twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 that produces a whopping 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. It hits 60 in 4.2 seconds. Fuel economy is an estimated 11/17/13.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class boasts an impressive list of safety features that includes antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front and rear side airbags and side curtain airbags. A driver fatigue and inattention warning system is standard on all but the S400.
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 and blind-spot warning system with automatic brake intervention, 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. The S400 Hybrid required 121 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been the standard-bearer for luxury for several decades and the latest incarnation upholds that tradition in grand style. With exquisite craftsmanship and attention to detail, the cabin features top-notch materials and exacting construction. The COMAND electronics system uses a control knob and screen to work most entertainment and navigation functions, but the lack of physical dash buttons (like those in the E-Class) tends to complicate the operation of frequently used functions.
The S-Class is not available in a longer-wheelbase version as are some of its competitors, but we suspect few owners will desire more than what the Benz offers. Space is plentiful in any seat and added creature comforts like heated and ventilated seats with massage features are sure to please even the toughest of critics. The trunk can accommodate up to 16.2 cubic feet.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class rides just as you'd expect from a top-tier luxury sedan. The compliant suspension ably cancels out road imperfections while also keeping body roll in check, and the cabin remains as quiet as a library even over rough pavement.
Compared to some competing models, the S-Class isn't quite as involving to drive, though the AMG models are plenty entertaining thanks to their otherworldly levels of power. The S400 Hybrid is obviously slower and has a less natural-feeling brake pedal, but otherwise it drives just like you'd expect from a Mercedes-Benz.