2003 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Review
Pros & Cons
- World-class performance, state-of-the-art safety features, spacious and comfortable cabin.
- Complicated COMAND system, standard V8 models not as much fun to drive as BMW 7 Series.
List Price Estimate
$2,587 - $5,750
Used S-Class for SaleSee all for sale
Edmunds' Expert Review
Most helpful consumer reviews
S500 4dr Sedan (5.0L 8cyl 5A)
Excellent vehicle. has power style and ride. I get 24 miles/gal highway. Not good in snow. Other than regular oil change very little maintenance cost. Excellent sound and heating system. Handles well.
Yagotta B. Kidding,10/30/2017
S600 4dr Sedan (5.5L 12cyl Turbo 5A)
The S600 twin turbo is heck of a value, albeit a surprising and even strange one. On one hand, you have a $150,000 car with every top-shelf feature of 2003. On the other hand, the car now costs less than $10,000 if you shop well. I bought mine, a fixer-upper in some ways, for considerably less than that. As you'd expect of a car in this category, it's sumptuously comfortable, both in front and in back. Its power is almost scary; drop the hammer and you launch. Turbo lag is minimal because M-B used the right size turbos for this engine. Even off the line, the car can throw you back in your seat. Floor it at 30 mph, and it will definitely do so. That's what a performance car is supposed to do. This is one of the very few V-12 cars that I would consider as a daily driver. In good repair, an S600 twin turbo is reliable enough to trust going coast to coast. This is in contrast to its immediate predecessor, the 5.8L naturally-aspirated engine, which anyone should stay FAR AWAY from. That problematic engine is why Mercedes came out with this new 5.5L turbocharged engine. Unlike the older one, *this* one is quite reliable. Mine has done several long road trips with no problem. It also comes with the excellent and reliable 5-speed transmission. This is one of the few car transmissions that was ever designed to handle that much torque and more, all day, every day. However, certain parts for an S600 are not cheap. Remember, this car originally cost $150,000, and the maintenance can reflect that. Getting an S600 to a state of good repair, if it has not been treated properly, can be several thousand dollars. Here are the potential trouble areas. 1.) The ABC (Active Body Control) hydraulic suspension feels great when it works. But when (not if) it breaks, you're looking at a very expensive repair, up to $12,000. The S55 AMG also has this issue, so be aware of it. Mine did fail on me. So, I replaced it totally with a very good coil-spring conversion and added an anti-sway bar, for a *lot* less money. The car continues to handle very well, without the high maintenance problems of the stock suspension. 2.) Igition coil packs are $1,400 for each side if they go bad. There are some out there who can repair them for (at present) $750/side, but that's still some money. The ignition transformer, if it goes bad, isn't cheap either, at $700. 3.) Valve cover gaskets are somewhat labor-intensive. Also, the vacuum hoses do eventually need replacing due to the heat the engine generates. Likewise, engine mounts are best done at a shop with a lift. Fortunately, all this only needs doing every 12-15 years or so. 4.) Fuel economy is what you'd expect from a 4,500 lb supercar with 500 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque. It *is* a supercar, and any car like this will be a bit thirsty. For what it is, though, the fuel mileage is not bad. It's like Rolls Royce buyers: "if you have to ask about gas mileage, you can't afford the car." This car is best owned by someone willing to do at least some of his or her own car maintenance. I consider having access to a STAR Diagnostics System pretty much mandatory for owning one of these cars. I do all of my own maintenance. Therefore, I saved a lot of money getting my car to a state of good repair. Now that it's there, though...this car needs...basically nothing. Seriously, the only thing I have to do now is the same regular fluid/filter and brake pad maintenance that any other car needs. A well-maintained S600 is not only great to drive, it's also surprisingly inexpensive to maintain. But you *MUST* do the proper maintenance! This is not a car to cheap-out on the maintenance with; don't do that. After I got through with everything, I spent about $14,500. For that price, I have a car that outruns Porsches, Ferraris, and even certain Lamborghinis, for thousands less than a new Honda Accord. And it does so with heated *or* cooled leather seats...both front and back. The power delivery is deliciously smooth at *any* RPM, thanks to those 12 cylinders. The engine is so naturally torquey at low RPM that sometimes you forget that it's turbocharged. At this point, I just get in the car and drive it. And believe me, this car is *fun* to drive. Is it what I'd call, "Honda reliable"? No, not quite that level; that'd be the V-8 versions of this car, the S430 and S500. But it's not far from it; I'd say it's close enough. It's better than most American cars, that's for sure.
S600 4dr Sedan (5.5L 12cyl Turbo 5A)
Have owned the car for about a month now and I am no sure I still love it. The straight line speed is second to none, I have driven ferraris that won't throw you back in your seat like this does. Being able to spin the rear-wheel at any speed under 50mph is incredible. Burnouts are as simple as turning off traction control and giving half throttle. However, the handling does not compare to the BMW 760Li I own. The understeer is so overwhelming it is almost dangerous, you are stunned the first time you take an off ramp at 50 and the tires begin to squeal yet the car keeps traveling in the same direction-scary. Also, driving in the rain is asking for trouble, traction control MUST stay on.
S430 4dr Sedan (4.3L 8cyl 5A)
Driving this car a routine number of miles (in my case about 130,000 mi over 10 years), the residual value of around $2000 in casual-sale value is very thin for what the value actually represents. No news flash here: at that valuation, the car is of far more use and value to me than a sale could bring and I will maintain and hold it so long as that is true. Oct. 2018 update: no significant change; this machine has been a good value long-term and the car keeps doing what one would hope at 228,000 miles- keeping on.