What’s this? A luxury hybrid? Not just that, but a luxury hybrid you can charge with your mains? What’s the world coming to? Is the German marque coming to their senses or coming into ruin?
What it’s got
I know you’re wondering what a “plug-in” hybrid is, so I’ll get that out of the way first. Mercedes-Benz’ S500 sedan is a plug-in hybrid powered by a seven-speed auto 3L V6 direct-injection engine on petrol as well as an electric motor. If you’re unfamiliar with hybrid vehicles, this HowStuffWorks article will get you up to speed.
The petrol component gusts with 245kW of power, the electric motor a modest 85kW. Instead of the usual method of generating power via the petrol engine, you can also top up the battery using ordinary household mains power. Inside the cabin features all the mod-cons and plush items befitting an S-class type saloon. One nifty world-premiere feature is pre-entry climate control. This basically means no more white breath in winter and never playing “hot potato” with your steering wheel in summer.
You have to set your approximate departure time, though. It’s not a mind reader. It also packs in LED daylights, a touchpad to control the various functions such as traffic-sign recognition, satellite navigation, collision prevention, plus leather upholstery. It also features haptic acceleration, which we’ll come to later in the review. If you’re expecting to fit golf clubs or armfuls of shopping in it, think again.
The new engine configuration shaves almost 100L from the boot.
What to expect
The S500 hybrid comes in many operating modes that suit your surroundings. You can operate the car in pure electric mode, cutting back to petrol after about 33km. You can also choose e-mode, e-save and charge modes. One can also toggle between gearbox ratio modes from Efficiency, Sports and Economy. As is expected, driving the S500 is a smooth and quiet experience, especially on pure electric mode. It’s even capable of doing the 0-100km dash in 5.2 seconds.
If you can believe it, it also has a fuel economy of 2.8L/100km for combined conditions. One safety feature that is a true standout is the haptic acceleration. Using forward sensors, your throttle pedal actually pushes back against your foot when you’re driving too close to the car ahead and slide the car into freewheeling mode.
The on-board computer switches between electric and petrol without you even noticing, which further improves fuel economy. For example, it may stick to electric in a heavy traffic situation. If you program your route into the satellite navigation, it will engage the most efficient driving modes along the way.
If this isn’t the car of the future, nothing is. Intelligent, smooth and fuel efficient, the S500 hybrid is years ahead of its time.