Wowed by the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class at the Canadian launch in summer 2013, I’ve duly been looking forward to a reacquaintance with it here in the UK.
But true to form, I decided not to gun for the classy, ‘all-you-need’ S 500, or the best-selling S 350 BlueTEC, or even the undoubtedly thrilling 630hp S 65 AMG V12 (at £180k, my nerves are thankful). No, I held on for the one that I felt best suited me.
Enter the 61.4mpg, 120g/km CO2 S 300 BlueTEC Hybrid.
I haven’t mistyped those stats. To date, it’s been the 51mpg diesel that’s wowed but now here’s one that uses a further 20% less fuel and, when spec-matched to 19-inch wheel’d AMG Line trim, takes a full 34g/km CO2 out of the tailpipe emissions. It’s also, like all new S-Class, already Euro 6 compliant.
The best car in the world is thus the greenest luxury car in the world – and by some margin.
Low CO2 but… low CC
The price for this staggering set of stats? Ah, yes. It combines diesel engine with 27hp electric motor… but that diesel engine is a four-cylinder motor, Mercedes-Benz’ familiar 2.1-litre banger, which goes into everything from A-Class and B-Class to C-Class and E-Class. Not the freshest, not the most refined and fewer cylinders than anything that’s ever gone into the S-Class before; it’s jolly torquey and punchy, sure, but what will it do to the S-Class?
Yesterday morning, I had my answer. But not before being dazzled by the sheer impact of the big S. In recent memory, this jaw-dropping wow has only been delivered by one other car, the Rolls-Royce Wraith. The S-Class had the same effect for a quarter of the price (at £72k list, the S 300 BlueTEC Hybrid actually seems a bit of a bargain for such an S-Class boundary-pusher).
Even in 3am darkness, it looked purposeful and businesslike yet pretty and elegant. The real hit was delivered when I opened one of the light aluminium doors though: the spectacle of light and surfaces and shapes was amazing. Truly like nothing else. No other luxury car in the world makes you feel this special before you’ve even set foot inside it.
Despite having a plane to catch, I couldn’t resist sitting there for a while, soaking it all up. I felt a million dollars, yet also a bit out of place; the car was much more sophisticated and flash than me. Like people like us hanging out at celeb bars frequented by people like them.
I was actually thus a bit apprehensive to drive the thing.
Back to reality with a clatter
Pressing the starter button didn’t actually do anything, mind. Neither did selecting reverse. It was only releasing the handbrake that created some action – and what action. The clear clatter of a four-cylinder diesel. Gulp. Oddly though, this was, although in stark contrast to the rest of it, rather reassuring. Maybe it wasn’t such a spacecraft after all.
I moved away. From the off, the steering felt as plush as remembered from Canada, and the pliancy of the air suspension is almost indescribably wonderful. But that engine, and its 7G-TRIONIC gearshifts, roused more recent memories: of the C 220 CDI we had in the office recently. Not quite what you expect from opening the door to such wonderment.
This sounds critical. It is, as some will expect a distant multi-cylinder hum from their big S. But as I drove, I realised it shouldn’t be. For starters, the engine gets quieter as it gets warmer. It’s near-inaudible when cruising. It’s auto-off when the car’s stationary and, thanks to the hybrid drive, off as you decelerate much of the time too (although only really gentle throttle inputs will keep it off when accelerating – the electric motor’s only 27hp, after all).
The key thing was what it was like in practice. Save for a little 7G hesitancy, it was great. Torquey, linear and strong, it was a drivetrain far beyond its humble-sounding origins and cruised me down the M40 at early morning speeds without a hint of stress or duress. Stereo on, it felt, sounded and responded exactly like you’d expect a cooking V6 hybrid to do (that’s what torque can do for you).
I won’t tell you my average economy at the end just yet. That’s the key reason I have it, and I have lots more testing to do. Let’s just say that, given how I drove it, I was impressed. Yes, it even seemed to do the economy bit right as well.
Maybe that’s why Mercedes-Benz has given it an S 300 BlueTEC Hybrid moniker, whose ‘300’ heavily hints it’s packing a 3.0-litre V6 diesel. It was a bit of a culture shock, hearing the little four-pot rattle, but it turned out to be a temporary jar in an otherwise flawless first drive. Here’s hoping it carries on being as good as I imagined it would.
no images were found