The 2011 Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid is an S-Class vehicle first and foremost, but one with a conscience and a nod toward environmental sustainability. It might well be properly referred to as Eco-Chic.
While there are V-8 and V-12 versions of the Mercedes flagship S-Class, the S400 Hybrid with its V-6 power uniquely cranks out the performance of many V-8s, while also delivering the same fuel economy as many four-cylinder engines.
It is entirely possible to drive the 2011 S400 Hybrid without realizing that you’re indeed piloting a V6-powered vehicle — and a “mild-hybrid” luxury car at that. The Mercedes S400’s performance comes across as totally normal, except for the gasoline engine shutting down when stopped, and starting up again automatically when the brake is released.
My test 2011 Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid had a base price of $91,000. The S400 Hybrid is every bit as plush as all other Mercedes S-Class models, without sacrificing any of the amenities or available features. Plenty of acceleration is instantly on tap and the handling is quite nimble for a vehicle that weighs in at nearly two and a half tons. There is a certain sense of its overall mass, but it is certainly a far cry from the so called “land yachts” of yesteryear, maintaining a civilized stability and comfortable ride compliance.
The S400 features a lightweight, high-capacity lithium-ion battery designed specifically for automotive use. The battery works in conjunction with a 20-horsepower electric motor and a 275-hp V-6 gasoline engine, providing hybrid power with fuel economy rated at 25 miles per gallon on the highway.
Not only does the electric motor generate 20 horsepower on its own, the electric motor also produces an impressive starting torque of 118 lb.-ft.
The 275-horsepower Atkinson-cycle V-6 delivers 258 lb.-ft. of torque. A powerful onboard computer controls the hybrid system, recalculating the best operating mode 160 times per second.
The S400 is categorized as a “mild hybrid” with its gasoline engine and electric motor working together for responsive performance, and the rear-wheel-drive sedan includes a specially configured seven-speed automatic transmission, a transformer to power the 12-volt vehicle system and intelligent operating electronics.
The hybrid system has a convenient start-stop function that turns off the gasoline engine below 9 mph when braking to a stop. When the S400 Hybrid is at a traffic light, for example, the gasoline engine is off, but the AC compressor and steering pump are operated electrically, so the air conditioning and power steering continue to function fully. When the brakes are released, the gasoline engine starts automatically, and works with the electric motor producing a seamless performance.
The Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid provides the same interior spaciousness, luxury and convenience features offered in all other S-Class models. For 2011, it rides on 10-spoke, 18-inch wheels and “Hybrid” logos on the trunk lid and dash, as well as BlueEfficency badging on the front fender quarters. Eucalyptus wood is also new for 2011.
The 2011 S400 Hybrid allows the Mercedes loyalist to enjoy the benefits of one of the finest four-door luxury sedans globally available while leaving a smaller footprint on the environment. It may not be the ultimate solution to ecological issues, but it is certainly a positive step forward. — Arv Voss, Motor Matters
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2011 MERCEDES-BENZ S400 HYBRID
VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 5-passenger RWD large sedan
BASE PRICE___________________ $91,000 (as tested: $99,255)
MOTOR TYPE___________________ 24-valve V-6 w/mild hybrid
HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 295 at 6000 rpm
TORQUE (lb.-ft.)_____________ 284 at 2400-5000 rpm
TRANSMISSION_________________ 7-speed automatic
WHEELBASE____________________ 124.6 in.
OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 206.8 in.
TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb) 40.3 ft.
FUEL CAPACITY________________ 23.8 gal.
EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
SMART ELECTRIC: The smart fortwo electric drive marks a natural evolution of the smart brand, further defining its environmental leadership. The smart fortwo electric drive vehicles are full electric vehicles, powered by 30 kW drive motor and 16.5 kWh lithium-ion battery. Using a standard 220V outlet, it takes three and a half hours to charge the battery from 20 to 80 percent of its capacity. The battery can also be charged using a common household 110V outlet. The vehicles can reach highway speeds and offer a range of 82 miles on a single charge. Estimated mpg: 36/43 (kW-hrs/100 miles) Starting price: $44,800 (Sources: EPA and Smart)
ASK AUTO DOCTOR: The cost for an oil change on my 2002 BMW 3 Series was $177, which I thought was too high compared to my new Cadillac at just $34. Was this charge excessive? Answer: The cost of servicing high line import vehicles is much more costly than the price of American vehicles. First of all, the BMW uses full-synthetic oil. To change the oil there is an undercarriage shield that needs to be removed in order to get at the oil drain plug. The Cadillac oil change was a regular oil change with regular petroleum oil, not full synthetic. (Source: Ask the Auto Doctor, Motor Matters)
VW AIMS FOR NO.1: Back in 2007, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn voiced an ambition to become the No. 1 global automaker by 2018, insisting it would sell 10 million vehicles worldwide, surpassing Toyota and General Motors. Most auto analysts blew off the pronouncement as lofty corporate proclamations. Suddenly, auto industry analysts aren’t so dismissive about the potential for VW, which sold 7.2 million worldwide last year, a new record. That figure makes VW’s 2018’s dream of 10 million sales seem not so outlandish. (Source: FreeWheeling, Motor Matters)
Copyright, AutoWriters Associates Inc., 2011