Such is the general perception of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The fact it has an electric motor, as in the S 560 e, is a technical update that may hold little cachet for a buyer until he experiences the ride in its entirety.
We had a go at the S 560 e earlier in the year. It happened to be the first S-Class plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) sold in Malaysia.
Mercedes-Benz Malaysia was flogging the S 400 h from 2014, but that was a non-plug-in hybrid with an electric range of less than 2km, paltry even then. It has since been superseded by the S 560 e with a claimed 50km electric range.
The test unit is the second S-Class PHEV after the S 500 e of 2014, which did not make it to local shores.
Available only in long wheelbase form, the locally assembled S 560 e arrived in mid-2019 as a facelifted model with subtle changes.
The facelift is instantly recognisable by the 3 daytime running light bars in the Multibeam LED headlamps and the crystal-effect LED tail-lamps. The louvres in the grille have been thickened and reduced to three instead of four. Front and rear bumpers have also been revised.
Touch-sensitive controls on the steering wheel, new upholstery choices, tweaks to the layout of the dual 12.3-inch digital screens, and a new push-start button are among the key interior changes.
The touch-sensitive controls offer another access point to the dual screens besides the rotary controller and touchpad. In addition, the latest S-Class now supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The S 560 e is characterised by a long bonnet, flowing silhouette and gently slanting rear end, combined with classic architecture, that results in a car that is modern and elegant. The aerodynamic roof line is also in keeping with its sporty coupé-style intentions.
The subtly created convex-concave effect of the entire flank plus a pronounced shoulder above the rear wheel adds further emphasis to the car’s athletic proportions.
The 19-inch Pirelli P Zero run-flat mixed tyres fill out the wheel wells nicely, and plays along with the air suspension to enhance ride quality.
Essence of hybrid
The S 560 e is part of Mercedes’ growing EQ Power range of plug-in hybrids. The aim was to be able to offer customers with well over 20 electrified model variants in 2020 though that figure may need to be revisited with Covid-19 running amok worldwide.
Plug-in hybrids offer the best of two worlds: in town they run in all-electric mode, while on long journeys they benefit from the range of the combustion engine.
They make the vehicle more efficient overall, because they can recover energy during braking and also allow the combustion engine to run in favourable operating ranges.
The S 560 e features third-generation plug-in hybrid technology. New and improved components enables a greater range and better performance in all-electric mode.
However, the S 560 e’s real world range is 38km rather than the official 50km. It takes around 5 hours to fully charge up the battery from 10% using the supplied cable at a household socket. One can speed up the charging in under 2 hours with the optional RM7,800 wallbox charger.
The torque converter, clutch and electric motor are housed in the hybrid drive unit making for a compact design. Battery capacity has been increased to 13.5kWh after Mercedes switched from lithium-iron-phosphate (LiFePo) to lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt (Li-NMC)
Despite an increase of around 50% in energy content, the new battery is smaller than that of the predecessor S 500 e, resulting in boot capacity expanding 15l to 410l. With typical S-Class boot space at 510l, that’s 100l of space taken by the battery.
Moreover, the battery location just behind the rear seats leads to a stepped boot floor and the rear seats cannot be folded.
The measure of luxury here is the interior trappings. In that sense, there’s no lack of creature comforts in the S 560 e cabin.
The refinements are everywhere from leather-wrapped dashboard that echoes the flowing lines of the exterior, complemented by Nappa leather seats and glossy walnut wood trim.
Automatic climate control, pre-entry climate control, air ionisation and perfuming, reclining rear seats with massage function, Burmester hi-fi, rear-seat entertainment, and front/rear wireless charging for mobile devices are included amenities to indulge passengers.
A panoramic sliding sunroof lets in air and light to create an airy feel.
On the move, a well padded interior makes for a serene space even when travelling at speeds.
While driver and passengers will have little to complain about, the best seats are in the back as befits a flagship limo.
Passengers in the outer rear seats have their own switches that control seat ventilation or heating and individual climate control.
The sweet spot is, of course, the rear left seat, which paired with the Chauffeur package, means an individual can really stretched out with plenty of space as the front seat is electrically shunted forward to allow the back seat to recline even more.
However, the rear headrest pillows are arguably not as soft or fluffy as those in the BMW 7 Series.
The S 560 e is powered by a 3.0-litre bi-turbo V6 engine making 362hp/500Nm.
Boosting the car’s muscularity is the 121hp/440Nm electric motor, resulting in combined output of 476hp/700Nm of torque relayed to the rear wheels via a 9-speed hybrid-optimised gearbox.
Such figures allow the 2.2-tonne car to catapult from 0 to 100kph in a startling 5.0 seconds and onwards to a top speed of 250kph.
All that torque translates to an effortless driving sensation, aided by an engine-motor transition that’s smooth and seamless.
At the same time, this particular S-Class wants to go emissions-free as much as possible, battery-permitting. It really comes into its own when wafting electrically – and silently – down the road.
The interior is already calm by default; there’s very few road irregularities that flusters the car. So propelling it forward on motor-power alone is initially eerie yet enjoyable, turning the interior into even more of a tranquil oasis.
Four hybrid modes and five driving programs let the driver choose whether to use the dynamic combination of engine and electric motor or opt for the car’s highly efficient mode.
Of the hybrid modes, the default HYBRID allows all functions like electric driving, boost and energy recovery to be used based on the driving situation and route profile.
Charging the battery while driving is possible in CHARGE. E-SAVE hoards battery charge for all-electric driving later. E-MODE is where electric driving is activated up to 128kph, with the accelerator signalling the pressure point at which the combustion engine is started.
The S 560 e benefits from a long list of nannies that help the driver steer the car safely. Among them are Active Steering Assist, Active Distance Assist, Active Braking Assist, 360-degree surround view camera and adaptive brake lights.
This big Merc is a luxo barge that is advancing with the times. It’s in its element when called upon to perform frequent short trips punctuated by the occasional long sojourns where the V6 smoothie takes on a more prominent role.
A regular regime of plug-in charging is recommended to make best use of the car’s capabilities.
Motor, engine or a dynamic mix of both, the outcome remains the same for the driver or the chauffeur-driven. The S 560 e delivers exceptional refinements in spades to the inner sanctum.
Mercedes-Benz S 560 e
Engine: 2,996cc, V6, bi-turbo
Maximum power: 362hp at 5,500rpm
Maximum torque: 500Nm from 1,800 to 4,500rpm
Transmission: 9-speed 9G-Tronic automatic
Electric motor output: 90kW/440Nm
Hybrid battery type: Lithium ion
Hybrid battery capacity: 13.5kWh
Total system output: 476hp/700Nm
Acceleration (0-100kph): 5.0 seconds
Top speed: 250kph
Fuel consumption (official): 2.6l/100km
Features: Air suspension, Multibeam LED headlights with Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus, Active Steering Assist, Active Distance Assist Distronic, Driving Assistance package, panoramic sliding sunroof, Magic Vision Control, keyless entry with push-start button, Nappa leather, Exclusive trim package, 10 airbags, Burmester surround sound system, Comand Online with remote control, Air Balance package, Thermotronic automatic climate control, 360-degree camera, rear seat entertainment with wireless headsets, multicontour rear seats with massage function, dual wireless charging, electric roller blinds, Chauffeur package for front seat, hands-free access, soft-close doors and bootlid
Price (on-the-road without insurance): RM658,888