Until now, that is. Yes, it has been a long while. This locally assembled hybrid, which stunned the local industry with its attractively low pricing in 2014, has landed in our hands.
But even as that happened, a refresh is due out locally soon to spur S-Class sales. In fact, Daimler has just started production of the latest S-Class at its plant in Sindelfingen, Germany.
In the absence of that other car, introduced with great fanfare at Auto Shanghai in April, here’s a look at what the S 400h offers. It’s a last glance before the latest iteration sweeps in, loaded with new bells and whistles.
Even after three years, the current V222 model still looks sharp, exuding a sporty elegance for a car so big. Unlike the norm, the long wheelbase V222 version was created first before the standard wheelbase W222 model came along. It’s upon this foundation that the upcoming facelifted model is built upon.
Exterior and interior
In the pictures shown here, you can see that the S 400h cuts a dignified stance, with almost a regal look in black paintwork. Soft lines pervade and its size is only appreciated when seen sideways as the front and rear lend an illusion that it’s not all that big.
At 5.2 metres long, the S 400h has a hefty presence and should gain some respectful overtures from hotel valets as it wafts into view.
In keeping with its luxurious credo, the flowy interior is decked out with generous lashings of wood panelling that runs from dashboard and wraps itself all the way door to door, appealing to conservative-minded buyers who are the target of the classic theme.
Mercedes-Benz knows luxury and comfort like the back of their hands and you expect no less in their flagship model. There’s little to gripe about the interior fitments of this outgoing model as everything from switchgear to interior space and feature set reflect attention to detail and the promise of plush comfort.
Of course, that much-talked about ultra-wide digital screens first seen in the S-Class, and which has seeped down to the lower liners like the E-Class, has arguably no equal from other luxury car makers and takes centrestage upfront.
At 510 litres, boot space is still generous after the lithium-ion battery stack has taken its share.
Backing up a large car into a parking bay is always going to be a hassle but the S 400h makes it much less so with an all-around view that removes all blind spots and ensue you don’t run over someone’s pet iguana on the loose.
Safety kit is taken care of with an array of tech goodies such as blind spot assist, active lane keeping, Distronic Plus with Steering Assist, adaptive headlights, night view assists and eight airbags.
The kind of person who buys this particular S-Class isn’t too concerned about performance, pivoting towards sheer comfort. He’s also drawn to the accessibility of the luxury car with the tax breaks that it gets from being a locally assembled hybrid. The thought he could save a few ringgit in fuel bills with a petrol-electric motor is a nice afterthought, not to mention that hybrids are de-rigueur these days, whichever segment they are in.
We would be remiss in not acknowledging that many an S-class owner pay a premium for the chance to occupy acres of space in the rear — when they are not driving — and the S-Class bends over backwards to please. While technically a five-seater, four persons in the car would be ideal, so that each can better enjoy the vehicle’s charms.
Space front and back have been enlarged, more so for rear passengers when compared to the previous generation of the S-Class, while wheelbase remain unchanged. The two reclining rear seats are satisfying, allowing passengers to kick back and revel in the car’s sumptuous offerings, which includes the 590-watt, 13-speaker Burmester hi-fi system.
The left-side rear passenger is pampered the most, being able to shove the front passenger seat (when empty of course) forward to gain even more legroom.
Where performance is concerned, the S 400h is no sluggard. But it’s not going to make you go “Wow!” either. Under the lid is a 306hp 3.5-litre V6 engine and a 27hp electric motor, which is good for only 1.6km in electric mode.
You could feel the naturally aspirated engine pushing it as it sprints from standstill to the century mark in 6.8s, which is quick for a car that approaches two-tonnes. Top speed is capped at 250kph, and combined fuel consumption is rated at 6.3 litres per 100km.
The motor and engine works flawlessly with only a slight sensation to signal the engine has kicked in.
The air suspension does a fabulous job of ironing out most road irregularities so the S-Class occupants glide along in blissful abandon. Steering feel is muted but there’s precision in the way it tracks the road and the corners. Body roll even in Sport mode is noticeable when the car is pelted hard into corners.
Most of the time, we left it in comfort mode and were quite happy with it. The only reason we dial it to sport mode was for the purpose of this review. In sport mode, the Airmatic suspension stiffens up but not by much, and still deliver the underlying comfort the car was designed for.
Some S-Class drivers have recommended downsizing the 20-inch tyres to 19-inch for better comfort and durability.
It's a wrap
The outgoing S 400h has enjoyed a great run since it debuted locally in May 2014. It’s time to chart a fresh course to the future. If that obsidian black metallic S-Class that heralded the start of production in Sindelfingen is anything to go by, the future is even brighter for the S 400h as it pulls up alongside with the latest from BMW and Audi.
We hear the new A8 from Audi is the car to beat as its Level-3 self-driving technology enables the car to completely control driving at up to 60kph.
Mercedes-Benz S 400h (V222)
Engine: 3,498cc, naturally aspirated V6
Maximum power: 306hp 6,500rpm
Maximum torque: 370Nm from 3,500-5,250rpm
Transmission: 7G-TRONIC automatic
Electric motor: 27hp
Features: Engine stop/start, twin 12.3-inch high-resolution TFT screens, 16-way powered front seats, LED Intelligent Light System with Intelligent Headlight Control Plus and Dynamic Light System, and electric panoramic sliding glass sunroof. rear-seat entertainment system with remote control, automatic climate control, ambient lighting, Distronic Plus with Steer Assist and Stop and Go Pilot, BAS PLUS with Cross-Traffic Assist, PRE-SAFE Brake with Pedestrian Recognition, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, and PRE-SAFE PLUS, 20-inch alloy wheels
Acceleration (0-100kph): 6.8s
Top speed: 250kph
Fuel consumption (combined): 6.3l/100km