Mercedes S-Class PHEV review: Hybrid luxobarge is in a class of its own

Mercedes-Benz S-Class PHEV — wonderful and all as it is — is something of a mystery, having as it does the capability of only 99.7 km of driving on pure electricity
Mercedes S-Class PHEV review: Hybrid luxobarge is in a class of its own

Mercedes-Benz S-Class





from €150,500 - €159,286 as tested


3ltr turbo petrol with a 110 kW electric motor and 510bhp

The Spec



one of the best cars ever made? Possibly

It might seem mildly preposterous to suggest that a €159,000 Mercedes S-Class is anything other than a wonderful piece of kit, laden with heavyweight tech and blessed with the most extreme comfort levels imaginable to humankind.

But this car – an S-Class 580 E LWB PHEV – wonderful and all as it is, is something of a mystery, having as it does the capability of only 99.7 km of driving on pure electricity. 

Now, there may be some extremely rich people who really, really need to be able to drive a limousine – which is what it is - for no more than 99.7 km on any given trip on electric power only.

The only thing is, I don’t know any. At all.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Mercedes-Benz S-Class

It may be that this particular Mercedes stumps everything other PHEV in the executive sphere right now with the distance it can travel on electric power only; the new Range Rover – no; the new Bentley Flying Spur – no; the Audi A8 60 TFSIe – no. Anything from Lexus or Jaguar – pfffttt.

Of course, the S-Class – the Sonderklasse, as it was originally known to everyone in Mercedesland – is a flagship standard-bearer for everything the Stuttgart stands for and that means at any given point in time, it is the car which everyone else tries to outdo.

Others will try, of course, but as is said in the current English language argot – best of luck with that, then.

Here at Examiner Motoring we have always had a somewhat disdainful view of the whole PHEV idea. It was invented by the motor industry to try and ease their way into the world of electric cars and as a starting point for those who need to do high mileage but would like the choice of being electric while around town on short commuter hops.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Many governments latched onto the PHEV schtick as laudable and accordingly granted tax-breaks to those who bought them. When they realised, however, that cynics were using the vehicles only because of their tax-friendliness and not for their environment-friendliness and that a majority of the vehicles were never near a charging point and only purchased because they took a few grand off the list price, the tax-breaks stopped.

Having tested quite a number of PHEVs to date, we arrived at the conclusion that any one of them with a range of over 60/65 km were reasonably worthwhile tools, but anything with a capability less than that were as useful as an inflatable dartboard.

Thus, with a range a tad under the 100 km mark, the S580E falls into the ‘useful’ category, but in truth this is a car which is a stunning example of what a car company can do when it puts it mind to it. It’s truly mind-blowing, but does pose the question: who the hell will buy one?

Anyway, let’s get to the specifics about the S580E. It is powered by a three litre straight six turbocharged petrol engine to which a 110 kW electric motor has been added. The combination of the two makes for a power output of 510 bhp, which is more than a 1990’s Formula One car had.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Mercedes-Benz S-Class

The electric motor is fed by a 28.6 kWh battery and that provides the near-100 km range and, on a fast charger the battery can be fully topped-up in just 20 minutes. It’s presence also allows Mercedes to claim an economy figure of 0.9 l/100 km (314 mpg) which, of course is true in fact, but in reality merely aspirational. In the real world you will, with careful application of your right foot, get somewhere around 5.04 l/100, km (55.5 mpg).

But, forgetting about the economy stuff, there is also a 5.2 second 0-100 km/h to be enjoyed – not to mention the limited top speed, which is set at 250 km/h. I’m certain you don’t need reassurance from me that the performance – from a car not so much smaller than the Leopard 2 tanks which Germany will soon be deploying to Ukraine – is truly eye-popping.

Acceleration is ferocious and impressive all at the same time, but there is no wildness here; everything is composed and sure. The same applies to the ride, which is as cossetted as you might expect from a car costing this much gelt; so too the handling which as sure-footed as a Rocky Mountain goat, largely thanks to the Airmatic suspension.

And you course then you come to the luxury of the car and the improbable sophisticated tech that is on offer here. I mean, there’s even a fingerprint scanner which, once activated, configures the car to the driving, seating and temperature settings as specified by the owner of said fingerprint.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Mercedes-Benz S-Class

It truly is hard to explain the levels Mercedes technical and design people have achieved here, but suffice to say that there is little else out there on the market right now that can come anywhere near the complexity and comprehensiveness that’s on offer in this car. It is astonishing – there’s no other word for it.

During the course of my time with the car I was privileged to be asked to ferry the legendary Linda Kennedy from Cork to Crookhaven. Having just suffered a torn Achilles tendon, the crippled Kennedy had to be transported sitting across the vast rear seats – which can be specified with a massage function and fully electric and heating controls – something which she found to be impossibly luxurious.

So too the décor – all soft leather, gorgeous wood, with a little metal thrown in – is at the Louis Quatorze end of the scale. And the MBUX infotainment has been completely upgraded, to the point where the system reads the road in front of you and provides a basic type of pace-note system which tells you what’s ahead. Fascinating and brilliant at the same time.

The driver’s instruments too have a 3D effect which is stunning and you certainly don’t have to ask about whether the car is roomy or not – it’s massive. So too the boot, although a little smaller than the standard S-Class because of the battery.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Everything about this beast then is something of a source of wonder; this truly is an exceptional car and possibly even better to drive and live with than even the regular S-Class. That, believe you me, is some claim.

But we come back to the question of who exactly is going to buy one? Well, it could, I suppose be an environmentally friendly funeral director, or simply a very rich person with something of a conscience when it comes to environmental matters. I don’t expect Mercedes to sell many of these cars, but the very fact they made it is something of a triumph in itself.

If the electric S-Class, the EQS, was a tour de force, then the S580E trumps even that in so many departments. Quite the thing, all told and the five-star rating is well deserved.

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