Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Cars - LUSH+ HUSH

There’s some­thing mag­i­cal about Stuttgart’s grand saloon. In the limo class it more than held its own against more ex­pen­sive ri­vals from Bri­tain and has over its 40-year his­tory been ac­cepted as a univer­sal sym­bol of class – es­pe­cially the 500s. I’ve long said that if I were to drive one car for the rest of my life, it would have been a pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion ( W222) S500.

I won­dered if I’d be­stow the cur­rent crop of S500s with the sta­tus of be­ing my dream re­tire­ment ve­hi­cle when the S500e L ar­rived for a week-long test at the PM of­fice.

Part of the ap­peal of S500s for me were that they have al­ways been pow­ered by silky-smooth, mus­cu­lar V8 en­gines that al­lowed for ef­fort­less over­tak­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion and high-speed cruis­ing. As you may have fig­ured out by the name, the “e” in its nomen­cla­ture de­notes that this S- Class is a plug-in hy­brid, which means that un­like the V8-pow­ered 500s be­fore it, the S500e L uses a tur­bopetrol V6 in con­junc­tion with an elec­tric mo­tor to min­imise emis­sions and max­imise ef­fi­ciency. With in­ter­est pick­ing up in al­ter­na­tive pow­er­train tech­nol­ogy, Mercedes-benz, tra­di­tion­ally a trendsetter, def­i­nitely can’t be seen to be lack­ing.

So rather than ask what does S500e L does to live to up to S rep­u­ta­tion, I asked what it does to cat­a­pult the lin­eage for­ward.

Well, it doesn’t look any dif­fer­ent from any other S- Class, apart from the badg­ing, which scored highly in my book – es­pe­cially in this long- wheel­base con­fig­u­ra­tion. Its cabin sim­i­larly doesn’t de­vi­ate from the tried and tested path of op­u­lence and ut­most com­fort for the driver and three pas­sen­gers. The dig­i­tal in­stru­ment panel does have a dis­play that helps the driver de­ter­mine how much elec­tric power is be­ing used be­fore the petrol en­gine takes over, like most of the com­pe­ti­tion, but apart from that, you’d have no clue as to the ve­hi­cle’s hy­brid un­der­pin­nings.

That, and per­haps the deaf­en­ing si­lence af­forded by waft­ing along in peak hour traf­fic in full elec­tric mode thanks to about a 65 per cent charge be­fore the morn­ing com­mute. The dou­ble glazed win­dows com­bined with the other cabin in­su­lat­ing ma­te­ri­als are ex­cel­lent on the rest of the line-up, but on this model the ex­e­cu­tion is sub­lime.

It just so hap­pened that my mother, a li­brar­ian, needed trans­porta­tion to her place of work one Mon­day morn­ing and I hap­pened to be driv­ing the S500e L. Be­ing some­one an­noyed by even

the tick-tock of a clock dur­ing the night, she found that the rear con­fines of the cabin, com­plete with pri­vacy glass and win­dow blinds, catered to her taste.

The lack of two more cylin­ders wasn’t missed, as I bus­ied my­self with try­ing to ex­tract the max­i­mum fuel ef­fi­ciency from the hy­brid Mercedes, manag­ing an av­er­age of just over 6 litres/100 km over a week­end (I didn’t recharge the bat­tery overnight, though I ex­pected there’d be a lot more re­gen­er­a­tive charge from the hy­brid sys­tem). And on the oc­ca­sional burst on the free­way, the com­bined out­puts (see above) cer­tainly didn’t dis­ap­point.

I might not want a V8 af­ter all.

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