Although many hybrid cars are bought to make an environmental statement, a lot of people consider the choice of a hybrid on more dispassionate grounds. They’re looking to get better gas mileage, but the question alway is: Does the fuel savings offset the hybrid model’s extra cost?
That’s because in most cases, where a vehicle is offered with a choice of hybrid or conventional powertrains, the hybrid version is usually more expensive, sometimes a lot more.
That’s certainly the case with the ultra-luxury hybrids out there: the BMW Activehybrid 7 will run you $19,250 more than a 750i, and a Lexus LS hybrid carries a $34,350 premium over an LS460L AWD. With the Mercedes-Benz S-class, however, the hybrid is actually the least expensive variant: an S400 Hybrid undercuts the S550 by $3650.
So even before your first refuel, you’re ahead of the game. And speaking of refueling, the S400 Hybrid gets a not-insignificant 5 mpg better gas mileage than the S550, in both city and highway ratings. Still, its 19/26 mpg figures don’t exactly make it an economy car. And there is a price to pay in performance. The S400’s 0-to-60 mph time of 7.2 seconds isn’t exactly slow, but neither is it the 5.4-second rocket blast of the S550. Nor does the S400 Hybrid’s big V-6 equal the muscle of competitor hybrid’s V-8’s (their V-8s help explain their higher prices). Still, the S400 is very quick pulling away from a stop, and its powertrain exhibits the same liquid smoothness as the S550. It’s only once you’re moving along that foot-to-the-floor acceleration requests are met with a noticeably less urgent response than in the V-8-powered car. When the S400 is doing its hybrid thing, shutting down the engine as you brake to a stop, restarting when you remove your foot from the brake, the processes are so transparent that the only way to tell is by watching the tachometer. At $88,825 (before options), the S400 Hybrid is hardly an economy car, nor is its 19 mpg city fuel economy especially green. But the fact that it’s both significantly greener and also a bit cheaper than other S-class models and competitors’ hybrids, make a very strong case for the S400 Hybrid as a smart buy amongst megabuck sedans. And I’d guess that even rich folks are happy when they can both go green and save some green at the same time.