It's hard for me to turn down the chance to drive any Mercedes-Benz S-class for a weekend. Unfortunately, it's hard for my bosses to do so, too, so I rarely get the chance, and happily jumped at my most recent opportunity. The S-class debuted way back in 2005, but I still adore the car's luscious, super-comfortable cabin. Also, the Comand system's infotainment controller is very intuitive and still strikes me as one of the best on the market, even after half a decade. Many people, including me, have criticized the S-class's exterior styling, but it says something when a car that's been on the shelf this long continues to attract so much onlooker attention. This car -- and this brand -- clearly still have plenty of cachet.
The S400 Hybrid offers exceptionally good fuel economy for a vehicle of this size (19/25 mpg EPA city/highway), and it costs $2000 less than the least expensive V-8-powered S-class, which is rated at 15/23 mpg. Over 300 wintry weekend miles, I averaged an indicated 23 mpg. Handling and steering feel are quite good, but the brakes feel unnatural (although not as bad as those in most Toyota hybrids), and acceleration, particularly off the line, is a bit sluggish for a car of this class. Luxury sedan customers who are also interested in decent mileage would be foolish to ignore the six-cylinder BMW 740Li, which costs a whopping $15,000 or so less than this Benz, earns competitive EPA numbers (17/25 mpg), and is significantly quicker. I personally still prefer spending time in the elegant Mercedes flagship sedan.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor