A measure of the sea changes in the new car market is that even in the $100k luxury car market, a V8 engine – at the very least – is no longer a given.
In fact, that kind of money no longer buys more than a six in most of the cars in this class, like the Audi A8 and the Lexus LS500 – which no longer offer more than that, for any amount of money.
The S-Class is Mercedes largest, most luxurious – and expensive – sedan. Well, shy of a Maybach sedan – but that’s in another league.
It is also one of the few sedans in this league that still offers a V8 engine.
Prices start at $111,100 for the S500 – which comes standard with an a 3.0 liter inline six, turbocharged and further boosted by a flywheel starter/generator mild hybrid set up to generate 429 horsepower.
The $117,700 S580 comes standard with a 4.0 liter V8, twin-turbocharged to summon 496 horsepower.
The Benz is significantly more expensive than Audi’s top-of-the-line A8 – which stickers for $86,500 to start but comes in just one trim and with just one engine, which isn’t a V8. Similarly – and even more so – the Lexus LS500, which stickers for $76,100 and which used to come standard with a V8.
It now comes only with a 3.5 liter V6.
That leaves the Genesis G90 and BMW’s 7 Series sedan, both of which still offer V8s as optional engines. However, the current (2022) 7 Series is an older design that dates back to 2016 while the current S-Class was all-new last year (2021). A redesigned 7 Series is expected to debut for 2023 – and it may (or may not) still offer a V8 engine.
The G90’s available V8, meanwhile, isn’t nearly as strong – and the G90 isn’t nearly as speedy, either.
What’s New For 2022
An “E-active” adjustable suspension is an available option for both the S500 and the S580.
Six figures still buys a V8.
More room in the back than most cars have up front.
Rides like the latter-day “Grosser” it is.
What’s Not So Good
It’s become necessary to spend six figures (and then some) to get a V8.
You can still get a V8 – standard – in the Genesis G90 – for less than six figures.
Much less room in the trunk than much smaller cars – and rival same-sized cars.
Cars like the S-Class used to come standard with V8s, at the least.
It was a given when you spent the kind of money that a car such as an S-Class costs. Be grateful – to channel Lord Vader – you can still get a V8 at all in the S-Class.
The standard engine is an in-line 3.0 liter six paired with a mild hybrid system that consists of a flywheel-mounted generator/starter that is used both to provide supplemental, on-demand power – to the tune of 429 horsepower, in total – and to cycle the 3.0 six off as often as practical, not so much to increase gas mileage (who cares about that at this price point?) but rather to reduce as much as practical the quantity of gasses “emitted.” Those not being the ones that create or worsen smog – as they are already essentially nonexistent – but rather the gas claimed to be causing the “climate” to “change.” That gas being carbon dioxide. The less you burn, the less “emitted.” The smaller the engine, the less it burns – and so there you go.
It is why cars like the S-Class, which are six-figure/top-of-the-line cars – no longer come standard (most of them) with V8s, which are larger – and so “emit” more of the dread inert gas, carbon dioxide.
Anyhow, 429 horsepower is still a respectable amount of power even if it comes from a less prestigious (because smaller) engine that is the same size as engines in less prestigious, less expensive cars. It is not, however, as much power as used to be standard in the S-Class as recently as 2017, when this top-of-the-line Benz came standard with a 4.7 liter V8 that made 449 horsepower and a commanding 516 ft.-lbs. of push-you-back-in-the-seat torque – vs. a comparatively puny 384 ft.-lbs. of torque for the 3.0 six that’s standard in this S-Class.
And you can still get a V8 in the S-Class – which you can’t anymore in S-Class rivals such as the Lexus LS500 and Audi A8, both of which offer nothing larger than 3.5 and 3.0 liter sixes, respectively, that max out at 416 and 335 horsepower, respectively.
It isn’t quite as large as the V8 that used to be standard in the S-Class as recently as just five years ago (it feels like a lifetime ago). Just 4.0 vs. 4.7 liters. But it is still a V8, at least. And more than that, it’s stronger. 496 horsepower and the same 516 ft.-lbs. of torque.
Interestingly, it rates the same mileage: 16 city, 25 highway.
Speaking of propelling . . .
The six-cylinder-powered S500 is capable of propelling itself to 60 in 4.8 seconds, an astounding feat for a car this big, this heavy – without a big V8 under the hood. With a V8 under the hood, the car’s zero-to-60 time drops to less than 4 seconds.
This by the way is quicker – in both cases – than the 0-60 times posted by the only other car in this class that still offers a big V8. That one being the Genesis (Hyundai’s luxury division) G90, which comes standard with a 3.3 liter V6 that makes 335 horsepower and can be had with a 5.0 liter V8 that makes 429 horsepower. With either of its two available engines, the G90 is slower – needing about 5 seconds to get to 60.
The G90 is, however, considerably less expensive – either way. The V6-powered version stickers for $74,950 and with the V8, $78,700. That’s nearly $40k less than what it’ll cost you to get the S-Class, with a V8.
I’ve had the chance to drive both versions of the S-Class (see the earlier article that focused on the S500, here). Either version will treat you to that which has become almost as rare a V8 engine in this class of car.
A luxurious ride.
As opposed to the firmer ride of a luxury-sport sedan, which is what most of these kinds of cars try to be. It is an incongruous thing given the point of the thing.
You want to be comfortable above everything else. To be insulated and cushioned from the world – and road – outside. This Benz does it in the manner of the Grossers of the past – that being a reference to the massive W100/long-wheelbase Benz 600 sedans of the past that were the favored luxury sedans of people like the Beatles and which outdid even Rolls-Royce when it came to insulating those within from the world – and road – outside.
This Grosser rides on a 126.6 inch wheelbase and to convey a sense of how long that is, consider that two-thirds of a Chevy Bolt EeeeeVeee would fit in between the Benz’s front and rear axle centerlines (the distance between the two being the wheelbase of a car). That kind length in between the front and rear axles – along with well over two tons of weight steamrollering the pavement – is what delivers the kind of ride that only a really big car can.
It’s more than just that, of course.
Underneath the big Benz is a suspension designed to damp any untoward motion that might arise as a result of all that weight undulating with the road. The optional E-Active Body Control helping to keep the roll under control.
Out back – way back there – the rear wheels do their part (via a new rear wheel steering system) to shorten what would otherwise be a turning radius so wide the back end of the car would still be going straight after the front end came out of a curve. It makes this big car track like a mid-sized car and you’ll be surprised by its athleticism, if you ever feel like exercising it.
Probably, you won’t – because it’s really not the point.
The point is to enjoy the ride, not rush it. Turn on the multi-program seat massagers (you don’t even have to turn them on – just ask the car to turn them on) and feel the weight of the world waft away, following the lead of the three pointed star wherever your whimsy leads you.
It’s an experience not to be missed, even if your S doesn’t have the V8. But you really ought to consider getting it, for it is the thing that puts even more distance between this car and its under-engined/under-powered rivals.
Like the Grossers of the past, this Benz is a big car – but most of its bigness is in between the axle centerlines, the space where the passenger cabin lies. And that space is immense, especially in the rear.
One of the interesting attributes of the S (and shared with rivals such as the BMW 7) is that the rear seating area is more spacious than it is up front, at least in terms of legroom. There is nearly 44 inches (43.8 to be exact about it) in the back of the S as opposed to 41.7 inches for the driver and front seat passenger. If you opt for the S580, you can up that ante with rearseat neck heaters and heated armrests as well as power-reclining rear seats. That’s why “Red” (from the TV series, The Blacklist) rides in back.
Up front’s nice, too. Though it could be nicer.
Mercedes – like every other luxury car maker – went all-in on flatscreens, for everything. The main gauge cluster is now an LCD screen. There’s an even bigger LCD screen off to the right for practically everything else. Plus multi-configurable LED ambient ambient mood lighting throughout. At night, it creates an ethereal glow – and five or six years ago, it was show-stopping. But today, it’s becoming . . . common. A word that ought not to be spoken when speaking of a six figure, top-of-the-line luxury car.
The reason why is that electronica – LCD screens and LED lights – is perhaps the only car-related thing that gets less expensive (and so more common) with each passing year. It is now common to find LCD gauge clusters and secondary LCD clusters – as well as ambient LED lighting – in cars that cost half six figures. It will soon be as common as AC and power windows, even in economy-priced cars.
That won’t be good for luxury cars, in terms of setting them apart from run-of-the-mill cars.
Were I a maker of luxury cars, I’d give some thought to ditching the LCD cluster – in the dash, at least – and replacing it with something that cannot be made or installed inexpensively, so as to give the car the exclusivity it ought to have. Such as fine chronograph gauges, for instance – on the Rolex model. Real metal/alloy trim around it.
The ironic thing is that classic luxury cars like the Grossers of the past had those things. Maybe they ought to have them, again.
The fact that you can still get a V8 is great. It sets the S apart from rivals that no longer rival it, at least in terms of their diminished exclusivity – that being a function of their no longer even offering engines more exclusive than the sixes found in far-less-exclusive cars.
You also get a 30 speaker Burmester ultra, ultra-premium audio system, a rearseat entertainment system and a Heads-Up Display that projects what can only be described as a kind virtual reality hologram of driving info ahead of the car, as you drive. It is far more than the ’70s cheesy R2D2 “help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope” HUDs one finds in lesser cars.
But there is one thing you can’t get in this exclusive Mercedes that arguably ought to be standard – that thing being a full-sized car’s trunk. Instead, you get a small car’s trunk – just 12.1 cubic feet. It’s not an issue if it’s just you – and maybe someone along for the ride. But if you take two or three along for the ride you may not have room enough for their stuff in the trunk. And that’s a shame, because this latter-day Grosser is otherwise the ideal thing for a long road trip.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for something more substantive than just LED mood lighting and a digital dash, the S still has it.
Or at least, still offers it.
Get it while you still can.
. . .
If you like what you’ve found here please consider supporting EPautos.
PS: Get an EPautos magnet or sticker or coaster in return for a $20 or more one-time donation or a $10 or more monthly recurring donation. (Please be sure to tell us you want a magnet or sticker or coaster – and also, provide an address, so we know where to mail the thing!)