On the face of it, cars like the Mercedes S-Class are an odd choice for electrification; we think of them as long-distance luxury cruisers. But in truth, many limos spend lots of their time running at low speeds around places like airports and city-centre destinations – so the new Mercedes S 560 e plug-in hybrid may in fact be nicely timed.
This is not the first S-Class hybrid, of course – we’ve had non-plug-in and plug-in electrified versions before. But none of them was able to muster much of an electric-only range. Improvements in battery tech have allowed Merc to cram in more energy density with the S 560 e, though – to the point where the 13.5kWh battery is able to keep the limo rolling without any combustion engine interference for up to 50 kilometres, or just over 30 miles.
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The engine itself is a 3.0-litre V6 petrol unit, producing 362bhp and 500Nm – but this is supplemented by the 121bhp electric motor to give a combined system output of 469bhp and 700Nm. That’s enough to deliver a 0-62mph dash in five seconds flat, along with a 155mph top speed and CO2 emissions of between 57g/km and 59g/km, depending on which trim level and wheel size you go for.
Perhaps more significant is that electric-only range and the fact that the S 560 e can travel at more that 80mph without using a drop of petrol.
That’s the theory, at least. But on the basis of our short test in Germany, we reckon the numbers are actually pretty realistic. We drove the S 560 e for more than 40km, including stretches of motorway running at 60-70mph, and still had a few miles of electric-only range remaining when we got to the end of our journey.
Beyond the maths, though, the S 560 e is an incredibly convincing thing. It has all of the usual S-Class tricks, of course – beautiful interior quality, that hi-tech multi-screen dashboard and a soothing ride quality that manages to soak up the worst road imperfections without losing all track of body control (although there is a teeny bit more heft to the whole set-up, thanks to the battery pack).
Then on top of that, you’ve a limo that can approach and depart from locations in near total silence, with only the faintest whine and tyre noise on whichever road surface happens to be involved at the time. The power delivery takes a little getting used to, as your right foot acclimatises to the throttle modulation for the instant torque delivery of the electric motor, but once you’re over that, you can glide around smoothly and quietly.
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That’s a fantastically appealing thing to the uninitiated; to the type of person who regularly sits in the back of the S-Class, or who makes their living driving people around in one, it’s a potential game-changer.
Of course, as a long-distance tool, the 560 e isn’t going to be quite as efficient as its diesel stablemates – although again, that increased battery size means it gets closer than ever before on all but the most extreme journeys. The PHEV systems require a bit more involvement from the driver, really; you need to follow the car’s guidance if you’re going to extract the best range of your combined power sources.
It certainly isn’t shy about prompting you, with a plethora of on-screen displays and even the occasional ‘tap’ through the throttle pedal as it uses navigation and camera data to work out that you could – or should – be backing off for an impending corner, downslope or change in speed limit. It’s fiddly, yes, and asks you to make decisions that a diesel S-Class simply doesn’t need to worry about. But we can see why lots of people would consider this a price worth paying for those longer spells of silent (and cheaper) running.
Niggles? Precious few. Although it’s a tad disappointing that the S 560 e only gets a 7.2kW charger built in. Yes, the modest battery means that a full charge at the car’s maximum speed will only take about 90 minutes – but the ability to use DC fast-charging would have given it extra flexibility for those who want to use it as an electric-only option.
source: AutoExpress Car Reviews (autoexpress.co.uk)