SEE ALSO: Mercedes Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS MODEL: 2000 Mercedes-Benz S430 ENGINE: 4.3-liter V-8 HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 275 hp @ 5,750 rpm/295 lb-ft @ 3,000-4,000 rpm TRANSMISSION: Five-speed automatic with TouchShift manual control FUEL ECONOMY: 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway, mpg test WHEELBASE: 121.5 in. LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 203.1 x 73.0 x 56.9 in. CURB WEIGHT: 4,139 lbs. FUEL CAPACITY: 18.0 gal. (est.) LUGGAGE CAPACITY: 18 cu. ft. (est.) TIRES: 225/60R16 INSTRUMENTS: Speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, water temperature, digital clock, oil pressure, battery voltage. EQUIPMENT: Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, power seats, heated seats, cruise control,air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio with in-dash cassette player and in-dash CD player, cellular phone, trip computer, anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes, dual front air bags, side air bags. STICKER PRICE: $71,915
It took an hour for the person who delivered the Mercedes-Benz S430 to explain all the features. Suffice it to say, we're not going to go into all of them, but be advised that the S430 is loaded. I do, however, want to give you some impression of what the car does offer and some of its more salient performance features.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class was redesigned for the 1999 model year, and we're getting it in the United States for the 2000 model year. Styling is much smoother than before and more aerodynamic. The car itself is smaller on the outside yet offers more passenger and cargo capacity than its predecessor.
The engine has also been redesigned. Our tester had a three-valve-per-cylinder 4.3-liter V-8. A 5.0-liter V-8 will also be offered when the heads have been redesigned for three-valve configuration. Naturally, Mercedes-Benz feels confident with its three-valve, two spark plug design.
In the S430, the engine was smooth and offered exceptional performance. It was quiet, yet you always had the feeling that there was a wild animal under the hood ready to be unleashed. Horsepower was rated at 275, which, even in a car that weighed more than two tons, was adequate. I would guess that the S500 will be a luxo-rocket.
This engine was connected to the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic gearbox. As with many luxury cars these days, not only was the transmission automatic, it had a select shift option (called TouchShift by Mercedes-Benz) that permitted the driver to drive the S430 as if it had a manual gearbox. To me, a TouchShift in this car is like putting a three-speed manual with a column shift on a Rolls-Royce, but still we tried it a few times on some more challenging twisting roads and had a ball. An interesting feature of Mercedes' TouchShift is that you don't have to move the lever into a separate section of the control gate. You just shift into "D," and if you want to use the shifter you just tap the lever to the right or left
Performance was excellent, as one would expect from a car that costs $71,000. Acceleration was smooth and silent. At no time did engine noise intrude into the passenger compartment. This was an especially nice feature, because when you're driving a car like this you don't want to be bothered by engine noise.
The passenger compartment is also immune to external noises. You don't hear tire noise or wind noise, and the only vehicle noise you hear from the outside is from the Harley Davidson that might be in front of you.
Handling is equally impressive. The front suspension is independent with four links and a stabilizer bar. The independent rear suspension uses five links and a stabilizer bar. Our primary driving location was on highways, but we took the S430onto some twisty roads. I was impressed with how well it handled for a big car. When you're driving a car this size and it handles like a decent sports car, that's impressive.
Of course there are luxury feature sin the S430. There is Calyptus wood trim to add a not eof class among the leather upholstery and leather trim on the dash. The seats offered 14 power adjustments, including a lumbar support, and were heated. They offered more comfort than the standard Mercedes-Benz seats, which can tend to be hard. The rear seat was wide enough for three passengers. All three passengers had individual headrests. There was a button on the dash to lower these headrests into the seat backs when there were no passengers back there. Those passengers have a lot of legroom to make their ride more comfortable.
The information centers are incredible. There is a button on the steering wheel that changes the windows that you see in the instrument panel. You can time your trip from the time you left. You have a trip computer that tells you how many miles you've traveled, how long it's taken you, what your fuel economy was and what your average speed was for that trip. You can also get similar overall information. The window is also a system monitor that tells you how long it will be before you have to change the oil, etc. Mercedes-Benz has also added route planning with its own screen in the center of the dash.
On the center screen are the radio controls. One feature I liked was the ability to preset nine different stations on separate bands, and it will display on the screen all nine stations.
Needless to say, the Mercedes-Benz S430 is an outstanding automobile. I found it to be more user-friendly than the previous S-Class, which I thought was too big. Its numerous features can be customized and appreciated, and it would take more than a week of road testing to fully appreciate. I would recommend the S-Class to anyone who is looking for a car in this price range, a comfortable car, an executive car, one to feel safe in, and a car that can get you from Point A to Point B in the shortest amount of time.