SEE ALSO: Mercedes Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 77,850 Price As Tested $ 90,740 Engine Type SOHC 24-valve 5.0 Liter V8 w/SPFI* Engine Size 303 cid/4966 cc Horsepower 302 @ 5600 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 339 @ 4250 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 121.5"/73.1"/203.1" Transmission Five-speed automatic Curb Weight 4157 pounds Fuel Capacity 23.2 gallons Tires (F/R) 225/60R16 H-rated Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/four-door Domestic Content N/A Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) 0.27 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 16/23/20 0-60 MPH 6.5 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 15.0 seconds @ 97.5 mph Top-speed (electronically limited) 130 mph * Sequential port fuel injection
The 2000 Mercedes-Benz S-Class (S430 and S500) is one of the world's most technologically advanced production vehicles. Never mind that it's smaller, lighter and more efficient than the last generation S-Class, the part that's fun is trying to discover all of its special features.
Two hours perusing the owners manual is all it took to intuitively master the multitude of switches, buttons and controls on our test S500.
OUTSIDE -The new S-Class looks smaller and slimmer than before. It's still classified by the EPA as a large car, but the wheelbase and overall length are both over two inches shorter than the previous model, and it's 1.3 inches narrower. The shorter overhangs and a lower beltline contribute to this effect. Softened contours, gently sculpted hood line and sweeping headlights give it a sleek coupe-like appearance in an efficient four-door package. Attention to aerodynamics paid off in a low 0.27 coefficient of drag. Mercedes offers its "designo" trim series with most of its model lines, and the S-Class is the latest to receive this treatment. With the S-Class, adding the package gives the choice of either Espresso or Silver paint, along with a host of interior features.
INSIDE -The front and rear seats are redesigned and covered in rich "Nappa" leather upholstery. The padding is firm (a Mercedes trademark), but overall, very supportive. On long trips, a Mercedes leaves the driver almost refreshed. The dashboard is filled with buttons to operate various gadgets and gizmos, with a small TV-like screen in the center that displays the navigation system operated from satellites. It also displays the audio and built-in telephone prompts. The whole integrated system is called COMAND (Cockpit Management and Data). The standard dual zone climate control system includes exterior sensors to monitor various weather conditions, while a superb Bose-brand sound system can be packaged with an optional trunk-mounted six-disc CD changer. Heated, 14-way power front seats are standard, as is cruise control, power tilt/telescoping steering column, variable speed wipers, auto-dimming rearview mirrors and a sliding/pop-up glass sunroof.
ON THE ROAD -The latest S-Class is powered by a new modular V8. The S430 uses a 4.3 liter version, while the S500 offers up 5.0 liters. Both use a single camshaft on each cylinder head, along with three valves per cylinder. Depending on engine load, two plugs fire with a short time gap, at the same time alternating between the two for better combustion efficiencies and less noise. The S500 has 302 horsepower, which is down a bit from the last version, and 339 pound-feet of torque. It launches off-line quite well and gives impressive 0-60 mph times. Passing power is even better, with plenty of pull left well after the speed limit has been exceeded. Mated to this engine is a five-speed automatic transmission that "learns" the piloting patterns of its driver, and a Winter/Sport button gives the driver the choice of more traction on slippery roads or sport shift points. Traction control is standard.
BEHIND THE WHEEL -The unit body platform of the new S-Class is quieter and stiffer than the version it replaced, and extensive use of aluminum parts has trimmed 500 pounds off the car. The four-wheel independent suspension uses what Mercedes calls "AIRmatic," an air-ride and active damping system that keeps the car level at all times. To maintain directional stability, the company has added an Electronic Stability Program (ESP). This system uses special sensors to detect a slide, then makes adjustments to the anti-lock braking system (ABS) and the traction control system to bring the car back under control. The system doesn't eliminate accidents, but it helps the driver avoid potential problems. A new rack-and-pinion steering system replaces the old model's recirculating-ball setup to give a lighter, more accurate feel. Four-wheel, vented disc brakes (cross-drilled in front) are standard.
OPTIONS - CD changer: $400; rear A/C: $1,400; heated rear seats: $595; "designo" trim: $8,500.
SAFETY - Dashboard, side impact and window curtain airbags, ABS, traction control, ESP and side-impact door beams are standard.