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New Car/Review


Mercedes-Benz S500 (2001)

SEE ALSO: Mercedes Buyer's Guide

By Matt/Bob Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 78,950
     Price As Tested                                    $ 93,305
     Engine Type              SOHC 24-valve 5.0 Liter V8 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 303 cid/4966 cc
     Horsepower                                   302 @ 5500 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               339 @ 4250 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  121.5"/73.1"/203.1"
     Transmission                           Five-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4308 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  23.2 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                           225/60R16 all-season
     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.)                              0.28


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            16/23/20
     0-60 MPH                                        6.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                         14.0 seconds @ 100.5 mph
     Top-speed                  (Electronically limited) 130 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

(Matt Hagin says the newest version of the Mercedes-Benz S500 is smaller and more nimble than the one it replaces. Bob Hagin says it's still too big to push to the side of the road if it runs out of gas.)

MATT - This newest version of the Mercedes S500 sedan is a car for working millionaires who enjoy driving themselves to work but still want to be recognized as having arrived. The workmanship is of the highest quality and aside from the cheap-looking glove box door, it's impossible for me to find fault with the car. Although it's not a lightweight at 4100 pounds, it can jump to 60 MPH in just over six seconds and the only reason it can't go over 130 MPH is because there's an electronic limiter that won't let it go any faster. Its handling is better than you'd expect from a sedan this size, possibly because of the $5000 Sports Package our test car came with. This system includes electronically- controlled high-pressure air bellows at each corner that "braces" the car on high-speed turns. There's a shorter version of the S500 being sold in Europe, I'm told, but this long-wheelbase model is the only one sold here. And like most ultra-luxury cars, the S500 is front-engined with rear-wheel drive.

BOB - It goes along well because of the spectacularly smooth powerplant it uses. It's an all-aluminum 90-degree V8 that displaces 303 cubic inches, and puts out 302 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. The torque is spread out over a wide RPM band that's pretty flat from 2700 to 4000 revs. It uses a single cam on each head, which operates three valves per cylinder - two intake and one exhaust. Mercedes engineers claim that this design retains more heat in the exhaust system on its way out and heats up the catalytic converter more efficiently to reduce emissions. Its fuel economy isn't down there with the gas/electric hybrids but 20 MPG isn't bad for a luxomobile.

MATT - Technically, this car has almost as many gadgets as a Swiss army knife, Dad. Most of the wiring harness is done through fiber optics which moves the current much quicker and the system doesn't set up much of a magnetic field. This helps cut down on the static in the cell phone system. The traction control system electronically combines the use of the back brakes individually with a reduction in engine power in order to get the S500 back on track if things get out of hand. The audio part of the GPS voice-actuated navigational system can be programmed to respond in seven different languages. The rear seats can be heated by an optional system and the front seats have a system whereby small fans recirculate air through them to cool them off on sultry days. They also have a built-in massage system that changes the position of the lumbar supports twice every minute. It has eight air- bags located around the passenger compartment and if one or more of them goes off, the driver information system signals help.

BOB - And for parking-impaired old-timers like me, there's a radar system that signals if you're getting too close to something in back. And its cruise control is so sophisticated that it not only warns the driver if the closing speed is too fast but it will reduce the speed to a safe level and will apply the brakes up to 20-percent of their capacity to make it happen. The doors and the trunk lid also close themselves hydraulically for the last inch or so. Its Infoservices system uses GPS to link up with the internet to supply the driver with current news, stock market action, the weather and traffic conditions in a predetermined area. There's enough leg room in the back seats for three NBA players to stretch out as long as they're not too brawny. There are turn signal lamps in the outside rearview mirrors and the list goes on and on.

MATT - Another very "trick" item is a classy load-leveling system that acts on both ends of the car and even lowers it a bit at speed to make the car more aerodynamic.

BOB - I ran through the owner's manual and came to the conclusion that it's the literary equivalent of a three-unit lower division college class. Hopefully, there's no final exam.