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2010 Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid Review & Test Drive

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Filed under Automotive, Featured, Mercedes-Benz, Test Drives

Mercedes-Benz launches an innovative S400 Hybrid model for the 2010 model year. Featuring V8 like power, the S400 Hybrid comes with the world’s first lithium-ion battery designed specifically for automotive use.  The light-weight, high-capacity lithium-ion battery works with a 20-horsepower electric motor and a 275hp V6 gasoline engine to provide hybrid power with impressive fuel economy estimated at 30mpg highway.

All S-Class sedans for 2010 feature freshened styling that includes a more streamlined front grille, larger outside mirrors, and a new front bumper with a chrome strip below the air intakes.  New active bi-xenon headlights include LED turn signals along the lower edge.  The new rear fascia includes LED tail lights and dual exhaust outlets integrated within a recontoured rear bumper.

Inside, the 2010 S-400 Hybrid comes with an upgraded premium leather steering wheel, ambient lighting selected from three hues-polar (ice-blue) neutral (white) and solar (amber).  A rear-seat entertainment system is also now available.

The new Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid uses a 3.5 liter DOHC V6 gasoline engine, a magneto-electric motor and sophisticated hybrid electronics to produce 30% better fuel economy than a comparable S550 model.  Not only does the electric motor make 20hp, but it also produces an impressive starting torque of 118lb.ft. while the gasoline engine develops 275hp and 258lb.ft. of torque.

A powerful computer controls the hybrid system, recalculating the best operating mode 160 times a second.  Capable of up to 50 million calculations per second, the system works to maintain an ideal balance between fuel economy and performance.

The 210-volt lithium-ion battery weighs less than most other batteries and takes up less space, but has high energy density for its size.  As a result, it can be installed in the engine compartment, so the car’s ample trunk capacity and spacious interior are not affected.  The lithium-ion battery has high-strength steel housing, a separate cooling circuit, and its cells sit in a special gel that dampens any jolts and vibration.

Characterized as a ‘mild hybrid’ the S400 Hybrid’s gasoline engine and electric motor work together for responsive performance and its driveline includes a specially configured seven-speed automatic transmission, including paddle shifters on the steering wheel), a transformer to power the 12-volt vehicle system and intelligent operating electronics.  The disc-shaped electric motor is mounted in the torque converter housing, between the engine and transmission.

The hybrid system includes a convenient start-stop function that turns off the gasoline engine below 9mph when braking to a stop.  When the S400 Hybrid is at a traffic light, the gasoline engine is off, but the AC compressor and steering pump are operated electrically, so air conditioning and power steering are fully operational.  When the brakes are released, the gasoline engine is started automatically, and works with the electric motor for seamless performance.

During braking, the electric motor acts as a generator, recovering kinetic energy and storing it in the lithium-ion battery.  Under heavy braking, the vehicle’s conventional brakes also come into play.  Recovered energy is stored in the battery and re-used whenever the electric motor is running.

Mercedes-Benz engineers optimized the 3.5 liter V6 engine for good fuel economy by taking advantage of the Atkinson principal.  By delaying the closing of each intake valve, the intake stroke effectively becomes longer than the compression stroke, increasing thermal efficiency, which reduces fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.

Although Atkinson engines inherently produce less low-speed torque and throttle response, they are ideal for hybrid vehicles because the electric motor compensates for this disadvantage by working with the V6 to provide excellent throttle response on acceleration.  The Atkinson-cycle V6 engine has different cylinder heads, pistons and camshafts as well as modified variable valve timing control and a low-load oil pump for good fuel economy.

While the S400 will never leave any black skid marks on the road, adequate launch was never a problem with the 295hp engine.  It moved out smoothly and with authority when the light turned green and quickly gained speed as I continued to press on the throttle.

The S400 Hybrid has the same interior room, luxury and convenience features as other S-Class vehicles.  The new model is differentiated by unique seven-twin-spoke, 18X8.5in. aluminum alloy wheels and Hybrid logos on the trunk lid and dash as well as BlueEfficiency badging on the front fenders.  A special hybrid pictogram with the speedometer shows the energy flow, energy recovery and battery charge.

Just like other S-Class vehicles, the S400 Hybrid comes with Mercedes’ great feeling speed sensitive power-assisted rack & pinion steering system, four-wheel AIRMATIC suspension with adjustable ride height and automatic lowering with an adaptive damping system with Comfort and Sport settings, 13.2in. drilled and internally ventilated front disc brakes clamped with four-piston calipers and 11.8in. internally vented rear brakes clamped with single sliding calipers, ABS, EBD, and BA.

Standard features not mentioned above include COMMAND with 40GB hard-drive GPS navigation with Bluetooth interface and Voice Control, 15-speaker Harman-Kardon LOGIC7 Surround Sound system with Dolby Digital 5.1, HD digital radio, in-dash 6-DVD/CD changer, in-dash SD card reader, Media Interface & SIRIUS satellite radio, central controller with 8in. COMMAND Display that is easy to use and can be turned toward the driver or front passenger, exclusive Mercedes-Benz quartz clock, power tilt/sliding sunroof with one-touch open/close, power rear sunshade, self-dimming rearview mirror, power remote side mirrors with power fold and drivers-side self-dimming, electronic trunk closer, full leather interior with wood trim and power tilt/telescoping leather steering wheel, 14-way power heated/ventilated/massaging/active side bolstering front seats with 3-person memory on both sides, dual-zone automatic climate control with air filtration, one-touch up/down windows, power door locks, dual map lights, grab handles above all four doors, center console with dual cupholders, dual aluminum sill plates at all four doors, padded armrest and deep storage bin, automatic closing doors, rain-sensing wipers/washers/headlight washers, keyless go with start/stop button, Parktronic rear view camera, full-down rear center console with dual cupholders, center console-rear mounted air-vents for rear seating area, dual-lighted vanity mirrors, thick cut-pile carpeting with thick floor mats.

The instrument cluster is easy to see and understand as is the recessed 8in. color display that prevents glare from distracting your sight.  All buttons and switches are within easy reach and fully illuminated for safe nighttime travel.

Standard safety systems include a tele aid system, steel reinforced cabin with front and rear crumple zones, 3-point seat belts at all seating positions with front pretensioners and load limiters, ISOFIX anchor and tether system, adaptive dual stage front airbags, side airbags mounted in front and rear seats, full-length head protection curtain, electronic stability control, traction control, PRE-SAFE braking system with the Adaptive Cruise Control system, tire pressure monitoring system, and anti-theft alarm with engine immobilizer.

The new 2010 S400 Hybrid is a welcome breath of fresh air that makes the full-size flagship Mercedes-Benz more economical with higher fuel mileage and more efficient with fewer emissions.  EPA specs say 19mpg/city and 26mpg/highway but I received even better results driving the new Benz moderately in city streets and just above the speed limit on the highway.

It has all of the S-Class features and options so nothing is lost when owning the finest car in the world.

Starting price is $87,950.00 and $$92,775.00 fully loaded including destination and delivery.



Price: MSRP $87,950 As-Tested $92,775
Type: Large Sedan
Where Built: Germany
EPA Class: Large Cars


Length: 206.5 in.
Width: 73.7 in.
Height: 58 in.
Wheel Base: 124.6 in.
Ground Clearance: 5.8 in.
Curb Weight: 4390 lbs.
Gross Weight: 5688 lbs.
Front Head Room: 37.8 in.
Front Shoulder Room: 59.1 in.
Rear Head Room: 38.5 in.
Rear Shoulder Room: 58.7 in.
Front Leg Room: 41.9 in.
Rear Leg Room: 42.3 in.
Luggage Capacity: 16.4 cu. ft.
Maximum Cargo Capacity: 16 cu. ft.
Maximum Seating: 5

Performance Data

Base Number of Cylinders: 6
Base Engine Size: 3.5 liters
Base Engine Type: V6
Horsepower: 295 hp
Max Horsepower: 6000 rpm
Torque: 284 ft-lbs.
Max Torque: 2800 rpm
Drive Type: RWD
Turning Circle: 40 ft.

Fuel Data

Fuel Tank Capacity: 23.8 gal.
EPA Mileage Estimates: (City/Highway/Combined)
Automatic: 19 mpg / 26 mpg / 21 mpg
Range in Miles:
Automatic: 452.2 mi. / 618.8 mi. / 499.8 mi.


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