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Mercedes S-Class: The €160,000 dilemma posed by this powerful, super-luxury saloon

Whether you’re driving or being driven, the three-litre petrol engine may hand you a dilemma 


The Mercedes S-Class PHE is packed with technology and is a powerful drive with 510hp combined output

The Mercedes S-Class PHE is packed with technology and is a powerful drive with 510hp combined output

The Mercedes S-Class PHE is packed with technology and is a powerful drive with 510hp combined output

I’d love to have the €160,000-or-so dilemma posed by this week’s test car – I’m sure you would too.

The car in question is the powerful petrol plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of the acclaimed Mercedes S-Class.

There is no doubt it’s a powerful, super-luxury saloon. But is there something different I should be looking at with my imaginary €160,000? And does that option already sit invitingly within the broader Mercedes network?

I found myself asking that question as I swished around in my silver, long-wheelbase, test S-Class – a car many consider to be the best production passenger vehicle in the world.

It was a strange feeling to be driving something of such prestige and calibre while pondering the merits of an alternative.

Before going into that, let me tell you a little about this plug-in I had on test. It was enormously roomy - my Nappa leather-clad model had rear seating space that dwarfed my 6ft 1in frame when I sat in to explore its dimensions.

The same applied when a passenger of similar stature joined us. He appeared to be quite a distance from us, way back there with so much space to himself. And that’s virtually everything to do with the extra-long wheelbase.

With that sort of room, buyers of a certain ilk can choose to be driven in style. Time is precious to many such occupants and not having to drive means business can be conducted while on the move.

They’ll expect, and most definitely get, a cabin bathed in leather, with immensely comfortable seating. And they will be mostly cocooned from the outside world thanks to the relative quietness of power distribution, heat-insulating, noise-insulating and infrared-reflecting laminated glass.

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However, the fact that there is a three-litre, 6cyl petrol engine out front, conspiring with a large electric motor to work in hybrid tandem to produce a system output of 510hp, might tempt some rear-seat owners to take to the wheel for a while.

They’ll enjoy their time there because this is a real performer. It is no slouch from a standing start to 100kmh – a mere 5.2 seconds. And all this for €140-a-year road tax, due to a claimed mere 18g/km. I know, it’s mad isn’t it? But that is the way the cookie crumbles with our emissions-based taxation system.

Funnily enough, any quibbles I felt worthy of mentioning had to do with the driving end of things. When driven at moderate speeds it was mostly hush-quiet, though the engine could be heard kicking in, on occasion. That shouldn’t happen in a Mercedes of this quality and cost.

And, for some reason, despite a copious amount of wheel and seat adjustment (electric, naturally), I always felt I would like to have sat a wee bit higher and feel I had better all-round views. They are minor quibbles, however.

The car had genuine handling appeal – the sort that comes from a finely-tuned air suspension.

So there I was, feeling like a chairman of the board, cruising around the country enjoying the drive, sensing the power, feeling the road feedback through the steering wheel (nicely weighted) – but every so often I’d ask myself: should this be “my next car”?

If so, why not? And if not, why so?

The thing is that Mercedes also have within their ranks the all-new EQS full-electric limousine flagship that I recently reviewed here.

It is a mould-breaker; a compendium of innovation. It is not an electric S-Class saloon but is the equivalent of the S-Class in the electric sector. It can cover 770km (claimed) so range anxiety is not an issue.

Would I be better off owning it rather than opting for a plug-in S-Class with a three-litre petrol engine? Would it not be the long-term environmentally and economically friendly thing to do? Yes, the model I had cost €168,000 but it had nearly everything you could dream of. And what’s €9,000 or so at that level of expenditure?

Against that, the S-Class is longer, wider and lighter than the EQS (but not as quick to 100kmh – 4.3 seconds).

Above all, the S-Class LWB has so much useable room.

As I’ve said, I’d love to have the €160,000-or-so dilemma prompted by it. But I have to ask myself: would I buy it?

It’s a really tough call and I suppose it boils down to a case of different strokes for different folks.

The S-Class is a genuinely great piece of work, I liked it a lot.

However, I’d probably opt for the EQS purely because of what it stands for as we turn the corner ever more energetically into the electric era.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​


Mercedes S-Class S580e LWB, plug-in, €150,500. AMG line; with extras €159,286. 3-litre, 6cyl, 367hp, electric motor 150hp, system output 510hp, claimed EV range 102km, €140 tax.

Spec includes Nappa leather, airmatic suspension, MBUX augmented reality for nav, spread of driver assists, MBUX entertainment system, 12.8ins central display, 3D surround sound, heated seats, ‘intelligent’ parking.

Options included: 20ins AMG alloys, panoramic roof, 360° camera.