Until now, those wanting a full-size premium sedan have been forced to choose between the zero emission, cheap-to-run, high performance, all-electric Tesla Model S or far more luxurious, higher-spec vehicles like the low-mpg, high ticket Mercedes-Benz Model S.
Last Thursday however, Mercedes-Benz launched its S 500 Plug-in Hybrid: a car which it hopes will prompt those tempted by Silicon Valley’s famous automotive export to consider giving its first full-size plug-in a try instead.
Priced from €108,994.50 for European buyers — approximately $146,000 by today’s exchange rate — the S 500 Plug-in Hybrid will start deliveries in September, and is powered by a 3.0-litre V6, high-pressure, turbocharged engine married to an 85 kilowatt electric motor.
Interestingly, Mercedes-Benz hasn’t detailed the size of the S 500 Plug-in Hybrid’s battery pack, but from the charging times provided from 20 percent to full (4.1 hours at 230 volts, 8 amps or 2 hours at 400 volts, 16 amps) indicate a battery pack size somewhere between 8 and 9 kilowatt-hours. From that, Mercedes-Benz claims a all-electric range of 20.5 miles (33km) on the European NEDC test cycle, and an overall fuel economy of 2.8 litres per 100km (101 mpg imperial, 84 mpg U.S.) Knowing how lenient the NEDC test cycles are, expect a real world all-electric range nearer to 15 miles per charge, and a fuel economy rating nearer to 75 mpg U.S.
In terms of acceleration, 0-62 takes place in 5.2 seconds in combined mode thanks to a total combined power output of 325 kW and 650 Nm of torque. Top speed meanwhile, is limited to 86 mph in electric only mode, and 155 mph in blended mode.
The eagle-eyed reader will note that the S 500 PHEV comes with three-phase 11 kW charging capability as standard. For a car with such a small on-board lithium-ion battery pack, that might seem like overkill, but we think its presence is more to do with the ongoing drivetrain and battery pack partnership Mercedes-Benz has with Tesla Motors than a desire to keep drivers in all-electric mode. Essentially, the S 500 PHEV’s on-board charger will be the same 11 kW three-phase unit found as standard on the European-market Model S, but its presence is of course a welcome addition for anyone considering buying the plug-in S-Class.
Of course we should point out that the Mercedes-Benz S-Class plug-in hybrid isn’t meant to be an all-electric car. Like the Porsche Cayenne plug-in hybrid announced earlier this summer, it uses a plug-in hybrid drivetrain to lower its overall gasoline consumption in order to meet tough new emissions targets. Zero-emissions, round-town capabilities is essentially enough to enable it to be driven in low-emissions zones in large european cities like London, England, Berlin, Germany and Gothenburg, Sweden.
Like the rest of the S-Class family, the S 500 PHEV is packed with the latest driver-assist technologies and passenger comfort features. Everything from head-up display to electronically-adjustable rear seats, night-view assistant, heated armrests and even TV receiver are available for the S 500 PHEV as optional extras.
Tick every option box on the S 500 PHEV’s order form, and you’ll find the sticker price rising well above the $200,000 price point. While that’s far more than you’d pay for a fully-specced Tesla model S P 85+, the two cars serve a different function in the plug-in marketplace.
If you’re in the market for a full-size, performance oriented plug-in, the Tesla Model S will still be your top pick. If you’re worried about the switch to electric, or dislike the Model S’ rather minimalist interior and large 17-inch touch-screen display however, the S 500 PHEV offers a different way to have a luxury plug-in car.
And while we know which we’d choose, we feel both cars have a valid part to play in the luxury car segment.
At the time of writing, U.S. pricing has yet to be released.
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