One of the biggest criticisms of plug-in cars, especially ones which are a plug-in variant of an existing gasoline or diesel model, is that they cost far more than the entry-level, non plug-in model.
Often, they cost more than their respective high-performance non-plug-in equivalent, offering buyers a cleaner, greener ride but at a price premium that simply puts most off. A case in point is the 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid SUV. More powerful than the rest of the Volvo XC90 range, it commands the highest price, despite governmental plug-in car incentives.
You’d think that for its first plug-in hybrid model, Mercedes-Benz would follow Volvo’s lead, putting a premium on its S550 plug-in hybrid. Yet as GreenCarReports and CarsDirect explain, Mercedes-Benz has decided to do the exact opposite, pricing its 2016 S550 at $95,325 inclusive of a $925 destination charge — exactly the same price as its entry-level gasoline-only S550.
For that, you’ll get a twin turbocharged three-litre V-6 gasoline engine mated to a 7G-tronic plus 7-speed automatic transmission, which includes an integrated 85 kilowatt electric motor. Combined with an on-board 8.6 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, the Mercedes-Benz S550 plug-in hybrid is capable of an all-electric range of around 20 miles in all-electric range around town and an NEDC-certified fuel economy of around 84 mpg U.S.
As always, we should point out that the European test cycle is overly optimistic in its results. While the U.S. EPA has yet to certify official fuel economy figures for the model, we’d guess a real-world figure of somewhere between 55 and 65 mpg should be possible, noting that with its battery pack empty, the S550 plug-in hybrid is likely to return sub-30 mpg fuel economy as is the case with the rest of the S550 family.
Like other plug-in hybrids on the market today, the Mercedes-Benz S550 can operate in all-electric, dual hybrid, charge hold and charge sustain mode, all of which will have different impacts on overall vehicle performance and efficiency. When both powertrains operate in concert, it can sprint from 0-62 mph in 5.2 seconds, almost identical to the non plug-in entry-level 4.7-litre model.
As with other S-Class models, the Mercedes-Benz S550 plug-in hybrid will come with a full complement of advanced safety features, including lane departure warning, forward collision assistance, stirring assistance, lane keep assist and adaptive lighting, as well as all of the luxury features you’d expect from a $95,325 Benz.
But while it is priced competitively against the rest of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class family, we’d like to point out that the S550 plug-in hybrid is also a limited-production vehicle, destined at least initially for sale only in certain key markets in California. This makes it something of a compliance car rater than a full-blown viable production model.
Worse still, it’s likely to only attract buyers who are hardened Benz customers rather than prove a conquest car for the German automaker. That’s because the high-end Tesla Model S P85D — Tesla’s flagship luxury long-distance, full-size electric sedan — retails for $105,000 before incentives. Factor in the $7,500 federal tax credit, free fuel for life courtesy of Tesla’s supercharger network, and free over-the-air updates to improve vehicle functionality over time, and we think most car buyers willing to spend upwards of $95,000 on a luxury plug-in sedan will opt for the Model S over the Merc.
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