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Mercedes S 560 e review: Why this S-Class is better than yours

Never mind saving the Earth, plug-in technology makes one of the world's most comfortable cars even more refined.

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MERCEDES-BENZ S 560 e.

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MERCEDES-BENZ S 560 e.

Stuttgart

MERCEDES' flagship limousine is renowned for its comfort, but there's one way to build a better S-Class: add an electric motor. The newly unveiled S 560 e does just that, complementing its twin-turbo V6 engine with a 122 horsepower electric motor.

Like the latest plug-in hybrid cars, the S 560 e can be powered solely by 13.5 kilowatt-hour batteries. The lithium-ion pack contains roughly as much power as 140 iPhone X batteries, and takes around five hours to top up from a charging cable that works with a suitable household outlet. Buy a dedicated, wall-mounted charger, and the charging time drops to 90 minutes.

In return you get a claimed 50km of electric propulsion that's free of emissions, at least at the tailpipe. The petrol engine is on standby if you need to go further (or pick up speed in a hurry).

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In reality (and in Singapore traffic), you can probably travel a little over 30km on battery power, especially with the heavy air-con use that's typical here. That isn't quite enough to cover the 46km that the average car in Singapore clocks up every day, according to the Land Transport Authority.

So why bother? Because electric drive takes the refinement inherent to an S-Class and takes it up a notch.

On a brief drive around the outskirts of Mercedes' hometown of Stuttgart, The Business Times found the S 560 e to be silent to the point of eeriness, like a chariot drawn by phantom horses.

The big Mercedes is quiet by nature, but the hybrid version is tomb-like in comparison, so much so that whenever the engine bursts into life to aid the motor, it sounds and feels like an intrusion even though the V6 is actually a smooth and cultured device.

Both engine and motor can work together to slingshot the S 560 e to 100kmh in a sportscar-like five seconds, but the point of the technology is to use battery power as much as possible.

Efficiency is so important to this car that it thinks hard about how to save power.

All the plug-in Mercedes models have a feature called Eco Assist, which enables a car to take note of its surroundings and react to them so it can save energy. If the S 560 e's cameras spot a red light ahead, for example, it can jiggle the accelerator pedal to encourage the driver to lift off and coast.

When its radar sensor detects a car slowing down in front of you, the Mercedes can slow itself down with regenerative braking, putting energy back into the batteries while helping you keep a safe following distance.

The navigation system can also work out the most efficient way to juggle the mix between petrol power and electricity. If it knows your destination is Shenton Way, for example, the Mercedes favours petrol on the highway part of your journey to conserve battery power for the CBD, where start-stop traffic makes fuel-burning engines particularly inefficient.

A Mercedes engineer told BT that giving the plug-in cars this capacity for obsessive over-thinking can reduce energy use by as much as 5 per cent. But let's be honest, no one buys a Mercedes S-Class to save petrol money, let alone save the Earth.

What matters more is that the S 560 e excels at delivering what's demanded of a Mercedes limo. The air suspension gives the car a magic carpet ride, and the electric motor helps it to glide silently like one, too.

It's not certain the S 560 e will go on sale in Singapore (worldwide allocation is apparently tight), but if it does it will appear only late next year. That means it could go on sale near the end of the current S-Class' lifespan.

But it's common for car brands to send an ageing model off into history with a special edition, and a silent plug-in version would fill that role nicely. For a stately car like the S-Class, it's more than fitting for it to exit the stage not with a bang, but with a whisper.


MERCEDES-BENZ S 560 e

Engine 2,996cc, V6, turbocharged
Power 367hp at 5500rpm
Torque 500Nm at 1800-4500rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
Electric motor 90kW / 440Nm
Battery type/capacity Lithium ion / 13.5kWh
Charging time/type 5 hours / Charging cable
Electric range 50km
System power/torque 476hp / 700Nm
Top speed 250km/h
0-100km/h 5.0 seconds
Fuel efficiency 2.6L/100km
Price To be confirmed
Agent Cycle & Carriage Industries
Available To be confirmed