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Join the rich list with the Merc S 500

Dejan Jovanovic reckons the new and improved 2011 Mercedes-Benz S 500 is hardly a car at all. Think of it more as a lifestyle improvement strategy

  • Mercedes-Benz S 500
    The Mercedes-Benz S 500 Blue Efficiency boasts a top speed of 250kph.Image Credit: Christopher List/ANM
  • Mercedes-Benz S 500
    Looks subtle and that's exactly the point.Image Credit: Christopher List/ANM
  • Mercedes-Benz S 500
    Although there are plenty of gadgets, the S 500 isn't festooned with buttons like the Panamera.Image Credit: Christopher List/ANM

This is not a car. Like a personal butler, a private Learjet, a multi-time zone Patek Philippe watch or a villa on the Côte d’Azur, the new Mercedes-Benz S 500 is just one of life’s little luxuries. It’s like therapy, only an hour will cost you quite a bit more than a self-help book. Rich people buy the S 500 (richer ones go for the S63, and oil barons the S65) not to drive it around, but to tick yet another nuisance off their list; ground travel. Important people don’t like ground travel. They just like to be in one place now, and then another place next. What happens in-between is merely waiting; time better spent trading orange juice stock, or whatever it is they trade.

Merc’s S-Class is their portal through the asteroid field of traffic, wormholing straight to the red carpet of their hotel. Rich guys 1, life 0.

This basically means I’m not entirely sure how to conduct this review. Handling? Yes, the new S 500 Blue Efficiency has some of that. Performance? Well, what do you think? With a more powerful, more economical and more efficient V8 — now biturbo — the S 500 generates 435bhp with 15 per cent less displacement: 4.7-litres instead of
five-and-a-half. Of course, Merc’s daft numbering system allows it to claim that 4,663cc is the same as 5,000cc. Hey, who am I to argue, I failed maths...

Torque has also risen from 530 to an astronomical 700Nm because turbo boost is good for that sort of thing, and the fuel consumption drops to an average of
9.3 litres–per-100km. I can confirm this is true.

And if you really can’t stand wasting your orange juice trading time, with 600Nm available from 1,600rpm, 0-100kph is despatched in five seconds. The world just keeps on spinning backwards as the S 500 hurtles towards its 250kph limited top end, without a pause for breath from the silky, updated seven-speed transmission. It’s not called acceleration here; it’s more like advancement, expansion, or rapid growth.

Acceleration tends to evoke feelings of, you know, head jerked back into the headrest, eyeballs popping and all that. Advancement is more of a linear climb, such as in the S 500. It hurtles through the air like a locomotive, with the turbos feeding air to the eight cylinders as if it was a pie-eating contest. “Here, have some more, more, not enough, you can fit more in there, take it, stuff it all down!”

Of course it’s all a bit classier than gobbling up pies very quickly.

So the powerplant is amazing, with torque available at any revs since each turbo takes care of one bank of cylinders. And in case you feel guilty about chopping down the rainforest to make way for more orange juice factories, it’s OK because the new S 500 emits just 219 grams of CO2 per kilometre. That’s really commendable, because the previous S 500 spewed 41g more.

Yet despite all these changes, Mercedes-Benz has managed to keep the S-Class utterly unchanged.

What I mean by that is it’s still the best limousine you can buy. It has the best cabin, simple and elegant with everything just where you’d expect it and enough space in the rear of the long-wheelbase (3,165mm) model to accommodate LeBron James, plus all his teammates.

Just one thing: super noisy air conditioning. So half the year you’ll be driving around in a Hoover. Actually, from the outside it sounds like an Antonov 225 coming in for landing on your forehead. It’s seriously uncool, especially if you’re sitting there trying to calculate a net profit margin but you can’t think for all the noise. That’s it though. At speed, the S 500 is quieter than a Wimbledon Centre Court crowd. And during every other occasion it does whatever you ask of it; yes, this includes some handling even though the adaptive air suspension is tuned for supple comfort.

Also, just to prove that rich people know how to have fun too, Mercedes included an option to switch off the traction control — that is, if you can find it in the multitude of menus offering everything from a vigorous body massage to mood lighting. Persevere, and the S 500 turns into the world’s heaviest drifter…


... But nobody cares about that, obviously. The only thing buyers of the new S 500 really care about is how to turn time usually spent waiting into time spent making more money. Well, the S 500 can still basically drive itself with gizmos like adaptive cruise control, lane assist, and brake assist, which helps to stop the car before you rear-end some commoner. This leaves you plenty of time to focus on spreadsheets, pie charts, stocks…

And so the referee blows his whistle. Rich guys 2, life 0.


Model S 500 Blue Efficiency
Engine 4.7-litre V8 biturbo
Transmission Seven-speed auto, RWD
Max power 435bhp @ 5,250rpm
Max torque 700Nm @ 1,800rpm
Top speed 250kph
0-100kph 5.0sec
Price Dh556,272 (as tested)
Plus Still the best CEO- carrier in the world
Minus Noisy air con