It may sound like a mouthful, but each part of that description points to an S-Class with impressive fuel economy rating of nearly 30 mpg in the European cycle--making it nearly as economical as some of Benz's European diesel offerings, while keeping the trappings of the range-topping S-Class intact. The S400 Hybrid also accelerates to 60 mph in about 7 seconds, preserving the performance expected from a Mercedes sedan.
Mercedes gets those lofty fuel economy figures with what it says will be the first lithium-ion hybrid batteries to hit the road. That's in a series-production vehicle, which means by Benz's accounting, the hand-built Tesla Roadster doesn't count. With its 2009 model-year designation in Europe, the S400 Hybrid will beat the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and the coming Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid to market by at least a calendar year.
The S400 Hybrid is based on the existing S350 sedan; its batteries and motors are teamed with a 3.5-liter gasoline-powered engine with 279 horsepower. The electrics add another 20 hp and 118 pound-feet of torque at zero rpm. The standard seven-speed automatic has been modified for hybrid operation, and stop/start functionality is hardwired in the new hybrid's electronics. Energy is captured for battery charging through regenerative braking.
Mercedes will sell the new hybrid in the United States starting a year from now. No pricing has been announced. We'll have more on the Hybrid, and on the Mercedes concept Fascination, from the Paris auto show in two weeks' time.
2009 Mercedes-Benz S400 HybridEnlarge Photo