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First drive: New power for cleaner S Benz

More torque: Merc S-Class gets new engine line-up to compete with newer rivals.

Increased efficiency and more AMG grunt keep Merc’s ageing limo ticking along

22 Feb 2011

MERCEDES-BENZ has overhauled or revised almost every engine in its five-year old W221 S-class range, bringing palpable improvements from the smallest V6 to the range topping V12 AMG.

The fresh range will include Australia’s first Euro 6-compliant emissions vehicle, the BlueTec diesel S350.

On sale now from $213,428 for the base diesel, the price of entry into the S-class sphere drops by $4372 because the S350 CDI BlueTec escapes the luxury car tax due to its sub-7.0L/100km fuel consumption figure.

However, the volume-selling S350 V6 petrol now costs $2850 more.

Nevertheless, compensation comes in the form of increased safety, while the evergreen V8-powered S500 and S63 AMG now boast twin-turbo technology (like their existing V12 powered brethren) to help Mercedes achieve its efficiency and performance goals.

However, don’t strain your eyes searching for big visual cues, since this generation S-class was facelifted under 18 months ago, and so there are no obvious exterior changes to speak of.

The all-new W222 S-class is due in Australia in 2013.

But the big ageing Benz does catch up with its younger compatriots such as the Audi A8 and BMW 7 Series among others in offering Active Blind Spot Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist – a pair of active safety features that, respectively, either warns the driver of a vehicle that may be within striking distance if a lane change is going to occur, or discourages the car from straying into another lane via steering wheel vibrations and appropriate braking application. Both are now standard on all models.

4 center imageTop: Mercedes-Benz S350 CDI. Bottom: Mercedes-Benz S63AMG.

More than half of all S-class buyers are expected to settle for one of the new direct-injection V6 offerings mated – like all W221 models bar the S63 AMG and V12s – to a 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission, with the $220,650 S350 BlueEfficiency slated to snare the lion’s share of sales.

Motivated by a 3.5-litre double-overhead-cam 24-valve V6 petrol unit, the latter delivers 225kW of power at 6500rpm, 370Nm of torque from 3500-5250rpm, 9.0 litres per 100km of 95 RON unleaded petrol on the combined average cycle, and 210 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions. It also sprints to 100km/h in 6.9 seconds on the way to a 210km/h top speed.

In contrast, the outgoing S350’s identically sized V6 petrol produces 200kW, 350Nm, 9.8L/100km, 234g/km, and a 7.3s 0-100km time, but the same V-max.

For more torque combined with better fuel consumption, the Germans have comprehensively overhauled the new, cheaper diesel.

Now known as the S350 BlueTec, and only available in the standard 3035mm short wheelbase body that is some 130mm shy of the 3165mm ‘L’ long wheelbase version optional on most of the other models, the diesel kicks off from $213,428. As before, the S350 badge is misleading, since the new BlueTec employs a variation of the old 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel unit. In this iteration it returns 190kW at 3600rpm, 620Nm from 1600-2400rpm, 7.0L/100km, 185g/km, a 7.1s 0-100km/h run time, and yet another 210km/h top speed.

This compares with the old diesel’s 173kW at 3600rpm, 540Nm at 1600-2400rpm, 7.7L/100km, 202g/km, a 7.8s 0-100km/h-sprint time, and (you guessed it) a 210km/h top speed.

Part of the S350 BlueTec’s appeal is the addition of Mercedes’ AdBlue urea-based filtering system, which helps neutralise nitrogen oxide pollution to rank among the world’s cleanest diesel engines, according to Daimler.

Moving on to the direct-injection V8s, the latest S500 is now a 4.7-litre biturbo BlueEfficiency engine instead of a 5.5-litre unit.

Power rises from 285kW to 320kW (at 5250rpm) and torque now tops out at 700Nm (from 1800-3500rpm) instead of 530Nm, for a 0-100km/h time of 5.0s flat (a 0.4s cut) yet this 250km/h speed-limited limo can average 10.5L/100km (a 0.4L improvement) and 244g/km (instead of 260).

If that’s still not enough, the S63 AMG eschews the not-so-old naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 (stats: 6208cc, 386kW, 630Nm, a 0-100km/h in 4.6s, 250km/h, 14.4L/100km, 344g/km) for a 5.5-litre biturbo V8 delivering 400kW at 5500rpm and 800Nm from 2000-4500rpm for a 4.5s 0-100km/h time, while slashing almost 4L/100km off the combined average to achieve just 10.6L/100km, as well as a massively reduced 247g/km of CO2.

Some of the gains are made possible with the adoption of AMG’s Speedshift MCT (Multi-Clutch Technology) – a seven-speed transmission with three driving modes (including an Eco function to save fuel) and a compact wet start-up clutch.

The S63 AMG also is equipped with idle-stop – a first for the S-class.

The S600 L, in the meantime, is basically the same – a 5.5-litre biturbo V12 petrol with 380kW at 5000rpm, 830Nm at 1800-3500rpm, and mated to a five-speed automatic gearbox. As before, it hits the 100km/h mark in 4.6s on its way to a limited 250km/h top speed, and consumes 14.3L/100km while emitting 340g/km of CO2.

Finally, the S65 AMG L tops the S-class range, leveraging a revised 6.0-litre V12 petrol and five-speed auto combo to pump out 463kW at 4800rpm (up 13kW) and 1000Nm from 2300-4300rpm. It also records a 4.4s sprint time to 100km/h, 14.5L/100km (down 0.2L) and 334g/km (a 12g improvement). The efficiency gains have come about mainly due to new exhaust gas turbochargers.

Both AMG models include sports suspension using Active Body Control (ABC) with Torque Vectoring Brake, crosswind stabilisation and loading adjustment system to virtually eliminate body roll and improve handling and grip.

As before, all W221 S-class models feature a four-link front suspension system with gas shockers and an anti-roll bar at each end, while most models have a speed-sensitive rack and pinion steering system.

All models have air suspension, except the S63 AMG and V12 models, which retail steel coil springs but have an advanced active control system that works hydraulically.

Among other items for 2011 is a new personalised leather package under the ‘Passion’ label (it comes standard on the S600 L), as well as a Bang and Olufsen audio upgrade (included in the S65 AMG).

In 2010 the outgoing S-class narrowly lost market leadership in the Upper Large segment over $100,000 segment to its long-time 7 Series foe – 239 versus 253 sales. Both Germans have about 28 per cent market share each, with the newcomer Porsche Panamera and revamped Audi A8 filling in the next two spots at 109 and 87 units respectively. The Lexus LS was fifth with just 60 buyers for the year.

2011 Mercedes-Benz W221 sedan pricing:
S350 CDI BlueTEC (a) $213,428
S350 BlueEFFICIENCY (a) $220,650
S350 L BlueEFFICIENCY (a) $238,975
S500 BlueEFFICIENCY (a) $296,975
S500 L BlueEFFICIENCY (a) $315,300
S63 AMG (a) $392,900
S600 L (a) $412,000
S65 AMG L $499,200

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