1996 Mercedes-Benz S-Class

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1996 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Available in 7 styles:  S320 4dr Sedan shown
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Estimated MPG

13–17 city / 19–23.9 hwy

Expert Reviews

1996 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 4.8 4
$ -
June 14, 1996

IMAGINE DYING and going to heaven only to be denied entry because you led a life of excess.

Imagine that happening without ever having had a chance to drive the biggest and most expensive of all Mercedes-Benz sedans, the S600.

You'd have a right to be angry -- to hire a lawyer and file suit against the Pearly Gates Board of Admissions.

For surely somewhere it is written that no one can be judged guilty of wanton indulgence unless he or she has had regular access to the wickedly plush S600.

This is the car with everything for the person who has everything. It has leather, walnut wood, deep-pile carpeting, vanity mirrors front and rear, reading lamps, separate rear air conditioning, a computerized smog sensor designed to keep vehicular exhaust out of the passenger cabin, a top-line Bose sound system replete with cassette and trunk-mounted compact disc changer, power seats and windows, power door and trunk locks, power sunroof, a power steering wheel that moves up and down or telescopes in and out at the push of a button. It has automatic climate control, a hands-off cellular phone, a sophisticated anti-theft system, electronic stability and anti-slip controls, anti-lock brakes, an electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission, front and side air bags and bank-vault doors.

Have mercy! The S600 has a V-12 engine, too! If you can't go to hell in this car, you ain't going; and if you go there without ever having driven this car, you've gone to the wrong place. You'd better find a way to contact Johnnie Cochran.

Background: The only thing I can figure is that Mercedes-Benz wanted to produce a car to demonstrate all of the company's available automotive amenities and technologies.

For example, take the S600's remote-entry system, ensconced in a key-fob transmitter and a single sensor located in the rear-view mirror. Pushing the transmitter button once will unlock or lock the doors. Pushing it twice in rapid succession will open the trunk. If the car is unlocked with its windows down and sunroof open, holding down the transmitter button will raise the windows, shut the sunroof, lock the doors and lock the trunk. Excess? You bet-cha!

Ah, and then there's the matter of the Mercedes-Benz Electronic Stability Program (ESP), which works in conjunction with the company's Automatic Slip Reduction (ASR) and anti-lock braking system(ABS).

The computer-driven ESP monitors and corrects any tendency toward understeer (when a car's front wheels respond too slowly to steering) or oversteer (when a car's rear wheels swing around, causing the car to fishtail). Either understeer or oversteer can lead to loss of driver control -- and a crash.

When it senses understeer, ESP automatically applies brake pressure on the turn's inside rear wheel. During oversteer, the car automatically applies brake pressure to the turn's outside front wheel. Either brake application helps to keep the car going in its intended, safe d irection.

ASR limits wheel spin on wet and icy roads. ABS prevents wheel-lock in panic stops, thus helping the driver to steer around an obstacle.

The S600's double-overhead cam, 48-valve, variable intake, V-12 engine is rated (gulp!) 389 horsepower at 5,200 rpm with torque rated 420 pound-feet at 3,800 rpm. The dang car is 17 feet long and weighs 2.5 tons. But the engine is so powerful, it moves the S600 from 0 to 60 mph in six seconds!

The S600 sits at the top of Mercedes-Benz's S-class sedans, which also include the S320, S420 and S500. The S320 comes with a standard, 228-horsepower inline six-cylinder engine. The S420 comes with a standard 275-horsepower V8, and the S500 is equipped with a 315-horsepower V8.

All S-class sedans (four doors) are front-engine, rear-wheel-drive cars capable of seating four passengers luxuriously in four power seats and a fifth in steerage between the two rear seats. All have trunks capable of carrying 15.6 cubic feet of cargo.

Evenm re expensive S500 and S600 two-door, hardtop coupes are available.

Complaints: Total nitpicks. Mercedes-Benz still doesn't know diddly about cup holders, placing them next to the cellular phone; and it needs to come up with stronger enclosures for its sound-system speakers mounted on the lower front doors. It's too easy to accidentally kick and crack the current enclosures.

Praise: Driving the S600 is heaven on earth, which means you have no reason to expect much in the afterlife.

Head-turning quotient: Gets looks. Creates envy. Gets respect. Creates fear. People who think you got the car legitimately scrape and bow. Those who think it's financed by pelf give you quick, dirty looks, but otherwise stay the hell out of your way.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Triple aces. Ace for braking, too.

Mileage: Ha! You think someone who buys this car is worried about gasoline prices? It gets 16 miles per gallon, maybe. It drinks only the best of premium unleaded. Fuel capacity is 26.4 gallons, which means the range works out to about 406 miles on the usable volume of gasoline. Test trips were with one to two occupants and light cargo.

Sound system: Eleven-speaker Bose Beta system with AM/FM stereo radio and cassette and trunk-mounted CD changer. Simply blows your mind.

Price: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. The suggested retail price is $130,300. Dealer invoice price on the S600 sedan is $113,360. Price as tested is $142,630, including $2,600 in gas-guzzler taxes and another, estimated $9,730 federal "luxury tax."

Purse-strings note: Oh, Lord, won't-cha buy me a Mercedes-Benz? Chances are I ain't goin' to heaven. This will make amends.




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