2000 Mercedes-Benz S-Class

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2000 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Available in 2 styles:  S-Class 4dr Sedan shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

16–17 city / 23–24 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 3 of 7
2000 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 3.9 15
$ 2,092-10,204
December 22, 1999

Thoreau said, famously, "Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify."

You wonder what he'd say about a sophisticated and complex German touring sedan like the Mercedes-Benz S500. At $81,000, it's one of the most advanced - and expensive - luxury cars on the market. For that kind of money, the S500 seems like a car more suited to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

He: I wasn't much taken with the new S-class when I first drove it in Austria last fall. It seemed like the car didn't live up to the standards set by the previous model, at least not dimensionally. But the more time I spend behind the wheel, the more I like this German icon. The 2000 model we've been driving feels superior to most of the luxury cars we've sampled in the past year. And even though the current S-class is smaller and lighter than its predecessor, it's definitely a better product.

She: I wasn't much taken with the new S-class when I first drove it to the grocery store. Guess I'm not the jet-setter you are. Mechanicals aside, I was very worried about running my errands in an $81,000 sedan. And it made me wonder: Why don't I feel the same way in a $93,000 Hummer? I'll tell you why. It's because the Hummer looks built to take punishment. But the Mercedes you want to park in the farthest reaches of the parking lot, and you're paranoid that somebody's going to nick the glacier-white paint. That's my first problem.

He: I think you may be underestimating this car's capability. I suppose you could worry about any vehicle in a parking lot. But on the road, the S500 is surely one of the safest cars we've driven. It has a terrific package of safety equipment, including an innovative air-curtain system that helps protect your head and shoulders in a side impact. If you get in a collision, very thin air "mattresses" drop down from the headliner and cover the windows.

She: I appreciate all the safety features and high-tech stuff, like the stability-control system that helps prevent "fishtailing" on slippery pavement. Mercedes has even developed a "smart" cruise control that uses a radar sensor to automatically maintain a preset distance from the car in the front of you. But they need to simplify that cabin. I found it very distracting to try to figure out all the switches and buttons. This is the second Mercedes I've tested where I had to watch a video before I could figure out how to operate all the controls. I think that's unnecessary. Make it intuitive and simple. It's almost like they want to show off that they're rocket scientists, or something.

He: Sorry, honey, but "simple German" is an oxymoron. I agree with you about the complexity. It's excessive. In fact, even though it's gone on a diet, there's an awful lot about the S500 that's still excessive. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. The car still weighs more than two tons. It measures nearly 17 feet long from tip to tail, and rides on a generous 121.5-inch wheelbase. An d yet the S500 feels almost as nimble as the mid-size E-class. Four-wheel independent suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars help the S500 maintain its poise, while speed-sensitive, variable-assist rack-and-pinion steering provides quick, precise control.

She: It's funny. I've got a pile of magazines by my bed, from Country Living to Liguorian. And they all have stories about simplicity. In one magazine, you can even buy a plaque that say's "Simplify" for $35. I agree with that philosophy. Why spend $81,000 when you can get a great American luxury sedan for half that price? What more can I say?

He: For one thing, you wouldn't get that great Mercedes V-8, which makes 302 horsepower and 339 pounds-feet of torque. It produces enough muscle to propel this big sedan from zero to 60 in nearly six seconds flat! And yet the electronic five-speed automatic transmission helps the S500 return an impressive 23 miles per gallon in city driving.

She: We had one annoyin roblem in the S-class. The front suspension kept making sort of a weird crunching sound whenever the car went over any kind of rough pavement. We never did figure it out. It didn't seem to affect the car's performance, and the suspension otherwise worked just fine. It was more of a nuisance. But it convinced me even more to stick with the less-pricey, less-complicated models. Or should I be reading Road & Track instead of Country Living?

He: Let me put it this way. If you have the dough, go ahead and buy the S500. Just be aware that Henry David Thoreau probably wouldn't approve.

Mercedes-Benz S500

Anita's rating: acceptable

Paul's rating: world class

Type: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, five-passenger luxury sedan.

Price: Base, $77,850; as tested, $81,065 (inc. $595 destination charge).

Engine: 5.0-liter V-8; 302-hp; 339 lb-ft torque.

EPA fuel economy: 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway.

12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan*: $2,840 (Estimate. Rates may be higher or lower, depending on coverage and driving record.)

Where built: Sindelfingen, Germany

Likes: Supremely comfortable seats. Powerful V-8 returns surprisingly good mileage. Outstanding safety systems, including innovative air curtains and side bags. Tons of room in the rear.

Dislikes: Odd, crunching noises from suspension. Too many complicated gadgets and systems. Costs twice as much as a Cadillac DeVille or a Lincoln Town Car. Wretchedly excessive (Anita).

    Expert Reviews 3 of 7

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