2003 Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Change year or car

Change year or car

$72,600

starting MSRP

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

6 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2003 Mercedes-Benz S-Class trim comparison will help you decide.

2003 Mercedes-Benz S-Class review: Our expert's take

By

The verdict:

Versus the competiton:

Redesigned for the 2000 model year, Mercedes-Benz has continuously refined its S-Class flagship sedan, bolstering its competence with bells and whistles to an almost-scary level of sophistication. Hop behind the wheel in T-shirt and jeans, and you’ll feel lucky the car agrees to start.

The test model, a 2003 S430, is the cheapest in the S-Class lineup – of course, “cheap” is relative, when the starting price is $72,600. The “430” refers to the engine size, a 4.3-liter, 275-horsepower V-8 that is, like all Mercedes V-8s, smooth and strong.

It’s mated to a five-speed automatic transmission that is nicely calibrated for the engine’s power and offers “Touch Shift” if you’d prefer to shift for yourself. Flick the lever left to downshift, right to upshift.

Inside, it’s all leather and wood, with more than enough room for five genuine adults. At 203.1 inches long and 73 inches wide, the S430 is smaller than a Dodge Intrepid, but the car feels much roomier than you’d expect. Handling is reasonably nimble for the 4,160-pound vehicle, but it isn’t as sporty as, say, a BMW 7-Series. Fuel mileage – at 17 miles per gallon city, 24 mpg highway – isn’t bad.

Even with no options, the test car was loaded. Features included the “Airmatic” air-controlled suspension, front and side air bags with side curtains, a navigation system, a 10-speaker Bose sound system, rain-sensing wipers, the TeleAid satellite-linked emergency communications system, electronic stability control, even a power rear-window sunshade. I am not crazy about the COMAND system, a TV screen in the dash that controls multiple functions, and a few other unintuitive controls will send you to the owner’s manual for explanation. Perhaps your butler can explain it to you; mine was unavailable, so I was forced to figure it out for myself.

As mentioned, there are more expensive S-Class sedans – the V-12-powered S600 lists for more than $115,000 – but even the S430 is humbling. The new-for-2003 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, completely redesigned to favor the S-Class probably more than S-Class owners would like, will likely steal some sales from the S-Class until Mercedes redesigns it. The 2003 E500 has a 5.0-liter, 302-horsepower V-8, and while it may not have the S-Class’ cachet or quite as many features, it lists for less than $55,000.

If you can afford the S-Class, though, I am certainly not trying to talk you out of it. Capitalism is a wonderful thing.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 5.0
  • Interior design 4.9
  • Performance 4.9
  • Value for the money 4.7
  • Exterior styling 4.8
  • Reliability 4.6

Most recent consumer reviews

5.0

Strong sturdy car with original miles

Clean car room for the family plus you got the horsepower and strength these kinds of cars are rareAC heated seats 💺 20 inch rims with all the bells includes new floor mats

4.7

Best car I've ever owned

I've owned this car for 10 years and travel over 170k miles with it,. 220k on it right now. I've replaced tires, brakes, wiper blades, changed the oil, and replaced the alternator. Awesome car, still drives like when I bought it.

5.0

Beautiful car inside and out.

Arrive in style. If you want luxury and performance then this car is for you. Set the car to comfort or sport mode with the touch of a button.

See all 23 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Mercedes-Benz
New car program benefits
Bumper-to-bumper
48 months/50,000 miles
Corrosion
48 months/50,000 miles
Powertrain
48 months/50,000 miles
Roadside assistance
-12 months/unlimited distance
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
6 years old or less/less than 75,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
1 year/unlimited miles
Powertrain
1 year/unlimited miles
Dealer certification required
164-point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

Compare the competitors

2002

Acura RL

$43,150

starting MSRP

1999

Land Rover Discovery

$33,000

starting MSRP

2009

Land Rover Range Rover

$77,675

starting MSRP