There is no purely electric version of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. If you want something like that, you’ll need to go with the Mercedes-Benz EQS Sedan. The “something like that” is the important bit there, because the EQS is awfully different than the S-Class. Just look at it, for one. Its design encompasses a wildly different body style that includes a vast hatchbacked trunk and a back seat that, while similar in terms of legroom, has less headroom and fewer available functional opulences. The EQS is more like an electric cross between an S-Class and a CLS.
As much as I like the EQS, I’d rather have this S-Class. Just look at it, for one. Thankfully, if you’re thinking the same thing, there is still an electrified S-Class: this S580e. It’s a plug-in hybrid, and a damn good one, too. Not only is it arguably more appealing than an EQS, it’s also the S-Class I’d get. Hands down, no question.
Here are 15 thoughts about why that is.
1. The electric range is huge
The EPA says the S580e can travel 46 miles on a single charge, but after every full charge, the car was showing 60 miles. That’s immense for a plug-in hybrid, and even 46 is well above average. Other PHEVs are usually in the 30s. This means you’ll be able to drive around on electricity alone a lot longer, and possibly not have to charge every night. I certainly didn’t. It’s also good because if, like me, you accelerate on the more rapid side, your predicted range is going to drop faster than your actual miles driven.
Once that e-range is depleted, things get turned over to a 3.0-liter turbocharged mild-hybrid inline-six, which still gets a bump from the plug-in hybrid’s electric motor. It’s a double hybrid, which sounds unique … and complicated! Then again, this is an S-Class, so par for the course.
After recharging three times in a week and going on two longer drives that eliminated the e-range, I averaged 66.3 mpg in about 300 miles of driving. Had I stuck to around-town driving, as is typical, the car would’ve kept on showing 999.99 mpg in the meter. Yay plug-in hybrids.
2. Not so sure about the DC fast-charging option
This S580e had the $500 DC fast-charging option. The only other PHEV I’m aware of that has this is the Mitsubishi Outlander. Honestly, I’m not sure why you’d need it. The point of a PHEV is that you don’t need to worry about public charging. And given the prices they charge, you’re not really saving money. I suppose there could be some scenario, possibly while traveling … but I can’t think of it.
3. Acceleration depends on a lot of factors
Per usual, there are different drive modes, but in the S580e’s case, they include powertrain sources as well as chassis factors. This isn’t literally what they’re called, but they boil down to hybrid mode, save the electric range for later mode and all-electric mode. I just drove in all-electric, or EL officially, until the plug-in battery was depleted. The initial feel of acceleration is perfect for an S-Class: smooth, torque-rich and utterly quiet. It reminded me of the old V12-powered CL 65 AMG in this way. Push a little harder, though, and that comparison dies quite suddenly. While charging onto a highway onramp (a downhill one no less), that initial torque burst quickly fell off a cliff as the electric motor revealed that it’s only working with 148 horsepower. As I was in EL, the car tried its best for a beat just to make sure I really was all-in on this “accelerating quickly thing” before bringing online the complicated inline-six.
Thankfully, that inline-six sounds great, with a pleasing muffled snarl. No mooing CVT business as in the Lexus TX 550h+ plug-in hybrid I drove before the S580e. Mercedes pegs the 0-60 time at 4.4 seconds, but you’d need to be in Sport for that with all power sources primed for business.
4. It has world-beating suspension composure
At the bottom of that aforementioned onramp is a series of big pavement undulations. Basically, there’s an undulation on the left, followed by one on the right, then another on the left. As the solid white line is still present, you can’t avoid them. Every car I’ve driven over them has bounded about, totally flummoxed by the curveballs thrown at their suspensions … until the S580e.
The S-Class comes standard with Airmatic air suspension with adaptive dampers. Per the press release, “While driving, a sophisticated sensor system and algorithms set the dampers according to the quality of the road to ensure that, for example, driving over a bump with just one wheel is not transmitted to the entire axle and the interior.” Bingo! It definitely works!
And that’s just the standard setup. This car didn’t have the optional E-Active Body Control, which, among other talents, scans the road ahead and preemptively sets the suspension to best tackle any unpleasantness. I can only imagine what it would’ve done with those onramp bumps.
Speaking of that old CL 65, one of the things I loved about that car, and every other big Benz sedan I’ve ever driven, is that they subtly pitch when turning. This is something we just don’t experience in cars anymore, but in a big Benz like this, it’s perfect. I dig it.
6. It has a hood ornament!
And not only can you feel that pitch, you can see it since the S-Class still has a hood ornament. Gotta love it. My 3-year-old son asked me what that thing is, and I explained it thusly:
“You see, cars used to have something called radiators right in front of the car that you poured water into to keep the engines cool. There was a cap on the radiator water, um, hole and car companies put fancy ornaments on top of those radiator caps. Eventually, cars didn’t need radiator grilles like that, but people still liked the ornaments, so they stayed for a long time after. There aren’t many around anymore, though.”
I didn’t go into European pedestrian protection laws, but I had long since lost him anyway.
7. The grille ain’t great
The S-Class may not have a radiator grille, but it does have a lot of crap within its grille. There’s that big plastic shield and a camera asymmetrically placed. Frankly, it doesn’t look great.
8. It does not have a HYPERSCREEN. Good.
Moving inside, the S-Class is not available with the HYPERSCREEN(!) available in the EQS. That’s just fine. Not only does the dash look better, but the screen itself is of a perfectly acceptable size, and the functionality is the same.
Also, while certainly complicated, it’s worth noting how much easier I found this version of MBUX to use versus the new Lexus/Toyota infotainment system found in that aforementioned TX 550h+. That pissed me off constantly. MBUX? Never.
9. The instrument panel can look a bajillion different ways
I can’t say they’re all useful (I’m looking at you weirdo Sport view), but I love how many choices there are for the instrument panel. I mean, why not? What’s the point of a digital instrument panel if you’re not going to go all-out with choices like this. See the Mustang’s Fox Body option as another great example.
You can see some of the various designs in the gallery above, but note that changing the ambient lighting also changes the color scheme of those designs, so there are even more looks from which to choose.
10. 3-year-old boys love ambient lighting
Speaking of ambient lighting, I’m not sure who Mercedes thought 64-color ambient lighting with a multitude of additional multi-color lighting concepts was for, but I can tell you that 3-year-old boys LOVE it. Every week I get a new car, my son asks if it “changes different colors?” Usually, he’s disappointed. It’s not a coincidence that Mercedes is his favorite kind of car besides “blue truck.”
11. Oh, but the ambient lighting gets better!
BUT! Not only are there all those different color choices for my son to demand, I can pull off the extra trick of asking the car to do it for me.
“Hey Mercedes, change ambient lighting to red.”
“Hey Mercedes, change ambient lighting to teal.”
We did this most days on the way to school until we discovered the multi-color scheme dubbed “Miami Beach” that cycles pink, purple, white and teal throughout the insane number of LED lighting tubes spread everywhere in the cabin. He called it “rainbow,” which I was pretty sure “Hey Mercedes” wouldn’t understand.
12. Phone storage is lousy
The little cell phone icon with the lightning bolt indicates that’s where the wireless phone charger is, tucked awkward underneath the center stack. It is not easy to get your phone in there. Then there’s the USB-C port location, which puts your wire right where a cup or bottle would be in the forward cupholder. And sure, the S-Class has wireless CarPlay, but I prefer to use wired due to the reduced battery demands as well as performance issues. Besides, even if your passenger just wanted a charge, this is a terrible location.
13. Enough with the pillows!
If there’s something Mercedes curiously loves more than ambient lighting, it’s pillows. I’m sorry, I do not want a suede pillow gently brushing my head at all times. And it drove my wife nuts. As such, they ended up right there in the back seat after only a few minutes. They also made fitting my son’s car seat more difficult than it needs to be, but I can at least see their merit in the back seat. Also, they are but a strip of Velcro away from being removed.
14. The trunk is very small
So this would be the downside to the S580e. It has only 8.1 cubic feet of space, which is coupe territory. That is 4 cubic feet less than a non-hybrid S-Class, which I found has a less useful trunk than a Honda Civic. Versus the cross-town rival BMW 7 Series PHEV that sports a big trunk the same size as its non-hybrid equivalent, it loses by a wide margin. And compared to the EQS? The answer to that is “LOL.” On paper, the EQS has 22 cubic feet (!), and although comparing the volume of hatchbacks and sedans is not recommended, the difference is still immense.
I did not do a luggage test with the S580e (sorry?), but the main culprit of trunk shrinkage is clearly a much higher floor. I struggled to make a pair of tall reusable grocery bags fit upright, so it would not have looked good for my biggest bags. All my bags would not have fit as they barely did in the S550.
So while the S580e’s gas engine makes it better (or at least easier) for road trips, its cargo capacity makes it worse. You’ll have all the space inside for four people to travel in opulence, but they’ll need to pack on the light side … and possibly with small, soft-sided bags.
15. One more thing about the looks
Never mind comparisons to the EQS, I think the S-Class looks sensational, period. I drove past a new BMW 7 Series, all murdered out in matte black paint, and it just didn’t look expensive at all. This S580e? Also in black and also with black wheels? Beautiful, classy, cool.