Mercedes S600 Review

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

It may not seem logical to start a review of Mercedes new, new-shape S600 by dissing the glove box. After all, this machine is Mercedes' latest salvo in the ongoing German horsepower wars, featuring a battle-ready twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre V12. But trust me, you gotta see this glove box. More specifically, open the lid and take a gander at the tiny light bulb illuminating the cubby. You can see the naked bulb shining above the glove box' top edge. What's more, the lid itself is so flimsy you have to shut it with your fingers directly over the central lock. Otherwise, it just falls back down. Plop.

How the mighty have fallen. Once a Mercedes Benz – any Mercedes Benz- boasted unassailable build quality. Now, the quality of the plastics and workmanship in their top model makes an Audi – any Audi – look like a Rolls Royce (which of course is a BMW). For people who notice and appreciate the way a heater switch feels when you press it, or how a visor adjusts, it will come as no surprise that the S-Class is easily outclassed by a flotilla of less expensive saloons: Jaguar, Audi and, gulp, VW. OK, rant finished. Let's talk about power…

It is often said (especially by Italian tyre makers) that power is nothing without control. No, I'm not going to prattle on about the S600's brakes, which can slow this long-wheelbase leviathan from any speed to standstill before an examiner can whack the dash with a clipboard. Nor am I about to delve into the arcane (if mission critical) subject of how Mercedes' engineers created a gigantic luxury sedan that can negotiate corners at tremendous speeds without ploughing into the scenery. (Note: they didn't.) I want to focus on the relationship between power and self-control.

Bottom line: if you don't have any self-control, don't buy, drive, rent or borrow an S600. One tiny toe point, and BLAM! You're in Porsche territory; locked and loaded. Yes uber-sedan fans, when it comes to straight-line speed, this big bad Benz is a genuine Porsche killer. The S600 needs just 4.6 seconds to blast from zero to 60mph. This pace may only (only!) match a standard Carrera's, but the S600's in-gear shove from sixty on up will give a Turbo nutter something to think about. Like, 'Where the Hell's my 590 lb. ft. of torque?'

That is, it has to be said, a lot of torque. It's so much damn torque it doesn't really matter what torque is. The fundamental point is that this 493 bhp engine, transplanted from the country-straddling Maybach, delivers straight-line speed better than any drug dealer in the free world. Tread gently on the go-pedal, and the S600's supernaturally smooth V12 adds miles per hour to the speedo in that totally mindless manner that cops never believe. Go for it, kickdown, and you can, er, hang on. It's nothing like the punch-in-the-kidneys experience of a Porsche Turbo with afterburners alight. It's more like… free fall. From a very great height.

Mercedes will not release the in-gear times for the S600. Sources close to the telephone say the company doesn't want to make a big deal about the fact that the similarly powered, lesser-torqued, more agile S55 AMG is slower than it's higher priced, mega-torqued, dancing hippo sibling. Informal tests tell the tale. The S600 needs five seconds to accelerate from 80 to 100mph. Another five seconds gives you 120mph. Another five seconds, another ten seconds, and, damn, are we really going that fast? Why?

Enthusiasts and manufacturers usually justify this kind of horsepower stampede-mobile by claiming that the car is not about top end, or driving like a nutcase. It's about passing safety, or technological achievement or some damn pseudo-PC thing. Wrong. It's about unjustifiable grunt addiction. If you have the slightest weakness in the velocity department, the S600 will provide irresistible, magistrate-confronting temptation. In fact, there's only one place on Earth where a red blood petrolhead can drive this car as its makers intended: on an unrestricted German autobahn. On that particular playground, the new, new S600 reins supreme.

Which is, of course, the whole point of the exercise. Why else would Mercedes bother? And why should you? If you're a car nut willing to risk sacrificing your licence on the altar of acceleration, you might as well do it in something small, sexy and fast. Oh right. I forgot: bragging rights. The S600 will certainly appeal to well-heeled boot badge worshippers. And hey! It's only £24,820 more than an equally commodious, long-wheelbase S500. Which makes the S600 a logical choice for badge snobs, autobahnstormers and luxobargers who want to scalp Porsches – as long as they leave their gloves at home.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

More by Robert Farago

Join the conversation
  • 285exp I have been assured that EVs don’t require maintenance, so this seems pointless.
  • Slavuta "The fuel-economy numbers are solid, especially the 32 mpg on the highway"My v6 Highlander did 31 over 10 hour highway trip
  • Aja8888 As I type this, my 4 months old Equinox's Onstar module that controls the phone is broken. Yep, 4 months (never worked right from day one). Replacement will be a REFURBISHED unit since no new ones can be obtained (from China?). I really don't miss the phone via Bluetooth. And I have a great Garmin that I have used for years for trips which has free lifetime maps and traffic.
  • Bd2 There's a reason why talented American execs have been leaving Stellantis in droves.Tavares seems intent in following "Le Cost Cutter" Ghosn into driving his company into the dirt, whilst "justifying" his ever expanding compensation.
  • Bd2 Too bad gm didn't make the C8 better looking to begin with...