By on April 28, 2008

mercedes_s_class.jpgThe last gen U.S. S-Class lineup included a short wheelbase model with a 240hp 3.7-liter V6. Yes, the S350 was out there. Somewhere. In terms of sales? Nowhere. Hence today's U.S. S-Class consists of the S550 and S600 and variants. But now that federal fuel economy standards are promising nay demanding a higher love, is the time right to offer a new S350 or twin-turbo six-pot 735 to the American market? Overseas, such engine and car combination are, of course, de rigeur. Stateside, Merc and Bimmer have maintained their prestige and justified their high costs by cramming gadgets into the cars and upping standard horsepower again and again. On the other hand, only two years ago the S500 had 300 horsepower; the 3.6-liter V6 in the 2009 Benz SLK350 offers 300+ horses. And BMW's 7-Series launched with 325 horses– a number that's not far removed from the twin-turbo I6' probable output. So why not? Many buyers of vehicles north of $60k just want the best, the most, the top of the line. An engine shared with a puny C-Class or 1-Series? They might just say no thanks. Are the two German automakers between Iraq's impact and a hard place?

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21 Comments on “Is It Time for a U.S. V6 Mercedes S-Class? Twin-Turbo I6 BMW 7-Series?...”

  • avatar

    Very good question.

    It’s one of the 1st things that surprised me when moving to the US: people equate big-hp engines with luxury, a concept that disappeared in Europe, where those engines are associated only with sports. Most of the cars going 150mph on the autobahn have engines that are not that big.

    So in itself, yes, it’d make a lot of sense to offer smaller engines in those luxo-barges. When’s the last time you saw one burning tires, except when driven by auto journalists?
    On the other hand, somebody paying more than $70k for this kind of vehicle in the US expects the biggest possible engine, and doesn’t care about fuel prices.

    I think we should ask this question again in a few years.

  • avatar

    Maybe they can offer those cars here with diesel engines at a price under the base of say, a 745i.

    Then again, imagining a 735i with say, a 340hp twin turbo I6 wouldn’t be a bad idea.

    So lets have it!!

  • avatar

    I know it’ll never happen, but I’d love to have a stripper 7-series. I hate gadgetry in my cars (moreover, i hate to pay for gadgetry), but I like big cars. Since we have no unrestricted highways in the US, i don’t need a billion horsepower. 250 would work ok in a 7-series-sized car. hand crank window 7 series for $35K? sign me up.

  • avatar

    In the late 1980’s early 1990’s with the W126 there was a 300SE and 300SEL offered in Canada, with the W140 there was a 300SE offered for a few years. They were 6 cylinder cars.

    For whatever reason there is a dramatic difference driving a 6 cyl S Class compared to driving a V8 or V12 S Class. Especially in North America where V8’s are a requisite for a luxury car.

    Should they develop cars with improved fuel economy, and less useless gadgetry ABSOLUTELY…

    Should they start redefining the luxury sedan of the future….YES.

  • avatar

    I’d love to see a Phaeton or A8 with V6tdi. Torque to get it moving, but no need for drag-race-ready hp. As an American, 99% of the time I see a luxobarge, it’s going the speed limit and not exactly racing away from stoplights. In other words, driving at “one-tenth”

    Conversely, all over Europe I’m surprised to see cars like the E200(?), with a 4-banger in the E-class….the base engine here is the 265hp V6, and I find it to be WAY more than adequate for most of the suburban mommy driving duties in which I see it most often. I applaud whenever I see a rare cdi model.

    I guess part of me is yearning for a time when big, powerful engines were fewer and farther between, rather than stuck under the hood of everything and used for almost nothing. I don’t want a house with lots of unused space. I don’t want a car with lots of unused capacity.

  • avatar

    As long as the numbers on the trunk lid say 500 or 600 they can put whatever they want under the hood. Most buyers are interested first and foremost in the status they have with these cars and care little what drives the rear or front wheels for that matter.

    The Germans have always marketed their cars at the top of their markets. If I recall the last Mercedes that could be ordered with vinyl seats and roll down windows was the 240D of the late 70’s and early 80’s. Since then I believe they all come with leather and all the power options. Rightfully so the folks at Mercedes Benz of North America figured out that the buyers in this country wanted all the goodies that come with luxury cars.
    Americans redefined the luxury sedan and it is called a SUV. The future of luxury will likely be a hybrid of some sort, with many nice features and space.
    Besides if you can afford a Mercedes Benz S class I doubt seriously that $4 or even $5 a gallon gas is an issue.

  • avatar

    Besides if you can afford a Mercedes Benz S class I doubt seriously that $4 or even $5 a gallon gas is an issue.

    I hear this quite often, and it is probably true for many buyers. But what if the person wants lots of car (capital expense) without incurring massive fuel/tax/insurance costs (operating expenses)?

    Just because someone is capable of buying a large house doesn’t mean they automatically should be able to afford a maid service and lawn care, etc. I just think it would be nice for buyers to have a choice…to be able to buy a very nice car that doesn’t automatically entail massive additional costs, like the gas guzzler tax and 15mpg performance.

  • avatar

    Cadillac did not put a V8 in the CTS and they were seen as coming up short against BMW and Mercedes in the engine department.

    I find it hard to understand how anybody could be willing to accept a six-pot in a car like an S-Class, when a 300 hp V6 was seen as inadequate for a car like the CTS.

  • avatar

    Definitely. There has been an absurd power “inflation” in this class of cars over the past decade and the choice of a smaller engine makes sense. Since most S class and 7 series luxo barges are driven quite leisurely by their owners, a cheaper and more economical 270-300 hp 6 would definitely find some buyers.

  • avatar

    @ash78- since these cars are an exercise in profligacy anyway, basically the same rule applies, don’t buy them if you can’t afford them. Frankly, they will probably go up in status, if down on sales, if gas is more expensive, as it is a better sign that the person is affluent and doesn’t actually care about the price of gas.

    It is not like they are real drivers’ cars or anything – a lot of these cars are chauffeured, so performance is less important than in the US.

    I think they really need to bring the weight down in these cars (well all cars really). If I was one of these companies, I would be hiring off Lotus engineers so I could go onto the gram scale and start shaving.

  • avatar

    Just label your V6 S-class the S700. It’s the trunk badge that matters, no the HP available at the top of the RPM range.

  • avatar

    Maybe they just need to add “badge delete” to the option list, kind of like the good old days. I can’t even think of a car that doesn’t look better when debadged. Unless you’re taking the badge out of a divot, of course.

    DIY is easy, but rich people can’t be bothered with fishing line and a hairdryer.

  • avatar

    Maybe they could use the same trick as the LS600H and just call it the 745T? The numbers aren’t too far off what a naturally aspirated V8 made a few years ago. In fact, looking just at the numbers, BMW’s turbocharged 3.0L makes almost the same peak torque as GM’s 4.6L Northstar V8s from the early-mid 90’s

  • avatar

    Right here in Europe, the base models (S350/S320CDI and 730i/730d are actually by far the most sold versions.

    The biturbo I6 isn’t available yet in the 7 series and not even in the 5 series in Europe by the way…Well, the I6 biturbo diesel is, but that is another story.

  • avatar

    “federal fuel economy standards are promising nay demanding a higher love”

    Jack the existing car up off the ground and get CAFE light-truck status. That will earn you 7 MPG right there. Just make sure to include an adjustable suspension so that the user can drive around all the time in the lowered state so as to not ruin the handling or further worsen the MPG.

    Or, consider how many many miles your typical S600 owner flies per year… in their own private jet… getting 1 or 2 MPG and covering hundreds or even thousands of miles each day.

  • avatar

    here’s the difference between those V6s and the V8s – Power Delivery

    sure, the aggregate horsepower is there – but the torque isn’t – the people buying these cars want a huge, lazy torque band with power EVERYWHERE – they don’t want to rev to 7500 rpm to make that power, and they don’t want to have to wait for peak torque to kick in.

    Plus you can’t match a smooth V8 (well, maybe you can with a flat-6 or V12 . . . but not much else).

  • avatar

    I know I’d definitely interested in having six cylinder engines in affluent cars like the S Class and the 7 Series. Others would probably label such a person as “cheap money” or “new money” but hey, once it’s got a “7” or “S” in the name so what if it’s a 735i or a S350?

    Then again manufacturers like those who realize you want the size but not the engine of these cars will be happy to point to the 5 series or E Class on the other side of the show room.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz


    Definitely agree with you about the smoothness and progressiveness.

    But about the torque curve, have you seen the plateau that is the 335i?

  • avatar

    If I remember correctly, the W140 S-class was offered with an I6.

    Maybe instead of the V6, Merc can bring back the smaller V8, like the S430, which would probably be S450 now. I heard some rumor about this, but it probably wouldn’t work to well, since the fuel economy wouldn’t be that much better since it’s still a V8.

    IMHO, all the V12s from Merc and BMW should stop being produced.

  • avatar

    A gasoline V6 laboring to move barges that big isn’t going to be very frugal, in fact I’d put money on them using nearly as much fuel as the V8. I doubt that people who can afford to purchase cars this expensive can’t afford the fuel to operate them (and insure and maintain them).

  • avatar

    I’d like S-class smoothness and luxury at a lower price. If that means a smaller engine, ok. I’ll take used (S55 AMG?) though.

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