My Fleet

Mercedes Benz S600L W221 2009

My fifth Mercedes. The most common car manufacturer in my fleet – so I must like it a lot. In addition to brand loyalty, there are a number of other factors behind my love of Mercedes. They’re really good to drive and everything always works, from the automatic boot lid to the Bluetooth connection. In saying that, I don’t mean to imply the Bentley was a bad car – it’s just how it is with the Merc. Yes, the car doesn’t come with that “special” character you normally receive when buying a Mercedes, should you be looking for that. It looks decent and polite. That’s what I like about the Mercedes S600 – it doesnt stick out much. But it still has 500+ bhp and is able to go from 0-100 kph (0-60 mph) in roughly 4.5 seconds.

Mercedes Benz S600 W221 white
My Mercedes Benz S600 – lots of comfort, little character

When I chose my current Mercedes S600, the option to buy an S63 AMG was also on the table – and I am so happy that I opted for the S600 and not the AMG. The cars have about the same power output (with a difference of about 10 bhp), the same acceleration and when new, a very similar price. But these two cars are very different in their nature. The AMG is a pumped-up gym guy on steroids – quick-tempered, with a stiff suspension, low-profile tires, sports bumpers, side skirts and a noisy exhaust. The S600 is a restrained powerhouse – nothing that exceptional on the exterior (except the V12 badges on the front wings, slightly different exhaust ends and a different front grill), but everything you need to feel well when driving. In the comfort setting the gearbox automatically starts the car in 2nd gear, but once you push harder you can really feel what 830 Nm of torque from a V12 bi-turbo engine is capable of. Most of all, I like how it moves to easily, so lightly…I almost never induce a kickdown. The 5G-tronic is, of course, part of the explanation. Were I to pick a middle name for this car, it would be “Torque”. It even has 80 Nm worth of torque over the Bentley Continental GT Speed, which has 90 bhp more than the Merc. And it uses standard high-profile tires, which is where the real driving comfort comes from!

The enormous amount of torque is why the S600 uses the old-fashioned 5G-Tronic gearbox rather than the 7G-Tronic. The latter can manage the 630 Nm of torque that the S63 AMG produces, but it cannot deal with 830 Nm from an S600 V12 engine.

I also tested the new W222 S500. Newer is usually better, I agree with that. In this particular case, the question for me became: how much better is the W222 compared to the W221? First of all, the former is pretty much exactly twice the price. It did have some functions which my W221 doesn’t have. The W222 I tested had a 4-seat configuration with airplane-style folding tables for the rear seats, which is a solution I like a lot. Not that I would actually need it, as I rarely end up on the rear seat. The massage function was on a whole other level when compared to the W221, and the pillows on the rear headrests were far superior – even when one accounts for the fact that my S600 is equipped with the optional comfort headrests.

Mercedes Benz S600 W221 white Marbella Puerto Banus
The S600 in Puerto Banus, Marbella

From a technical perspective, the acceleration of the W222 S500 was very close to that of the W221 S600, but to get the S500 moving at top acceleration you need to push it hard and use kickdown – almost without exception. I must admit that the S500 gave better results when it came to fuel economy, but this shouldn’t be surprising when comparing a V8 to a V12. Ultimately, I opted for the older S600. With its V12. And torque. a lot of torque.

Is the S600 missing something? Yes, it is. A car with this much power would benefit from 4-wheel-drive. Unfortunately, this isn’t available on the S600, as there isn’t enough space left under the V12 engine to fit in the Mercedes 4-Matic system.

There is an interesting (lack of) logic in aftermarket prices – when new, the W221 S600 cost about €10,000 more than a long wheelbase S63 AMG. (As an aside – the S600 was only produced as a long wheelbase model.) The S63 has done much better in retaining its value when compared to the originally more expensive S600. From a financial perspective, it’s thus clear that buying a used S600 gives much better bang for your buck than buying the aftermarket AMG. So if you’re looking to justify to your boss or significant other why you just had to purchase the S600, look no further 🙂

When I bought the S600 it was just over 5 years old and I paid about 25% of the price it had retailed for when new. There are some objective reasons as to why the price dropped so significantly in this instance – most importantly, the car was initially manufactured during the second half of the W221 production cycle, which meant that the new W222 S-Class had already been out for over a year before I bought the “previous” W221 S600. Additionally the more expensive models, e.g. the S600, drop proportionally in value much more than the lower-end S-Class models such as the S350, where dealership prices are concerned.

It’s a well-known fact that practical cars don’t lose nearly as much of their value as those from luxury brands, particularly high-end models like an S-Class. Around the same time as I bought the Merc, a friend of mine purchased a Toyota Avensis for his father. The Avensis was close in age to my S600 – 5 years and some change since it had left the dealership. In its lifetime, its value had dropped to…75% of the original price. I admit that the Toyota had surprisingly low mileage, so the comparison isn’t 100% fair, but we’re not talking about a PricewaterhouseCoopers-level of analysis of trends in the second-hand car market.

Mercedes Benz W221 rear-seat entertaintment system
Long wheelbase is exactly the right size!

And last, but not least – I have a very good friend who discourages anyone who wants or owns a “long” model. He claims that they are senseless show-off cars and heavily criticises their owners, publicly questioning why they need one, etc. Probably due to some aspect of our relationship, he hasn’t shown disapproval towards my current long-wheelbase S600, but in answer to all the non-believers and any practically-minded people – a long wheelbase is not too long. It’s exactly the right size, as you can see from the picture!