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2020 Mercedes-Benz S560e Hybrid First Drive Review: Pricey and Pluggable

An all-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class is coming in 2021, and we’ll be driving it soon, sampling its luxurious high-tech interior, agile four-wheel-steering-enabled chassis, and smooth new powertrains. But before we move on to that shiny new thing, let’s look at an S-Class that has very much flown under the radar in the U.S., the 2020 Mercedes-Benz S560e.

That ‘e’ suffix is significant: Unlike the popular S560, which is powered by a V-8 engine, the S560e has six cylinders and an electric motor. It’s a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) with an EPA combined rating of 64 mpg-e that makes it one of the most efficient on the market.

The S-Class of Plug-In Powertrains

The S560e’s powertrain comprises a 362-hp version of Daimler’s long-serving twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 and a 121-hp electric motor sandwiched between the internal-combustion engine and the nine-speed automatic transmission. Total system output is 469 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel the roughly 5,150-pound sedan from zero to 60 mph in a claimed 4.9 seconds. The e-motor drinks its electrons from a 13.5-kWh battery pack that Daimler says gives the S560e a pure electric driving range of up to 30 miles and the ability to do so at speeds of up to 80 mph.

A quick comparison reveals the S560e’s power and torque output parallels that of the regular S560 sedan, in which Daimler’s versatile 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 pumps out 462 horses and an identical 516 lb-ft of torque. According to the factory, the S560e is 0.3 second slower to 60 mph than its sibling, which makes sense given it’s about 380 pounds heavier because of the battery pack and associated hybrid hardware.

There is another, more significant, difference between the two, however: With an MSRP of $110,745, the S560e costs $5,300 more than the regular S560 and $2,300 more than the S560 4Matic—without offering the benefit of the latter model’s all-wheel drive. Is it worth it? Let’s see.

S560 Hybrid: How It Is to Drive

In terms of the overall drive experience, the S560e is little different to a regular S-Class. It’s a smooth, quiet, and comfortable limousine, a serene cocoon of tranquility around town and a preternaturally relaxed, long-legged cruiser on the highway, with all the state-of-the-art infotainment and safety technology you expect in a Mercedes-Benz flagship.

Like all the best Mercedes-Benz sedans, the S560e’s capabilities run deep, as amply demonstrated during a recent 1,100-mile dash from London to Stuttgart and back. On one stint, it traveled 27 miles on pure electric power. On another, while traversing a quiet, derestricted autobahn in Germany, it hit an indicated 145 mph (U.S.-spec cars are electronically limited to 130 mph as they are fitted with all-season tires).

Unlike the regular S560, the S560e has the ability to mix and match the outputs of the internal-combustion engine and e-motor to deliver the best mix of performance and efficiency. Part of the secret sauce here is Daimler’s ECO Assist system, which combines data from the car’s numerous sensors with GPS data to analyze and anticipate road and traffic conditions, and when appropriate, suggest you lift off the accelerator. The system’s algorithms then decide whether to allow the car to coast without any power being applied, to gently slow it via the powertrain, or whether to use the e-motor alone for propulsion or fire up the V-6.

As time was tight, we didn’t spend much time coasting on the way to Stuttgart and back. For most of the trip, we left the car in the default Comfort drive mode, switching to Sport for the faster autobahn sections to sharpen the transmission response and steady the body motions while cruising at 100 mph or more.

Range, Economy, and the S-Class

Even so, the S560e returned an indicated best of 27.8 mpg after starting with a fully charged battery and cruising more than 350 miles through Britain, France, and Belgium at 75 to 85 mph, before picking up the pace to triple digit speeds on a 60-mile stretch of German autobahn. The worst consumption we saw was 18.0 mpg after a 258-mile autobahn blast that started with the battery depleted and included lengthy stints at 110 to 130 mph.

According to the EPA, the V-8–powered S560 gets 17 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway, and 21 mpg combined. Based on our real-world experience, the S560e is therefore likely to be slightly more efficient on the highway, particularly if you start your trip with a full battery. Its big advantage, of course, is on shorter journeys, where the electric motor can do most of the work. Our 27-mile run on pure electric power comprised two miles of slow stop-and-go city driving, 10 miles of 50-mph urban cruising, and the rest in 70-to-80-mph freeway running.

S-Class Plug-In: So, Is It Worth It?

Daimler’s claim of 30 miles of electric range looks realistic. But does that make the S560e worth the $5,300 premium over the S560?

Make no mistake, the S560e is a very accomplished plug-in hybrid, and in some scenarios, notably urban and suburban running where you get the biggest benefits in terms of smoothness, silence, and efficiency, it’s a better car than the regular S560. However, MotorTrend’s cost-of-ownership data, powered by Intellichoice, confirms you won’t buy the S560e because it makes financial sense.

Our numbers show that while you’ll spend about 29 percent less on gas over five years thanks to the plug-in-hybrid powertrain—and save even more if you regularly drive 30 miles or less a day to maximize electric motoring—the S560e will depreciate by 66 percent, four percentage points more than the S560. Total cost of ownership over five years for the S560e is thus $119,804, compared with $114,991 for the S560.

The irony is that while at first glance the S560e seems like a car to satisfy the head, it’s really a car for the heart—one for those who want to drive the S-Class of hybrids.



2020 Mercedes-Benz S560e Specifications
BASE PRICE $110,745
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE 3.0L/362-hp/369-lb-ft twin-turbo SOHC 18-valve V-6, plus 121-hp/325-lb-ft electric motor; 469 hp/516 lb-ft comb
TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 5,150 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 124.6 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 206.9 x 74.8 x 58.8 in
0–60 MPH 4.9 sec (mfr)
EPA FUEL ECON 21/26/23 mpg (gas); 58/73/64 mpg-e (gas+elec)
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 130/160 (gas); 58/46 (gas+elec) kWh/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.84 (gas); 0.30 (gas+elec) lb/mile
ON SALE Currently

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