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2010 Mercedes-Benz S 65 AMG. (Daimler AG/Mercedes-Benz)
2010 Mercedes-Benz S 65 AMG. (Daimler AG/Mercedes-Benz)

What Car?

When only a Mercedes will do Add to ...

Gentlemen:

Much has been made in the media recently of the fact that Lincoln is offering their rather vulgar MKZ in the United States at the same price for either gasoline or gas-electric hybrid versions. If I want to ride in a Lincoln, I merely call the airport limousine company of which I am a frequent customer.

What you may not have noticed is that the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is also offered in gasoline or gas-electric hybrid versions at basically the same price. Well, there's a couple of thousand dollars difference, but that's lunch money.

Question: I am a long-time Mercedes S-Class owner and I'm not interested in any other marque. Which version - gas or hybrid should be my next S-Class?

Richard

2011 Porsche Cayenne
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Cato: Richard - in fact, may I call you Dick, because I think I know you well enough to call you Dick? - Dick, time to put aside all that American media, push away Rupert Murdoch's Fox News-like Wall Street Journal.

And I know Fox News doesn't bother with facts when inflammatory rhetoric and Sarah Palin's idiotic musings are so much better for ratings, but let's try for the facts here, shall we?

On the surface, the Mercedes S400 Hybrid, at $105,900, stickers very close to the S450 ($108,000). However, the two cars are equipped quite differently. Hybrid system aside, the S400 Hybrid is a rear-drive saloon, while in Canada the S450 is all-wheel drive.

The gasoline-powered S450.

Vaughan: Cato, Richard obviously knows that the S-Class is Merc's top-of-the-line flagship. And I'm certain he knows the price of the S450 with an eight-cylinder engine (335 horsepower) and seven-speed automatic transmission stars at $108,000. Someone as refined and worldly as Richard would also know the price of the S400 Hybrid with a six-cylinder engine (295 hp) and seven-speed automatic transmission.

Cato: Thanks for running those power numbers, Vaughan. Here's the point I'd make about them: going hybrid in the Benz means a lower price tag but almost no compromise in raw power output. But that's not why I'd take the hybrid in a heartbeat.

Dick, as you well know, in glorious Toronto you can sit jammed in traffic for hours. The S400 has a stop-start feature that turns off the engine while keeping the air conditioning running while you're stuck. That will cool all the hot air inside your car, Dick.

Vaughan: Cato, you are missing the essence of our man Dickie. And for him, I'd recommend take the V-8 version in a heartbeat.

You seem to have overlooked the fact it snows in Toronto - sometimes there is lots of it. A few years ago, the nutcase mayor called in the army to clear it. Well, Dickie-boy won't have to wait for the army; he can drive right through in his four-wheel Mercedes. He'll never miss an expensive lunch again.

2010 Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid
.

Cato: Vaughan, you are just sooooo wrong. For the vast majority of buyers, all-wheel-drive is an unnecessary expense in a city car. Good winter tires provide all the traction needed in most cases.

Now speaking of a car for the city, the S400 Hybrid is ideal. It has a 3.5-litre V-6 coupled to a mild hybrid system - basically an electric motor to provide a bit of extra acceleration boost. Great getaway power AND the best fuel economy of the S-Class line AND for less money than the S450. Can't beat that, Dick.

Vaughan: Well the V-8's not too shabby. It'll move Dickie between gas stations with great rapidity. These things are built for the uber-rich on the autobahn - speed limit optional. For such a heavy car, it feels remarkably athletic. If Dickie goes nuts, he can order the V-12 AMG with 603 horsepower for a mere 234 large.

Cato: Now Dick, every S-Class is a symphony of Mercedes technology. Take safety. One standard feature is something called Attention Assist. It monitors several dozen aspects of the driver's behaviour to figure out if he or she is falling asleep. If the answer's yes, then bells and whistles go off to wake you up.

When working with Vaughan, here, I often find myself wishing I had something like Attention Assist to keep him focused.

Vaughan: Cato, I figure Dickie never sleeps - at least not in his car. But what an interior, if he did - nicer than a Rosedale mansion. When your car is in the 100-grand snack bracket, you get something pretty special.

Cato: Dick, Vaughan wants to reduce this to a choice of irresponsibly roaring down the autobahn in the 450 or protecting the planet in the S-Class Hybrid. It's not quite that simple, though simple always is best for Michael Vaughan. With the S Hybrid, you can do both - and spend less money to boot.

Vaughan: Dickie, go for the V-8 - traditional, raw power in a lovely package.

Cato: For the record, Dick, Mercedes offers a V-12 version of the S, but you don't need it. We'll include the specs just the same.

Vaughan: Finally, something Cato and I agree upon.

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 2 p.m. on CTV.

HOW THEY COMPARE



2010 Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid

2010 Mercedes-Benz S450

2010 Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG

Wheelbase (mm)

3,165

3,035

3,165

Length (mm)

5,206

5,079

5,206

Width (mm)

1,871

1,872

1,871

Height (mm)

1,473

1,473

1,473

Engine

3.5-litre V-6/electric motor and 144-volt lithium ion battery pack

4.6-litre V-8

5.5-litre V-12

Output (hp)

(torque)

295 hp

284 lb-ft

combined

335 hp

339 lb-ft



603 hp

738 lb-ft



Drive system

Rear-wheel

All-wheel

Rear-wheel

Transmission

Seven-speed automatic

Seven-speed automatic

Five-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

2,050

2,095

2,300

Fuel economy

(litres/100 km)

11.0 city

7.7 highway

14.2 city

9.0 highway

19.4 city

12.0 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$105,900

$108,000

$234,000

Source: Car manufacturers

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