Mercedes-Benz S 300 BlueTEC Hybrid L AMG Line
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Mercedes-Benz S 300 BlueTEC Hybrid L AMG Line

Very luxurious but with amazingly low running costs.

Mercedes-Benz put three new versions of its S-Class luxury saloon into production earlier this year. Two of them had V12 petrol engines producing over 500bhp and are very interesting, but they're also completely irrelevant to a discussion about the third.That's because the S 300 BlueTEC Hybrid has very little to do with performance. Instead, it's an attempt to combine very high levels of luxury with fuel consumption and CO2 emissions which would not have been possible until technology made them so in the recent past.The luxury part, I'm happy to assure you, has been well sorted. I would rank the design of the digital instrument display higher than that currently used by Jaguar, and that is no small claim. Noise from all sources is beautifully suppressed. The doors seem to weld themselves shut in a silent and respectful manner after you've settled in, and miraculously unweld themselves when you need to rejoin the outside world.The Hybrid is available only in the longer of the two S-Class body styles, and combined with a function for moving the front passenger seat forward to the point where a six-year old would be gasping for breath this means there is a simply vast amount of room for the lady or gentleman in the left rear position, which in this case is really the only one to be seen in.Being a humble sort of fellow with a Presbyterian background I anxiously declined the opportunity to be chauffeured around the place while sitting there, lest spiritual sanctions be applied by a disapproving higher power. (Colleagues with less fragile personalities cooed about the experience to such an extent that I imagine it must be the closest thing in the automotive world to lying in bed.) But I drove around for a bit, marvelling at how the characteristic Mercedes steering feel, which doesn't seem to have changed much since the 1970s and can feel inappropriate in smaller models, works so well in this one.I made one decision very early on. There are two settings for the suspension damping, and while Comfort may be all well and good on German roads which could serve as an alternative venue for the World Snooker Championship if some disaster befell the Crucible Theatre, it turns the S-Class into a wobbling heap of jelly in the UK. The Sport mode tightens things up nicely, and that's the one I would choose for all journeys on this side of the Channel.So that's the luxury bit covered. As far as the messy bits are concerned, the BlueTEC Hybrid has a 2.1-litre diesel engine and an electric motor producing 201bhp. This isn't a lot for a car the size of an S-Class, and it means the Hybrid is the only model in the range that doesn't need its top speed to be limited to 155mph since it can't get beyond 149 under its own steam.It's also the one with the slowest 0-62mph time, though 7.6 seconds isn't exactly hanging about, and really, do you need to accelerate any quicker than that?In any case, a much more significant figure is the CO2 rating of 120g/km. While the resulting low annual Vehicle Excise Duty payments of £30 aren't going to do much to help your financial situation when you've already paid £72,260 up front, the Benefit In Kind situation is more interesting if you've bought the car through your business, which you almost certainly will have done.The BIK rate is 17% for this year (since the 3% surcharge for diesels doesn't apply to hybrids) and will rise by 2% per year until it reaches 25% in 2018/19. The next most economical S-Class, the non-hybrid petrol 350 BlueTEC, is at 22% now and will hit 30% before the end of the decade.There's one slight snag. I said before that this car is very quiet, and that applies to the engine as much as anything. Sometimes you have to check the revcounter to establish whether it's still running or has shut down to let the electric motor take over.But on those occasions when you can hear it, it's clearly a four-cylinder, and while there are many great four-cylinder engines in the world none of them purrs in the way that a six or an eight would. If there's one thing that makes the S 300 BlueTEC Hybrid seem less of a luxury car than would be ideally the case, this is it.Then again, if you must have an S-Class and you're looking for the lowest possible running costs, there is no other car to choose, and the slightly disappointing sound effects are something you just have to live with. Engine 2143cc, 4 cylinders plus electric motor Power 201bhp Transmission 7-speed automatic Fuel/CO2 61.4mpg / 120g/km Acceleration 0-62mph: 7.6 seconds Top speed 149mph Price £72,260 Details correct at publication date

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