Mercedes-Benz Unveils S500 Plug-in Hybrid

Courtesy of Mercedes
Mercedes S500 Plug-in Hybrid

The new Mercedes will join Porsche and BMW plug-in hybrids competing with Tesla's Model S for Hollywood's status electric car

Add Mercedes-Benz to Hollywood's favorite luxury car makers adding a plug-in hybrid version of a flagship model.

The S-500 Plug-In Hybrid, which goes on sale in spring 2015, pairs a 328 horsepower 3.0 liter turbocharged V6 gasoline engine with a 107 hp electric motor. The car can travel 20 miles on electricity alone before the gasoline engine engages. Mercedes claims the S-500  delivers the performance of a V8 engine with the fuel consumption of a much smaller car. Europe's version of the EPA. which hasn't yet released mileage estimates, rates the car at a combined 84 mpg.   

While Mercedes earlier this year fielded a $39,000 pure-electric version of its B-Class, a gasoline-powered hatchback sold outside the U.S., the S-Class sedans are Mercedes' flagships--the carmaker invested more than $1 billion revamping the model for 2014--and start at $95,000 (the new S500 is expected to be similarly priced.) 

Credit Tesla's Model S, the third most popular luxury vehicle, gas or electric, sold in California last year, with providing the impetus for Mercedes, Porsche and BMW to get serious about the market for electric vehicles.

The Panamera S E-hybrid, launched in 2013, was the first premium-class plug-in from traditional automaker. BMW, whose i3 electric and i8 plug-in hybrid are selling strongly, created an entire division to design and manufacture alternative-fuel cars and will introduce a plug-in hybrid version of its popular X5 SUV next year, just in time to compete with Tesla's hotly anticipated Model X crossover SUV. The Model X has racked up an estimated 20,000 pre-orders from customers who must put down a deposit of at least $5,000.

While Mercedes has come relatively late to the premium electric market, the S500 Plug-In Hybrid could be a precursor to a pure electric S-Class down the line, which would finally give the Tesla Model S some direct peer pressure--especially given the S-Class's state-of-the-art autonomous driving functions and other tech wizardry.