If the Mercedes ML was the car of the Cappo and the W211 was the car of the Soldato, the Mercedes S Class W220 failed to catch on with the public in the same way as the previous gen did. Why? What went wrong?
Well for one thing the Mercedes S Class W220 was launched in 1999, a time unanimously regarded as Mercedes’ lowest point in terms of reliability. Basically, in 1999 we were halfway through the middle when profit had to be factored in and the mechanics had neither the money nor the time to create another Mercedes S Class W140-like legend. Plus the new S Class was an evolution of the W140 rather than a revolution. Yeah, sure, you got new stuff like Adaptive Cruise Control guided by a radar mounted in the nose of the car in 1999. Technologies you only begin to see on the Passat B7 or B8 and even then as optional.
Moreover, the Mercedes S Class W220 established the rule that a used Mercedes should always bought in a facelift version. There are manufacturers who improve their cars through facelift editions, but nobody does it quite like Mercedes. Like the Mercedes E Class W210, the official car of the Balkans, the W220 was a disaster in the pre-facelift edition and absolutely decent in the facelift version that was launched in 2003. And that’s where I stop becauseI have to write also about the engines and man, the W220 got more engines than I have brain cells and I didn’t pay for that much bandwidth on the internet either.
Mercedes S Class W220 Engines
- 2.8 V6 of 204 horsepower – The smallest engine in the Mercedes S Class W220 and the only engine under 3 liters comes only in the pre-facelift version. It’s like having Moet champagne in a Neumarkt beer can. That’s because the glorious M112 has no specific issues, as long as it gets Mercedes 5W-30 oil every 5,000 miles.
- 3.2 V6 of 224 horsepower – Double trouble on the tax department for 20 extra horsepower from the same M112, only stretched by 400 cc. Like the VW 1.8 petrol, this middle child is for the kind of guy who has too much money for a 2.8 but not enough for a 3.7. Like the kind of guy who doesn’t know what to choose between a Lambrusco and a Moet so he gets his hands on a Jack Daniel’s. Not the poorest, but not the richest either.
- 3.7 V6 of 245 horsepower – You’d think if it’s the same M112 I’d repeat myself. And you’d be wrong. This M112 was the only one that was available on the facelift version and it was also the smallest petrol to come with 4matic all-wheel drive. The smallest. 3700 cc.
- 4.3 V8 of 279 horsepower – Here we have Mercedes’ finest hour, this V8 being one of the best and most reliable V8 engines of all time. There are a few engines that have actually done mileage and have passed the 700,000 miles mark comfortably. The only notable concern is with the intercooler pump. That’s it.
- 5.0 V8 306 horsepower – It’s probably easier to pronounce “S500” than “S430” and that’s why it’s more popular. Plus with the S430 you have to explain what engine you have. The S500 doesn’t. Anyway, the same glorious M113 propels them both into the next dimension. The Bulgarian DMV is delighted with your new purchase.
- 5.4 V8 Turbo of 500 horsepower – It’s probably more pompous to pronounce “S 55 AMG” than “S500”. The same M113, but taken to it’s mechanical extremes and sublimely modified by the AMG folks. Famous especially on the W210 E55 AMG, but also available on the W220, although there is a level up. Ah yes, that jump in power comes from supercharging, the S500 only having a poor, microscopic naturally aspirated engine at it’s disposal.
- 5.5 V12 Twin-Turbo of 510 horsepower – The “base” engine for the Mercedes S Class W220 S600, this monster hails from Mercedes’ crazy engines era, with 800 Nm of torque. But wait, the madness doesn’t stop there. Ah yes, as notable concerns go, it’s just the coil packs.
- 6.0 V12 Twin-Turbo of 612 horsepower – The “base” engine for the Maybach came with a mind-blowing 1000 Nm of torque. To put that into perspective for you, the current engine in the 7.7 liters Mercedes Actros has a maximum torque of 1000 Nm. It would have been easier to put this 2000 engine in a 2022 truck. And there have been versions where this engine develops 1200 Nm of torque, with practically enough power to pull the entire Top Gear studio.
- 3.2 cdi of 197 horsepower – Considering that the taxes on a 3.2 stomp the ones that the 2.8 petrol demands and the difference in power and fuel consumption is NOT that great, I would personally buy the petrol and use the difference in tax money towards petrol. You’ll still get there, if not better. As for reliability, we have a 6-cylinder diesel made of reinforced concrete, iron, and Luca Brasi’ muscles. Basically, it’s indestructible. Point of concern is for the engine in the facelift version because it may have a particle filter.
- 4.0 V8 of 250 horsepower – S400 cdi is a rarer car than the words spoken by Prince, so good luck finding one. That is if you want to buy one in the first place, because they mounted the same gearbox as on the 3.2 diesel and consequently it cracks from the torque of the S400 cdi. It won’t quit as fast as it does on the ML, but it’s not too far behind.
Mercedes S Class W220 General Issues
- Some engines have the antique 5G-Tronic gearbox, but some have not escaped the tyranny imposed by the 7G-Tronic gearbox so be careful and put some money aside.
- Air suspension is the main issue for the Mercedes S Class W220. Rather, it was the main weak point of the W220 for a long time, because by 2005-2010 they really were expensive to repair. Today instead you get away with only a couple 100 euros thanks to repair shops simply reconditioning the airbags and so you have more civilized costs.
- As I said, 1999 was the lowest point in terms of quality, and the story remains the same for electronics. You just have to get used to the idea that you’ll never have all functions and buttons working perfectly at the same time. Something will always be broken.
- The drainage channels under the windshield can clog and flood your car, which isn’t necessarily bad considering you’re in more of a boat than a car. Ahoy sailors!
- No Mercedes since 2000 without rust and the rust is gathering on the fenders just like hooligans gather up for brawl events where, occasionally, an soccer match may break out.
Mercedes S Class W220 Verdict
Yes, owning a Mercedes S Class W220 in 2022 can mean two things. The first would be that you’re a Mercedes enthusiast but in this case, you probably had a W140, not a W220. The second would be that you were something of a mobster back in 2005-2010 but you haven’t been doing so well lately so you stuck with this S. I don’t know what’s going on the classifieds pages, but most W220s have pictures taken in the field or in a yard, among chickens. And the fact that it’s considered the worst S Class, the fact that it’s not going to be a classic anytime soon like the W140, and the fact that it only comes with gaz-guzzling, taxes punishing engines, that means you can have an S Class for very little money. To buy it. Maintaining it however, now that’s another story.
What engines do I recommend? For gasoline, I recommend either the 204-horsepower 2.8 V6 if you’re on a budget or the 279-horsepower 4.3 V8 if you want the most balanced W220 experience. As for diesel, only the 3.2 diesel makes sense.