2000 MERCEDES S500 (260)




Hey Joe:The last time I drove the S500 (previously the W140) I was blown away by such incredible confidence and overall behavior. Other than the squared off looks I wondered how could they make it any better? Well the 2000 S500 is better. Well Mr. Cobb:It’s hard to debate perfection, but this S500 is far from perfect, even if I agree it is a better car than most. Perhaps it’s the best that money will buy. But when I pay the price of the Space Shuttle for a car, you’d think they could make it easier for me to operate.
Today’s S-Class looks less foreboding. It looks smaller and certainly friendlier, yet open the doors and you can lounge in a den like interior. It is truly striking. Seats are nice, with every position imaginable at your fingertips including a “massaging” air bladder system and seat coolers! You’ve heard of seat heaters but cooling the seat is a new one on me. Works fairly well by drawing air through the cushion.  I like the new styling too and had positive comments from others about its smaller look with a roomy feel. And although the interior is “den” like, I didn’t like the seats as much as you did. The seat bottom protrudes awkwardly and hits the back of my legs, which is annoying.  Speaking of being on the hot seat, I too liked the seat cooler. Bet you could use that in your Indy racecar.

Price                          Technical:

Joe                                   Technical:

I got out the manuals and found that Mercedes has been hard at work trimming up their flagship from its last iteration. I felt it was too big. But the 2000 version is both smaller and larger. It\’s shorter by 2.1 inches, with a lower roofline of 1 inch. The crafty Mercedes folks actually increased the rear legroom by two inches and even have an optional reclining rear seat package.Scanning the specifications takes an engineering degree. There’s traction control, ESP (electronic stability program), a cute acronym for a yaw stabilizer (senses yaw, or turning around a center point not in concert with where you are trying to go) and corrects for it. By applying individual brakes front or rear, and reducing power when needed, the S500 will help all of us continue traveling in our intended direction. Adaptive shock absorbers continually monitor the ride and can adjust a corner individually.Befitting a car of the S500’s stature, Brembo calipers are used for braking. They are the calipers of choice in the endurance-racing world. They have also included a braking sequence by which the system can sense the speed a person activates the brake pedal. This applies maximum available power boost to reduce overall stopping distance by eliminating the natural tendency of humans not to brake hard enough or soon enough in tight situations. It is neigh impossible to ruffle the S500’s feathers and that gives more control to the driver when they need to avoid something in a hurry. Technically I trust your judgment and since I don’t have an engineering degree I won’t argue those points. I’m a little curious that a professional race driver like you would consider those engineered control features are for both of us. I agree that “I”need the help, but I’ve seen you and other pros drive and hardly consider “you” needing the car to control your behavior behind the wheel.
Price                 Features & Design: Joe                    Features & Design:

Driving position is good with an overwhelming array of buttons, switches and gadgets at your fingertips.



Right on Price – there is an overwhelming array of buttons, switches and gadgets. I agree, but why do I need them? I have never been more frustrated by the complexity of all those gadgets. I like computers but this is ridiculous. It takes a 12-year-old child to figure it all out. Trouble is 12 year olds aren’t likely to shell out $80 grand for this car. So why didn’t Mercedes use some of their engineering talent to make this stuff usable? Most adults still watch the VCR flash 12:00 rather than try to figure out how to set the time.
Center of the dash, just north of the console where the perfect shifter lives is the “Command” cockpit management and data system. This thing is basically a LCD 5” color TV, connected to a navigation system, radio, cassette, and optional voice activated cell phone and CD-changer. All of this is hooked together by some high tech fiber optics that accomplishes two things. Great speed without electrical interference and less weight. And that 5” TV screen – a disaster. I’ve operated several navigation systems and all were “user friendly” but this thing busts my chops. And the integration with the radio complicates things even further. It takes an act of congress to change from AM to FM. Whoever designed that system should be taken out and shot. Woops, I hope the folks at Mercedes don’t read this. They don’t still… no, I\’m sure they don’t.
Mercedes have been flat busting their tails to build cars that are more affordable. The 2000 S500 is a full 765 pounds lighter than the previous year, and even when coupled with a less peak power 5 liter V-8 it is still considerably quicker and more nimble. Part of the weight savings is from the fiber optics, elimination of double paned windows, and the air suspension system. Certainly a case where less is more. I appreciate their effort to be more affordable and I love to drive fast and I have to admit this S500 delivers performance … for a price.
Price                               Pricing: Joe                                 Pricing:
I can assure you I haven’t mentioned all the interesting things that make up the S500, but the bottom line is this car is a marvel and considering last year’s comparable S500 would set you back almost ninety grand.  This year’s model, an undeniably better automobile, starts at seventy eight thousand, or a saving of ten grand! Alright, nifty and marvelous, but even though the price came down significantly, this class of car is priced more like trains, planes and houses. I can get a simpler electronic system in seven Saturn’s for the price of one S500. Go figure why we’d pay so much to drive to work. But then the cost of the S500 is much less than one of your racecars you use “at work”. And you can’t even take yours to the supermarket. I DO feel much safer on the autobahn in a Mercedes even without Michelins, so in that sense it’s worth every cent.
Price                         Performance: Joe                            Performance:
The perfect shifter I mentioned above is a better version of at least a half dozen iterations of the “slap” shifter, tip shift, Tip Tronic, etc. Most of them still incorporate a serpentine PRND321 slot and a gate off to the side. Mercedes brings it all together with a strait and simple PRND slot so if you feel you need some other gear, just slap the lever left or right to shift down or up. No extra gates, no fumbling or trying to find the hole. What a delight! The “Perfect Shifter”, as you call it, that you just have to slap right or left is a great design. That is the simplest “TipTronic” I’ve seen. But whatever it’s called, I couldn’t find a use for it. Call me lazy but automatics these days shift so well “Slap Stick” is only good for a laugh. As to the sound system that I use all the time, it is anything but simple, and that iasn’t funny at all. The transmission designer should have designed the command center.
 In the end, and for now, until I drive something better I have to say the 2000 S500 is perhaps the finest car in the world. Nothing has been left untouched in the 2000 model, all with a higher degree of refinement than ever before, making this without a doubt one of engineering’s finest hours. My hat is way off to Mercedes who have gone the extra mile! I\’m speechless Price. In the final analysis you gotta call a spade a spade and this is truly my most favorite car to drive.


Good News:


I was confident with its overall behavior, liked the den like interior, seat coolers and the perfect shifter. Great new styling and  more affordable. Great stabilizing electronics are the cat’s meow that helps all drivers. The car is a marvel and perhaps the finest car in the world

I too like the handling of Mercedes and was thrilled to drive one in Germany\’s autobahn\’s. Ditto on styling, stability engineering and that great \”Slap Stick\”.


Bad News:


Need an engineering degree to operate gadgetry. Pricey –  priced more like the Space Shuttle. Frustratingly difficult array of buttons, switches and gadgets.


Point/CounterPoint Conclusion:

The S500 may be the best “and” the worst at the same time. It\’s perhaps the best engineered car in the world with the worst user unfriendly gadgets in the world. But at the end of the day, and considering everything it appears that we surely agree that the Mercedes S500 deserves two checkered flags.

The Competition:

Audi A8 $57,400 – $65,000, Bentley Arnage $203,800, BMW 7-Series $62,400 – 124,400, Jaguar XJ Sedan $55,200 – $67,450, Lexus LS $53,80, Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph $216,400.

Standard Equipment:

S Class comes in two models, the S430 and S500. Both come with dual front airbags that deploy at different rates based on the speed of the collision; front and rear side airbags; head protection curtains; Automatic Slip Control (ASR); Electronic Stability Program (ESP); an anti-lock brake system (ABS); and Brake Assist, which applies full braking during a panic stop. Powering the S430 is a 4.3-liter V8 engine producing 275 horsepower, while the S500 gets a 5.0-liter 302-horsepower V8. The S-Class touts a long list of standard equipment, including dual-zone automatic climate control, power windows and door locks, a GPS navigation system, the TeleAid communication system, leather seats, eucalyptus wood trim, and a Bose ten-speaker sound system. The S500 upgrades with \”glove-soft\” Nappa leather seats, burl walnut trim, xenon high-intensity headlights and headlight washers.

Gas Stats:

16 City and 23 Highway MPG.


MSRP $77,850

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