The Mercedes Benz W220 was the flagship Mercedes luxury sedan between 1998 and 2005. The W220 facelift came in 2002 and it managed to make the W220 a lot more reliable and thus fix many issues that plagued the pre-facelift W220. Either way, the facelift was not enough to fix the reputation of the W220. So, is Mercedes W220 a good car?
The Mercedes W220 can be a decent car if you find one in good condition and one that has been taken care of properly. These are known for high maintenance costs even though they don’t cost all that much money. That is why many people who buy them don’t do everything necessary for them to be a worthwhile purchase.
The W220 comes with many different engine options which 6-cylinder, 8-cylinder, and 12-cylinder engines. The W220 is primarily a RWD car, but you do have the option to go for an AWD 4MATIC model if you so desire. All of them come with 5-speed automatic gearbox. The W220 looks fine from the outside, but the inside didn’t age all that well.
If equipped with a functioning air suspension system, the W220 is still a comfortable car to drive. Reliability is far from decent, but the values of these are extremely good. Practicality-wise, it is a full-size four-door luxury sedan which means that space is of no issue whatsoever.
Mercedes W220 – The powertrain
The W220 comes with a fairly extensive engine palette that starts with the S280 model and its 2.8L V6 with 204hp. The next in line is the S320 with a 3.2L V6 and 224hp. The S350 gets a 3.8L V6 with 245hp and the S430 gets a 4.3L V8 with 280hp. One of the most popular W220 models is the S500 with its 5.0L V8 and 306hp.
The very top-end models are the S55 AMG with its 5.5L V8 and 500hp, the S600 with its glorious 5.5L V12 with 500hp, and the top-spec S65 AMG pushing out a staggering 612hp. The W220 also comes with two diesel options, an S320 CDI with a 3.2L diesel V6 with 200hp and a 4.0L diesel V8 with 250hp.
All of these are mated to a 5-speed automatic torque converter gearbox. The W220 is a RWD car, but 4MATIC was available as an option for most models. Efficiency is not all that good, but that comes with the territory because Mercedes didn’t really try to make the W220 all that efficient, especially because it gets the same engine as the fire-breathing Pagani Zonda.
Mercedes W220 – Design and chassis
The design of the W220 was never really met with too much appreciation, especially because the facelift model looks more or less identical to the pre-facelift model. The W220 is available in two body styles, a shorter wheelbase full-size luxury sedan, or a long-wheelbase luxury sedan. Mercedes also offered the CL-Class at the time which was basically a W220 coupe with two doors.
The W220 drives like a heavy 2000s sedan usually do. It is not dynamic, and even the 612hp S65 AMG feels nothing else but a luxury limousine. All in all, comfort is strong with the W220, but only if everything works.
Mercedes W220 – Reliability and common issues
The W220 Mercedes is one of the least reliable Mercedes S-Class models, if not the least reliable. The pre-facelift model suffered from severe rust while the post-facelift model did not use water-based paint and thus was/is much better.
Other common W220 issues are associated with the air suspension sagging, the steering system experiencing torque steer, the electricals, and issues with the engine. The W220 is a high-maintenance car, especially if you go for the top-spec V8 and V12 gasoline engines.
Mercedes W220 – Value and practicality
The W220 depreciated like crazy and can now be had for just a few thousand dollars. However, don’t go thinking that the W220 maintenance costs have also depreciated, because they haven’t. The W220 is still an extremely high-maintenance car, especially because it tends to break down fairly often.
As far as practicality is concerned, the W220 is as good as all full-size luxury sedans can get. It offers cavernous passenger space, especially the long model. The trunk space is also huge while visibility is not the greatest. All in all, the W220 is a practical car, but it’s not really the perfect choice for busy city streets and narrow gaps in traffic.
Is the Mercedes W220 a safe car?
The Mercedes Benz S-Class lineup offers some of the world’s safest cars and the W220 was also one of the world’s safest cars when it came out. Nowadays the W220 is still a really safe car, both because it is huge, and because it is built with a clear focus on keeping its occupants safe.
If safety is your priority, hardly any other late 90s and early 20s cars are as safe as the W220. However, the W220 does not come with modern-day safety features and that is why it can’t compete with modern-day economy cars, let alone the W222 and the W223 S-Class models.
Should I buy a W220 Mercedes S-Class?
Buying a W220 Mercedes is a huge commitment because these cars are notoriously prone to breaking down. There are simply way too many that plague the W220 for anyone to recommend the W220 with good intent. The post-facelift (2002 and up) S-Class is significantly better, primarily because it does not rust as much as the earlier models.
If you do decide to buy the W220, go through the car’s service history and try to find an example that has been kept in working condition since it came out. High-mileage cars are not necessarily an issue if they have been taken care of.
Why is the Mercedes S-Class so successful?
The Mercedes Benz Sonderklasse (Special class) was and still is a synonym for unparalleled luxury. The S-Class has continuously been setting the standards in the full-size luxury car segment and all other cars are trying to catch up with the S-Class ever since.
The reason why the S-Class is so successful is that it truly does offer the highest levels of luxury out of all full-size luxury German sedans. There were some instances in which BMW and Audi did offer higher quality products, but Mercedes was always quick to regain the title.