The Mercedes S500 S-Class model is the staple Mercedes S-Class that usually gets the best engine out of the bunch. The S500 comes with a V8 that is a lot more powerful and fitting for an S-Class than an “entry-level” 6-cylinder while also being quieter and more refined than the AMG models.
All S-Class models are benchmark cars against which all other German executive full-size sedans are compared. The S500 does not look all that different than some of its more attainable counterparts which is not exactly a good thing.
However, the S-Class has always been a car that ticks a lot of boxes because it is comfortable, commanding, confident-inspiring, and powerful, especially the S500. Common issues that plague the S500 are mostly down to electronics for the older models and potential oil leaks and suspension issues for all S500 models.
Practicality and space-wise, the S500 does not offer any more or less space than all the other S-Class models which is a good thing because the S-Class offers an abundance of space for all passengers. All in all, the S500 is a safe bet for every S-Class generation as it truly is the staple S-Class.
Mercedes S500 – The powerplant
One of the most highly praised S500 models is the W140 generation from the 90s. The W140 S500 model comes with a 5.0L V8 that offers 320hp and 346lb-ft of torque. The W140 S-Class comes exclusively as a RWD drive car and with a 4-speed automatic gearbox. Nowadays the W140 S500 is one of if not the most desirable W140 model.
The W220 S500 was not nearly as good as both its predecessor and its successor, but the S500 W220 model is the one with the least amount of problems. However, the S500 W220 model also has a 5.0L V8, but the power output is actually lower than the W140s at 306hp and 339lb-ft of torque.
The W221 S500 is a lot better than the W220 and the S500 W221 model also got a 5.0L V8, and the refreshed 2011 model has 435hp and 516lb-ft of torque which is a significant upgrade. The last-gen W222 model incorporated a smaller 4.7L BiTurbo V8 with 455hp and 516lb-ft of torque.
The latest W223 S500 got an even smaller 6-cylinder direct-injection turbocharged 3L engine with 435hp and 383lb-ft of torque. The best S500 engine is the one in the W221 generation because it balances power with smoothness the best. The latest-gen S-Class was also available with AWD and all S500 generations got an automatic transmission exclusively.
Mercedes S500 – Design and chassis
Mercedes S500 generations have always looked relatively tame compared to the range-topping AMG models, but does that not mean that they don’t look like a true S-Class should. Without the exhaust pipes and the S500 badging, you would hardly be able to tell the difference between an S500 and an S350 diesel model.
However, the S500 is positioned as the staple Mercedes Benz S-Class model which means that’s a good thing. If you like the design of the S-Class you will also like the design of every S500 model. Furthermore, you can spruce the S500 up if you opt for the optional AMG exterior package which includes AMG specific touches.
This certainly elevates every S500 model and makes it a lot better. Chassis-wise, the S500 is completely tailored for comfort and ease of use. Most Mercedes S500 models came with an air suspension setup that soaks up bumps incredibly well.
Mercedes S500 – Common problems and reliability
S500 models have always been the least problematic S-Class models of the bunch because they used engines that have been around for a while. Efficiency and MPG results were not necessarily all that important for earlier generations of the S500 which means that these are adequately reliable.
Even though that is truly the case, many S500 models are still being plagued with all sorts of oil leaks that need to be addressed in due time if you don’t want to experience a lot more issues. Suspension issues are also fairly common for S500 models, especially if you don’t maintain the AIRMATIC system as intended.
Older S500 experience issues with on-board electronics such as the dashboard gauges, exterior lighting, and the pneumatic systems that control the power locks, the power tailgate, and the sunroof.
Is the S500 the best S-Class model to buy?
The S500 is and is likely always going to be the staple Mercedes Benz S-Class model available with each and every S-Class generation. Gone are the days when the S500 badge meant a 5.0L V8, but the S500 still offers more potent engines than the S400 and all the other S-Class diesel variants.
If you are interested in buying the S500, you are likely going to experience everything an S-Class can offer. However, the S500 is not the range-topping S-Class model as that honor goes to the AMG department and the V12 S-Class lineup.
Which S500 generation is the best?
The W221 S500 is the best S500 model out of them all because it offers the best engine and the best value proposition. The W221 S500 is still the most powerful S500 model, especially when you consider torque. The later W223 and W223 generations are also similarly powerful, but the engines found in those are not as desirable.
As such, the W221 S500 is the best one out of the bunch but is followed closely by the W222 and then the W223. The worst S500 model is undoubtedly the W220 while the W140 S-Class model is also a really good car. All the pre-W140 S-Class models are way too brittle and delicate because they are a few decades old and require a different approach.
Is a V12 S-Class better than a V8 S-Class?
For most people out there, the S500 with its V8 is more than enough. However, for those who want even more grunt and smoothness, the V12 is the one to go. The V12 is available either as an S65 AMG or an S600 Mercedes.
The V12 S-Class is undoubtedly the smoothest one of the bunch in the same way V8 S-Classes are way smoother than 6-cylinder S-Classes. As such, V12 S-Classes are indeed impressive, but they are way too expensive to buy and to run.