Mercedes Benz S500 (1996)

Mercedes Benz S500 (1996)There are three reasons for buying an S class Mercedes instead of an Eclass. 1) You travel long distances and need room for tall people withlong legs in the back seat. 2) You've got another 40 grand thatyou still don't don't know what to do with. 3) You're a head of state.

The bulk of the Mercedes line is divided into three classes (okay, fourif you count the new sport-utility M class). The smallest Mercedes isthe C class, the midsize/large-size Mercedes is the E class, and theHumongous Mercedes is the S class. Or should we say U.S.S. class?

The S500 is magnificent, but, boy, is it big! It's nearly 17.1 feetlong and 6.2 feet wide, and it weighs 4,700 pounds. It is absolutelymagnificent to drive. But, at the same time, you can't help but feelingthat it's overkill. It's SO big, SO heavy and SO, well, noticeable. Wecould have sworn our test car played "Hail to the Chief" every time westarted it.

It's rock solid on the highway. It has a five-liter V8 engine, whichgives it power to burn, and it has lots of room to stretch out,especially for the back-seat passengers. It's got all of the comfortand convenience features you'd expect on an $87,500 car. And theroad-holding abilities of the S500 were surprisingly good for such alarge car. This was not a Cadillac that sent you leaning into the dooron hard right turns. You probably could outrun some terrorists throughthe streets of Monaco in this thing if you had to.

We just kept wishing that it were a little smaller and a little lighter.It felt more like a car that belongs in a motorcade than one you'd driveevery day. But if you drive long distances on the highway and you'vegot $90K to spend on a car, this is pretty much the pinnacle of sedanengineering. On the other hand, if you like the Mercedes ride, handlingand security, we suspect you'd be just as happy (and we know we'd bemore happy) with E420 or E320 for half the price. And, besides, youwouldn't have to order the little American flags that go on the cornersof the hood.

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