The early-mid 2000s were an unholy time for the German car industry. Seemingly every one of their famed automakers seemed to place quality automaking in the back seat in order to make quicker and easier profits. This led to some majorly atrocious creations such as the W203 C-Class and the E65 7 Series. It even affected what is arguably Germany’s best car ever made, the S-Class.
Some people could stand up and assert that the W220 was the worse of the two, but I find there’s a lot of good found in that otherwise problematic platform. I got considerable amount of seat time in a 220 S500 during my trip to Minnesota in January, and I found myself loving every minute. Plus, the design is considerably aging a lot better than the 221, a car which I thought was ugly when it debuted, and it hasn’t warmed on me over time either.
But what is it like when you look at the best version of the worst S-Class? You find yourself in a rather large conundrum. You can’t say this car is bad, because it isn’t. It’s pleasant to drive, it’s smooth and powerful, it reeks of presence and class. You feel vastly more superior than you actually are when you drive a V12 S-Class, and it’s no different in the W221 S600.
Just look at the quality materials on display on the interior and you can tell just how serious this car was in its day. Even now, it’s hard to disregard just how many industry defining pieces of technology found themselves on this car before everyone else.
And yet, just with most Mercedes of this age, and especially ones that have more than six cylinders, this one is broken. It runs rough and makes noises that are...decidedly uncharacteristic of what was once a $100k+ superlimo. That’s why it currently resides at my work’s wholesale lot for somewhere around $20k.
The W220 will always be my least favorite S-Class (for the considerable future at least), but I understand completely why some people devote their life to these old V12 yachts. There simply isn’t anything else like them on the road, no matter how many other brands try to emulate them.