Used Mercedes-Benz S-Class Saloon 1999 - 2006 review

Category: Luxury car

The Mercedes S-Class is probably the best luxury barge in the world

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Saloon (99 - 06)
  • Mercedes-Benz S-Class Saloon (99 - 06)
  • Mercedes-Benz S-Class Saloon (99 - 06)
Used Mercedes-Benz S-Class Saloon 1999 - 2006 review
Star rating

What's the used Mercedes S-Class saloon like?

When it was launched, critics hailed the Mercedes S-Class as among the very best executive saloons you could buy, regardless of price. It's a big car with a huge cabin, but it's also sleeker and less daunting than the slab-sided previous model. Inside, it's supremely comfortable and all models have generous equipment levels, which most first owners added to from a long list of options.

The big Merc drives neatly for its size and responds well, feeling much smaller than it really is. The standard seven-speed automatic gearbox is superb and wind noise is shut out effectively thanks to the double-glazed side windows.


The Mercedes S-Class is probably the best luxury barge in the world

  • It's superbly engineered, has lots of kit and the diesels are exceptional
  • S-Classes are costly to run and there are niggling faults on the oldest cars

As if all that wasn't enough, the version of the S-Class that replaced this one looks only subtly different, meaning even the earliest examples of this model still look up to the minute. Last, but not least, its value dropped sharply from new, making older ones surprisingly cheap to buy.

Ownership cost

What used Mercedes S-Class saloon will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a Mercedes S-Class saloon?

Considering the expensive beast the S-Class can be, owning costs actually aren't too bad, because some models (particularly the most expensive ones) lose value quite sharply in the first couple of years. An S600, which cost a cool £92k new, was worth barely half that by its third birthday. By contrast, an S320 diesel retained two-thirds of its original value at the same marker.

Servicing is costly if you use a main dealer, but it will at least entitle you to Merc's Mobilo-life package, which provides breakdown assistance and a corrosion warranty for an astounding 30 years from new. But, if you're not too bothered by that, use a good independent Merc specialist and pay only half as much for labour.

Our recommendations

Which used Mercedes S-Class saloon should I buy?

Whichever luxury car you're after, the brief is the same: buy the ones with the smallest engines. Every model has decent performance and even the smallest version delivers nine-tenths of what you'd get if you bought the flagship version - but at a knockdown price.

The S320 CDI diesel is our first choice, followed by the smallest petrol, the S280. These were the best sellers, so there should be lots around.

Other models include an S350, S500, S600 and the performance flagship, the thundering S65 AMG, which offers no less than 612bhp. Of these, only the S350 is anything like a sensible choice.

Each model has a single trim level, with loads of equipment that includes leather seats, climate control and the Comand system that runs the sat-nav, stereo, phone and other gadgets. However, the list of extras for the car is so long that we've not seen two identically equipped.

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