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Owner Review

2007 Mercedes-Benz S350 review

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If you have read my previous owner review of my BMW 525i, you probably know already that I am a cheapskate. I went to lengths describing how good a value that car was and how it was an absolute bargain. Here I am today with another cheapskate option for those who might be interested.

I saw there was only one S class owner review on CarAdvice, so thought this might be a good opportunity to provide insight for someone who might be looking at one of these cars. Note that this review is more focused on my personal opinion on the value-for-money proposition that this car offers, and less so of a technical review with numbers and figures.

With that out of the way, in the spotlight is a 2007 Mercedes-Benz S350. The base model, the lowest rung of the ladder that is at the top of the hill. There are no exterior optional extras that improve the look except for these wheels, which I will touch on later. No sport packages, no rear spoilers, no side skirts. You cannot even see the twin exhaust tips. In the world of luxury cars, you don’t need to be flamboyant about being able to go fast; you know you just can, even in the base model.

Visually speaking, I think S-Classes look best in black with chrome accents. The black colour hides the bulkiness very well and works with the soft flowing lines to make a svelte profile. Chrome accents break up the monotony and provide a notion of luxury and class. There is no mistaking when you see this car and think immediately of Mercedes-Benz.

This particular example is loaded with optional extras. Let me however, start with the standard features that are worth mentioning.

On the outside you get bi-xenon headlights with curvature control, cornering lights and auto-on headlights. The car rides on air suspension with switchable modes between Comfort and Sport. Parking sensors front and rear take care of the gigantic size of the car when parking. The doors are all electric-assisted, in that they can be held open at any position and angle, and provides a smooth actuation feel. The action of opening and closing the doors make you feel like you’re opening and closing a bank vault (vast majority of passengers who ride in my S350 fail to close the door fully on the first try). A large electric sunroof is also fitted as standard.

Inside the cabin, the first thing that grabs your attention is the central screen. Mercedes calls it COMAND and it serves most of the entertainment and controls of the car. This includes satellite navigation, TV tuner, climate control and the plethora of audio inputs (CD/DVD/SD card) and fine seat adjustments. The second thing that grabs your attention is the driver’s information screen or instrument cluster – it is partly digital and coloured, and blends in exceptionally well with the traditional dials around it.

The seats are extremely comfortable and are full leather with electric adjustments. There are 12 ways you can adjust these seats - and these are only the standard seats. Heated and ventilated seats were not standard but since 2008 they were made standard across the range.

The list of standard equipment goes on, but it is time to move onto some sweet optional extras.

The paint colour is called Designo Platinum Black, and costs $18,000 alone. To continue the trend, the interior trimming is also Designo (the “personalised” division of Mercedes; comparable to BMW’s “Individual”) – this time in Piano Black. The Designo leather is the semi-aniline type and is extremely soft to the touch. Powered rear and side-rear sunshades add not only privacy but also make the interior cooler on summer days.

The other big ticket option is of course the 20-inch AMG forged alloy wheels that costed an eye-watering $9,000 in 2007. One of the rarest options for a S Class of this generation – LED ambient lighting – is installed on this example (standard on S500 and above but not the base S350. Most S350’s did not come with this option). Other options are too many to mention, but I was surprised that a reverse camera was not standard.

Any car can have a long list of options and I do not think options and technical specs determine the overall “goodness” of the car. That is why a test drive in one of these cars will make sure you know why they costed over $190,000 in base guise (this particular example with extras costed over $300,000 in 2007 on-road).

First off, let me mention the ride quality. If you haven’t been in a car with air suspension, you’re missing out. It is incredibly smooth and glides over city terrain with ease. This is on 20-inch wheels with 35 aspect low profile tyres – imagine on stock 17-inch tyres! You cannot feel or hear the small bumps at all and the big ones are not a ‘thud’ or ‘clunk’ but more like slapping a pillow – you feel very isolated.

The sound insulation is next level compared to the BMW I previously reviewed. I thought that BMW was quiet, until I stepped in an S-Class. I wouldn’t say you cannot hear the engine running at all times, but during idle you definitely cannot hear it – you can feel it though (this example is due for an engine mount replacement).

Moving away from the curb is effortless. With the 3.5-litre 90-degree V6 engine, you will hit 60km/h sooner than you realise. The engine is definitely tuned for low-end torque and not high-end power. That’s one of the things sports car owners will definitely dislike about the car - the whole acceleration process is so silky and un-dramatic. There is no rush of adrenaline from the acceleration. There is no wind noise indicating you are at high speed.

In order to get the power to the rear wheels so smoothly will mean a very smooth transmission. The standard transmission on the S class is a 7-speed automatic. That is seven gears for forward motion, and two gears back. The reason for the two reverse gears is that of comfort (and in cold areas – traction in the snow). This is a typical torque converter style transmission, so nothing fancy in that regard. The shifts are smooth and you cannot feel the gear changes, at all.

Moving towards the back cabin space, it is your usual specification you can find in almost any car. Except maybe for the powered sunshades and drop down mirrors for both rear passengers – a Mercedes classic. The legroom supposedly is plenty given the 5m+ length of the car, but many of my friends find themselves wanting for more (but again many of my friends are over 185cm tall).

Again, it is not really the spec sheet that determines how good the car is. The ambience, sound insulation, smooth ride and sure-footedness feel is what you pay for in this type of car. In this regard, it certainly delivers.

To tie back to the introduction, I must now reveal the price I paid for the car. Otherwise how can I prove that I am a cheapskate? The cost for the car itself was $13,000. Now this is less than half of the average price of a 2007 S Class at the time of writing. So what happened? Look at the odometer and you will know why – it has travelled over 400,000km. But how is this possible on original engine and transmission? Don’t you watch Scotty Kilmer on YouTube? Don’t Mercedes’, especially an S Class, break down within 100,000 km?

The previous owner of this car (the second owner) was a businessman. He was a chauffeur and this was his money-making-machine. During the 4 years or so of him owning it, he has put on over 350,000km to the odometer. During this period, servicing and maintenance was performed regularly at twice the frequency of Mercedes-Benz recommendation.

Many people will be scared by the kilometres but if there is one thing you can be sure of when buying a chauffeured car, it is the fact that they are serviced religiously. Now also consider the driver is also the owner, the likelihood of him thrashing a car or not taking care of it will be nil. Note that this is not the same with rental/hire cars where the drivers often do not own the car.

Many now will ask, “But how much you have to spend to get it working perfectly? Surely there must be some issues to it?” The answer is, yes of course. At the time of writing I have owned the car for several months now and I had to do some fixing (expected from my initial mechanic check prior to buying). None are critical however. I changed the power steering pump and reservoir system ($600 – it was whining), the thermostat ($100 – stuck in open position) and coolant flush ($75 – had demineralised water prior), idler pulleys and drive belt ($100 – squeaking pulleys and cracked belt), replaced the oil cooler gaskets ($20 – minor oil leak).

Total tab came in at just under $14k – cheaper than the absolute cheapest brand new car you can buy today. I did all the work myself hence the low price quoted. Spending $14k for a $300k car, that means a depreciation of over 95% over 12 years in 2007 money. If you factor in inflation I think it will be a bit higher. Not too bad, I’d say.

If you would like to know more about this car please feel free to get in contact with me in the comment section below.

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