Mercedes-Benz offers new hybrid S-Class sedan

LOS ANGELES The big news from Mercedes-Benz this year was a revamped E-Class line with a four-door sedan and a stylish coupe, but almost flying under the radar is a new version of the large S-Class sedan, the S400 Hybrid. Yes, a hybrid model from Mercedes.

Hybrids have been around for a while now, so what took Mercedes so long?

"What we're bringing out is the first lithium-ion hybrid, so it's the first use of a lithium-ion battery in a hybrid vehicle. So we really feel like we're bringing the appropriate technology to the market at the right time," said Mercedes-Benz spokesman Bart Harring.

The S400 is classified as a mild hybrid. It won't move along under electric power alone, but the engine cuts off at stops, which saves fuel.

This also allows the use of a very small lithium-ion battery that fits right under the hood, instead of a larger battery pack that would take up trunk space.

So is this the start of a transition to hybrid power for all Mercedes cars? Probably not.

"We feel that there's not one path for the technology and we want to be prepared on all paths. We're the first manufacturers to have both a diesel and hybrid on the road, and we feel like there is a place for both of these," said Harring.

This hybrid isn't cheap at $88,000. Still, it's $3,600 less than the V8 S-Class. So, it could be considered the frugal, big Mercedes.

It would be frugal at the gas pump too. The hybrid gets an average of 21 mpg in EPA tests, beating the V8 by 3 mpg. That might not seem like much, but its overall emissions output is lower too.

The S400 Hybrid has technology that helps it use less fuel and produce fewer emissions, but this new car also has new technology that has nothing to do with saving fuel or reducing emissions.

One such technology is called the split-view screen. The front passenger can watch a DVD, but the driver can't see the image. The driver only sees the navigation screen or other car data.

Split-view will be available next year, and Mercedes-Benz plans to offer hybrid power on other models soon as well.

But for now, this S400 gets all the latest technology, under the hood and in the dash.

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