If you've been following us at TestDrive for a while, you'll know that the W140 Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been a vehicle on our list for years now. In fact, the S 500 of this generation was the actual #1 vehicle on our Must-Have to film list, since we assumed we'd be lucky enough just finding the top-end V8 model to feature, which would have given us something to compare with our own 2001 BMW 740iL. We never thought we'd get this lucky.
Actually, before I really dive into this unbelievable find, I should point out to those who are much newer readers to TestDrive that we feature both new and old vehicles on this show. Prior to 2018, we had covered mostly older luxury vehicles from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, with the occasional new car when we got it. After the Christmas break of 2017 we started working directly with the manufacturers to feature new models on TestDrive, which helped immensely through the winter, considering cars like this 1997 Mercedes-Benz S 600 V12 super sedan are normally garaged during the snowy months, especially here in Québec.
Back to the car. This has been one of our most requested vehicles to feature, with commenters asking even after we returned from our 2,000km round-trip to Toronto for Easter. We knew we needed to film this car above all others, especially considering how unique it truly is.
This 1997 Mercedes-Benz S 600 is finished in a dark green paint that looks black unless you're right up to it. On the outside we find the original 16" rims, front & rear Parktronic parking sensors, power folding mirrors, dual-pane laminated glass, and an automatic opening trunk with dirt guard to keep your hands clean when closing it.
Some might argue that the car isn't completely original with small changes bade cosmetically, while others might argue that the condition isn't mint. Both could be true, but for the most part this is a fantastic example of one of the most expensive sedans you could have bought in 1997. In fact based on data we gathered, the base price for this S 600 would have been around $175,000 Canadian, not to mention the options added on to make this car truly stand out.
It's inside where we start to find some of those features. Up front is a wood and leather experience unlike anything else we've featured from Mercedes-Benz at this time. You can see how the designers kept a lot of the same elements from the previous generation W126 S-Class we featured earlier in 2017, while updating some of the components and layout. The only interior change made to this car is the aftermarket stereo, not something the current owner did, but rather the previous/first.
Unfortunately that means the original Harman/Kardon navigation audio system was replaced. The puck on the trunk was a dead give-away this car was fully optioned, but the replacement of the stereo means the on-board computer has also been lost, as it replaced the separate standalone unit found in the upper centre glove box. The navigation system was text based, giving you turn directions and distances rather than a map. It's interesting to note that BMW at this time did have full map software with their navigation offerings.
The rest of the front is straightforward, featuring dual zone digital automatic climate control, power front seats with heat, power steering wheel, and memory options for the driver. The back area is where this car gets into that rarity we never thought we'd get to feature.
Unlike a vast majority of W140 S-Classes sold at the time, this S 600's been upgraded to the rear 2 seat option, replacing the centre fold down arm rest & seat with a fixed wood console and pull down armrest. The console allows the rear passengers to open or close the rear power sunshade, as well as adjust their lumbar cushioning.
Like other Mercedes models, power seat controls are located on either door, and feature a significant amount of adjustment over the 2000 BMW 750iL we featured last year. Headrests can be dropped or raised from the front, and the right-side passenger can adjust the seat in front of them, giving them more room when needed.
Optional side window sun shades were purchased for this car and are genuine Mercedes accessories. When you watch our episode of TestDrive Spotlight on this car you can see how the sun shade sits on the top of the door card, and doesn't quite cover the entire window. While Mercedes always felt like the more luxurious option over BMW, it is interesting to note that BMW did have some better features over this car.
The rear passengers also have adjustable map lights and vanity mirrors built into the suede headliner. It's one of the few cars that we felt more comfortable in the back seat, and wanted to be driven around rather than have to do all that work ourselves.
But this car is seriously fun to drive. It helps that the owner has installed a straight-piped exhaust system to really unleash that 6.0L V12 engine, but with near-400 horsepower, this car has serious getup and go. In fact I was truly floored by how fast this car was in a straight line, something I wasn't expecting after driving the slower, less powerful 2000 BMW 750iL.
What we did expect was exceptional ride quality, and we got it. Just like with the W126 and W220 S-Classes we drove, this 1997 S 600's ride was absolutely phenomenal, especially when you consider it's 21 years old. It's going to hurt you in your wallet when it's time to repair it, but the suspension on these cars are easily the best. We haven't driven anything else quite like an S-Class, and I doubt we ever will.
We go over this 1997 Mercedes-Benz S 600 W140 in more detail in our episode of TestDrive Spotlight which you can watch below: