Magic carpet ride S430 redefines Style

Auto Bakkie Race Legend Tests are taken from our extensive road test archive.
This road test was first published in Cars in Action magazine February 2001. 
At four thousand-two-hundred-and-ninety-six cubic centimetres, the Mercedes-Benz S430 is a big V8 by European manufacturing standards. Not quite the largest capacity V8 saloon you can purchase directly off South African showroom floors —  its S500 sibling is, but developing 208kW at 5600rpm, all in all, it’s a still a pretty potent piece of machinery.

Does all this translate into big performance? Yes Sir, it does!

What about a time of 6.5 seconds to 100km/h from standstill? Not bad compared to the factory-claimed 6.6. Then it gallops onwards to gobble up the quarter mile in 14.7 seconds – this without much fuss and bother. For those in the know, that standing quarter-mile time is awfully quick for any standard off the floor saloon, never mind that S430 bludgeons its way from 120 to 160km/h in 7.2 seconds, which is at the top end of the scale for saloon cars. 

Yet while its top V8 rivals have opted for quad-cam configurations with 4 or 5-valve combustion chamber layouts. Merc, instead, stuck to the more conservative single overhead cam set-up with just three valves. The S430 does feature ‘phase-shifted’ alternating dual ignition’ to change the spark sequence phase after each combustion stroke and reduce combustion noise. 

We can vouch for that – this engine is silent — V8s have that just-audible silenced Kalashnikov sub-machine gun echo as you accelerate, but this S430 must be one of the silkiest-feeling V8s around. Yet road holding and handling is as good as any of its big-gun rivals thanks to novel pneumatic-adaptive suspension air damping, which also means that the car can be raised or lowered by way of a button on the instrument panel as required, while S430 will lower itself at loftier velocities.

By far the most beautiful and striking saloon Merc has yet conceived, the big S is sleek, low and squat, it’s not the usual Merc-handsome look and when it comes to the cabin, there’s not much to fault. Integral wood trim sweeps on through the doors, while glorious leather seats can get back-massaging as an option.

Merc’s big bangers have always been tops of the limo pops, but this S430 has managed to break with the more sedate-looking S-Class cars of the past, making you want to explore its limits – even though it’s still a grand limo at heart. 
Hopefully Mercedes-Benz will continue this trend to produce cars that will tickle the fancy of the sport-minded driver too.
S430 may be in the cosmic price range at R573 000, but it will still top my Christmas shopping list, anytime! — Mario Lupini
LEGEND TEST:  2001 Mercedes-Benz S430
Engine: 208kW 400Nm 4296cc petrol V8
Drive:    5-speed automatic RWD
TESTED (February 2001):
0-60km/h                 4.41 sec
0-100km/h:              6.57 sec 
0-160km/h:                   15.93 sec
400m:                  14.7 sec @ 155km/h
80-120km/h:          4.59 sec
120-160 sec            7.25 sec
Vmax:                   250km/h
Fuel:                  12.5/100km
CO2:                300 g/km
NEW PRICE (2011): R573K 
RATED:                  85%