Used Car Reviews

Used Vehicle Review: Mercedes-Benz S-Class, 2007-2013 (W221)

Vehicle Type

Luxury Sedan

World-class comfort and a very quiet ride.


Baller! One of the world’s foremost flagship sedans, the last-generation Mercedes S-Class was available from model years 2007 to 2013 inclusive, and packed industry-leading pedigree, technology, styling and presence. Today, thanks to depreciation, owning a few-year-old copy of what was once a six-figure super sedan is within the realm of possibility for many shoppers.

Competing with big-dollar rides from BMW, Lexus, Audi and Jaguar, the S-Class offered up numerous engine options, available All Wheel Drive (AWD) and special versions, including performance tuned models, hybrid-powered models, and many more.

In the used market, S-Class examples with the AMG designation are equipped with upgraded engines, brakes, chassis components and track-validated driveline upgrades for a high-performance package. The 4Matic designation indicates the presence of All Wheel Drive (AWD).

Feature content was exhaustive. Look for options like navigation, voice-command, adaptive xenon lights, night-vision, adaptive suspension, premium audio, climate controlled seats, an emergency calling system, heated steering wheel and plenty more.

What Owners Like

No surprises here. S-Class owners rate the style, comfort, presence and exclusivity of their rides very highly. World-class comfort and a very quiet ride are also reported. The AWD system, wide range of safety features and a locked-on driving feel all add confidence.

What Owners Dislike

Owners of cars in this price range are typically reluctant to list any complaints, and the S-Class is no exception. Other than issues with parking (because of its size), and a few gripes about windshield-wiper performance, complaints are hard to track down.

Here’s a look at some owner reviews.

Common Issues

Plan to spend an hour or more for a test drive of a used S-Class, as you’ll want to confirm proper operation of all of its numerous electronic systems and features. Double check all windows, locks, power seats, the navigation system, air suspension (if equipped) and climate control system. Did you know the S-Class has door computers? These handles inputs from all the door-mounted switches which control things like seat memory, position, temperature settings, door locks, mirror controls and more. If the door computer goes bunk, you’ll need the dealer to replace and re-program it, so be sure all door-mounted controls are in good working order.

The seats in the used S-Class you’re considering can tell a tale. Look at the outward edge of the driver’s seat. Is it cracked? Peeling? Missing chunks of colour or leather? Faded? If so, call it into pricing negotiations. If not, investigate further. Does the interior look clean and well maintained? Or is it full of fries and garbage and pet-hair? A well-maintained car will tend to look like one, and like any vehicle part, leather should be maintained to preserve it and prolong its life. If the seats look to be in sound shape, be sure to keep them that way with regular use of a leather cleaner and conditioner product.

Pay special attention to the gear shifter in the used S-Class. The electronic-style shifter adds convenience, though several owners have reported issues getting it to select the gear they want. Other issues with fussy shifting, failure to upshift through all gears, or hard shifting, could be related to a well-documented issue with the valve body in the transmission. This issue seems to mainly affect earlier copies of the S-Class, and shoppers can protect themselves from expensive repair by seeking out a model with extended warranty coverage remaining, and by having a dealer check the unit’s transmission for signs of trouble.

Problems with worn-out timing gears inside the engine on earlier models are well documented, too. Same deal as the potential valve-body problems inside of earlier transmissions: repair will be very pricey, and shoppers are advised to protect themselves by opting for as new a model as possible or opting for any additional powertrain warranty coverage available. Note that this issue may cause one or more trouble codes to be stored in the engine computer, reinforcing the importance of a pre-purchase electronics and computer system scan.

When on the road with your potential used S-Class, be on the lookout for unwelcome vibrations at low to mid-range revs at a variety of throttle positions. In some cases, unwanted vibrations could be caused by bad motor mounts, which will require replacement. Four mounts hold the S-Class engine into the car. Transmission mounts can be an issue too, though a seemingly less-common one.

Problems with the air suspension system include loud and lengthy engagement of the pump, or warning messages in the instrument cluster. Have this system inspected by a dealer. Thankfully, in many cases when the AIRMATIC system is toast, it’ll display a warning message right in the instrument cluster, along with a code that a Mercedes tech can use to see if it’s a problem with the pump, system electronics, a strut, or something else.

According to owner’s forums, shoppers should also confirm proper operation of the washer-fluid pump, and back-up camera system. Be sure to check the power lumbar seat function, too. Some owners have reported correcting non-functional lumbar controls with a software update, a new seat circuit board, or a new lumbar pump.

Proper and timely dealer-performed maintenance is important for the long-term quality and reliability of a used S-Class. As such, shoppers are advised against purchasing a model without full service records.

As the S-Class in this generation is affected by numerous service bulletins that address common complaints and issues, shopping a used model at a Mercedes dealer is strongly advised.

The Verdict

Transmission and timing-gear issues seem to have affected earlier S-Class models in this generation, reinforcing the importance of opting for extended powertrain warranty coverage, if possible. For maximum confidence, seek out a used S-Class from a Mercedes Benz pre-owned program. Buying an S-Class privately is strictly advised against unless the model in question has full service records and is given a full mechanical and electronic inspection by a Mercedes technician. Avoiding an earlier copy of this ride seems key in enhancing peace of mind.

Here’s a list of recalls.