We have all seen the viral pictures of S Classes with signs stuck on them claiming they broke down in mere months of ownership. To be honest, we foresaw this coming during the launch of the vehicle back in late 2021 and we did ask Mercedes Benz Malaysia about it in a set of email correspondence with specific technical questions. Unfortunately, it seems that Mercedes Benz Malaysia considered it unworthy of their time and attention. Or were they afraid of something? We share our experience here.
We ask questions, alot, because....
Aside from compiling the best driving roads in Malaysia, as motoring journalist, Route Hunters have the professional responsibility to seek the truth. The truth about what exactly you are paying for, without the filter of fancy PR words.
We love to get into the deepest technical details as possible to better understand how the technology featured works. That way we can best tell our audience how the user experience of the vehicle will be in the real world. Like why the gearbox in the Peugeot 308 GTi has to be treated with carbon nitriding, why there’s a ceramic coated ball bearing turbo for the Renaultsport Megane Cup 300, what the 800V architecture in the Hyundai IONIC5 mean for recharge time and what was Volvo’s rationale for capping their cars to 180kph?
However some of the brands in Malaysia seem to feel that they are above scrutiny and questioning. We, among other media members have often encountered cold shoulders or outright resentment when we question topics that these brands find sensitive, which we feel is critical for the public, like the cost of the Honda Civic brake pads. One such brand was Mercedes Benz, and their Hybrid tech.
At the launch of the W223 S Class in 2021 November, we, like everyone else loved the car. But we felt that there was a glaring problem staring at us from the technical standpoint. Internal combustion engine (ICE) regardless fuelled by diesel or petrol is relatively easy to manage these days, as there’s only one powersource and its heat to manage. Having a full EV power source is also straightforward, you manage the heat from the motor and the batteries.
But plug in hybrids like you have on the new S Class, you have to power sources to manage. First you have a powerful turbocharged 3 liter engine (362bhp / 500Nm). Then you have one of the BIGGEST battery pack (28.6kWh) fitted on a non-ev sedan in the Malaysian market. That’s not far off the full EV Mazda MX-30’s battery pack size (35.5kWh). And the system has to survive our legendary weather which can scorch at 40 deg celsius in the day, and 15 mins in a thunderstorm the temperature drops down to 28 degrees. This fluctuation in temperature really stresses out the hybrid powertrain in most plug-in hybrids in the country.
The conventional solution
Now a warranty period for the battery, powertrain and vehicle is fantastic, generous even. But when your over half a million ringgit car spends more time in the service centre instead of you driving around or being driven around in, it really messes up the ownership experience. Which is precisely what we questioned Mercedes Benz Malaysia in December 2021. We were interested in what type of tech has been employed to cope with our particular weather, or what type of methods where in place to mitigate possible issues due to thermal management. Since it was not a short answer type of question, we corresponded over email, and here’s what happened.
It was truly shocking for us to realise that Mercedes Benz Malaysia is not even bothered with the tech they were rolling out, nor its products legacy, deeming their customers would buy regardless. Even a brand like Peugeot buckled down for the South East Asia market and had the 2nd generation 3008 tested for 6 months / 100,000 km with another set of cars just sitting under the weather unprotected to see what break first, so the car rolled out with recall plans in place. Just because there were complains about the previous model. That’s commitment to the product exhibited by a sub premium brand like Peugeot, for a sub RM200k crossover like the 3008. Alarmed by the nonchalant attitude of Mercedes Benz Malaysia, we raised the question to the Global team.
However it seems that even then there’s no visible effort from Mercedes Benz Malaysia. Mercedes Benz Malaysia would proceed to bar us from any and all events organised by them, but just over a year’s time our concerns on the S class has been proven right. Two cars have been seen with such signs, god knows how many more cases there are in actuality. S class owners most likely would have more than one car in their garage so they probably will have an option for transportation. Which would also explain why BMW and Volvo has plugin hybrids in their 5 series / 3 series and S90 / S60 ranges respectively, but Mercedes Benz Malaysia does not offer plugin hybrids anywhere else in their range.
Customer is always.... a guinea pig?
This is precisely the vibe we are getting from Mercedes Benz Malaysia. We have seen countless incidents where they rolled out tech that have caught owners off guard, from the E270 CDI engine failure issues in the early 2000’s, the E300 Bluetech Hybrid battery issues and the subsequent plugin hybrid battery replacements that were all too publicised, Mercedes Benz Malaysia seems as if its not interested in any proactive approach. Like there is no measures set in anticipation of what hurdles there may be. To us, such old school ‘sell first fight fires later’ approach should not exist in this day and age, where owners have access to almost unlimited information in real time. And its such a shame that a brand that represented true premium, class and unrivalled quality to be reduced to such low standards.
Another thing we noticed was the lack of variety in the range. Where are the internal combustion only models? Or a mild hybrid option powertrain? What about a diesel alternative? It seems like we are left with a single ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ option which also shows how much the brand values customer opinions or preference. And we say this as S Class owners ourselves.
Have you had any sour experience as fellow Mercedes owners in Malaysia? Share your experience with us at firstname.lastname@example.org