Running a 2000 S600 for 12 months, my Megaspec experience

I was walking back from the gym one evening when I got a phone call from my father who was out visiting some friends. He got straight to the point, “How about a used S class? somebody here wants to sell theirs.” I asked the age to try and gauge which one and it was a 2000 W220. I wasn’t too enthusiastic since there are some ropey versions out there. I had this vision of a battered S320 with all the elegance of a misused mini-cab and a barrage of warning lights. I’m also more of a hot hatch, coupe sort of person and an S-class wouldn’t have lit up any fires in the corners.

All of that changed completely once I asked for some details and the following numbers came down the phone line, “it’s an S600 with 25,000 miles on the clock.”
“You mean the V12 one?”
“How much?”

Well that was settled then, a few days later we picked up a maroon gem of German engineering. It was immaculate inside and out with AMG alloys, exposed dual exhausts and a long wheelbase. After a car history worth of hatchbacks, to me the rear seats had enough leg room to host a game of five a side.

And the extras? Oh the extras! - Ready?
(Deep breath): Sunroof, leather electric memory seats, four zone climate control, soft close doors and boot, ambient lighting, bi-xenons, sat-nav, linguatronic voice control, in-built mobile phone (a Nokia no less which was a nice touch of history), cruise control, automatic lights, automatic wipers, massage front seats and heated & cooled seats all round, fully hydraulic ABC suspension, rear window blind and reclining back seats.

This wasn’t just impressive for a car back in 2000, this would give a modern S-class a run for its money in the toy department. But all of this took a backseat (no pun intended) to that V12 upfront. Having 12 cylinders for me was the stuff of poster cars, reserved only for exotic super/hyper cars but here was the ultimate Q car. A de-badged S-class with the M137 5.8L V12 producing 362bhp via a 5 speed automatic gearbox. I know this wasn’t the M120 which was linked to Pagani, but to me this was a Zonda with four doors. I could go on for days about how you could still whisper at motorway speeds whilst experiencing that magic carpet ride thanks to the ABC hydraulic system. I also much preferred using all the buttons which oozed quality rather than getting lost in the newer MB infotainment system (that’s taken a turn for the better in it’s latest form).

Even the hydraulic steering provided a surprising amount of feel and connectivity to the road. We’ve become so accustomed to electric steering that it’s easy to forget just how good we had it with hydraulics. Depreciation has a large part to play in brining magnificence like this within reach of mere mortals like myself. Brand new in today’s money the 600 would’ve been into the six figures. Shall I tell you what doesn’t depreciate though? Parts & Labour.

Every time I’d get in there was a moment of anxiety just after start up where you’d make sure all of the lights extinguished. If there was ever a light on you could hear the opening bars of Pink Floyd- Money, and it was always accompanied with a stern message on the display- Achtung! Workshop! You must fix it now! So ignoring any errors was out of the question.

We've got some good news and some bad news

But with 25,000 miles what could go wrong? I ran it for 12 months and it was fairly trouble free apart from;

  1. A major service after it was bought revealed that due to lack of use it needed four new tyres, rear discs, pads all round, change of brake fluid, rear brake lines and new spark plugs (just for good measure the M137 has 2 per cylinder so that’s 24 then - enough to service 6 VW Polos). Total cost? Around £3,800, the plugs alone were around £2k for part and labour.
  2. Later on one of the hydraulic pumps decided to throw out all of its hydraulic fluid onto the side of the engine causing smoke to bellow from the driver’s side wheel arch. At that point I didn’t know who to call first, Mercedes or the bank. When it went back to Mercedes the only way to investigate was to take the engine out, so before anything had happened I was £600 out of pocket. Then the most jubilant call came from the dealer, “We’ve got some good news and some bad news.” Sheepishly I asked for the good news first which was the discovery of a faulty hydraulic pump and that the engine was fine. But the bad news? To replace it the gearbox had to come out, the other hydraulic pump also needed to be changed for good order and some of the hydraulic lines as well. Total bill? £4k all in.

Financially it ruined me and after 12 months it had to go to the dealer in the sky, well I did all the wrong things, the car’s mileage was too low, cars like these are never cheap to run despite the depreciation and I then committed blasphemy by not selling it privately.

It was some of the best 12 months though with fond memories. Whenever driving it all that was going through my mind was V12, V12, V12, it’s a V12. When it did work, it was sublime and every bit as impressive as it was when it rolled off the production line all those decades ago. In 2000 it probably represented Mercedes as its very best and years later it was a privilege to experience that - even if it was for only 11 months (it took Mercedes a month to fix the hydraulic pump).

Remember Megaspec? That brought back so many memories.