by Jay Traugott
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been the German automaker's finest execution of luxury and technology since it arrived in 1951. The all-new S-Class continues that tradition with immense pride. Completely redesigned for 2021, the Mercedes S-Class flagship sedan is a world-class luxury vehicle jam-packed with impressive new technologies.
Mercedes says its latest S-Class boasts a better driving experience, innovations in driver assistance, protection, and interaction. It also has a greater focus on the needs of drivers and passengers while still maintaining its elegant character inside and out. Although the exterior design looks relatively familiar, it's the stunning interior that could very well become the segment's new benchmark in every major category.
Like with the outgoing model, this S-Class sedan is just the start of a broader trim range that'll include high-performance AMG versions and a Maybach. And, of course, expect more powertrain options in the near future, such as a plug-in hybrid.
Like with the previous generation, the new S-Class features a short front overhang, a long wheelbase, and a balanced rear overhang. It's a formula that continues to work well only now with more muscle. Designers reduced the character lines along the sides and added contoured surfaces and an overall more sculpted look. The headlights sport a three-point daytime running light signature while seamless door handles are standard. They even electronically extend when the driver approaches. The brand's familiar radiator grille returns though it too has been subtly updated.
At the rear, two-section taillights and a chrome strip can be found at the upper edge of these lights. Other attractive exterior styling details include two visible exhaust pipes and more chrome on the lower side sills. A number of wheel designs are available measuring from 18 to 21 inches.
Compared to its predecessor, the new sedan is 1.3 inches longer, 2 inches wider, and a wheelbase that's 2 inches longer. Although this may not seem like much, both passenger and trunk space has been increased, the latter now measuring at 19 cubic feet.
While Mercedes may have played it somewhat safe with exterior styling, the new interior is a dramatic leap forward in styling, technology, and overall quality. Take note of the sculptured dashboard, center console, and armrests. Minimalism is a key theme here with an obvious reduction in physical buttons. Their functions still very much exist, but the controls themselves have been moved to the touchscreen. More on that in a moment.
The front seats have up to 19 motors along with 10 unique massage programs. Even the electronically-adjustable rear seats, also designed for those who prefer to be chauffeured around, boast an available heatable head cushion restraint.
Every new S-Class comes equipped with the second-generation MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment system. It's now found on the huge 12.8-inch touchscreen that's accompanied by a 12.3-inch digital driver's gauge cluster. Impressively, up to five display screens in the cabin are available, including two rear screens and an MBUX tablet device. A Burmester 4D surround sound system is optional.
For now, just two engines are on offer for the S500 4MATIC and S580 4MATIC, a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six with 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque, and a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with 496 hp and 516 lb-ft. A nine-speed automatic transmission is paired to both engines, which also receive mild-hybrid assist. We expect more powerful AMG versions to debut in the near future.
To further improve ride and handling, engineers developed the new and optional E-Active Body Roll suspension (replacing Magic Body Control). It's powered by a 48-volt starter generator and helps retain a smooth and level ride over any road surface. The system can even raise the body when it detects an impact. Other advanced safety features include management of speed, following distance, steering, emergency braking, and lane-changing. Mercedes' ultimate goal is to have accident-free driving.
Other improvements include a completely redeveloped multi-link independent rear suspension that can now accommodate rear-axle steering, which reduces the turning circle by 6.2 feet.
For now, official pricing has not been announced, but don't expect the new S-Class to come cheap. The outgoing 2020 model begins at nearly $95,000, so don't be surprised to see the 2021 S-Class priced at over $100,000. Mercedes says sales will get underway in the first half of 2021.
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class will face off against its usual crop of competitors, specifically the Audi A8 and BMW 7 Series. There's no doubt both German rivals have already discovered there's a new segment benchmark. Although it doesn't cost anywhere near as much, customers in this class should also take a look at the Genesis G90.
And, of course, there's the Lexus LS, the luxury sedan that shocked the Germans when the first generation debuted way back in 1989. It remains a formidable foe to this day, although the new S-Class looks to have it beat in a number of critical categories.