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2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Revealed, Aims to Redefine Modern Luxury

  • The 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-class, Mercedes’s top-end luxury sedan, will come to the U.S. in the form of the S500 and S580, both with 4Matic all-wheel drive.
  • The new model offers a long list of technological, safety, and luxury improvements, and this new generation also represents a clear stylistic step forward for the iconic S-class.
  • The new Mercedes S-class is expected in the U.S. in mid-2021.

When a new car is launched, carmakers love to trot out a number of tidbits of the past and present, and the new Mercedes-Benz S-class is no exception. Here’s one of them: 80 percent of all S-class buyers stick with the Mercedes brand for their next car purchase. More surprisingly, that trend is also true in the U.S. market, where buyers tend to be much less brand loyal. Here, the number stands at a remarkable 70 percent.

Of course, once you have moved up to an S-class, the list of cars at the same level of luxury is shorter. Sure, there are even more expensive cars on the market: think Bentley or Rolls-Royce. But are there many choices that make it worth changing brands? In the past, the answer has often been no, and with this new W223 generation, Mercedes intends to ensure that the S-class remains positioned at the top end of the automotive hierarchy of technology, luxury, and innovation.

U.S. buyers will get a choice of two models and engines. The S500 4Matic will come with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six that makes 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque, while the S580 4Matic will have a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 making 496 horsepower and 516 lb-ft. Both, as the 4Matic name indicates, will have all-wheel drive. The power will be channeled to the wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. Top speed will be electronically limited to 130 mph.

In Europe, the S-class launches with rear- and all-wheel drive and a choice of straight-six diesel and gasoline engines, the latter of which are fitted with a 48-volt hybrid system that can provide extra boost. Daimler promises a V-8, and there will be a plug-in hybrid, based on the straight-six gasoline model, with more than 60 miles of electric range. AMG models will receive a high-performance version of the 4.0-liter V-8. There will be no diesel in the U.S., but we will eventually get most other powertrain options.

We have already spent time in the new S-class, albeit in the passenger seat, and were impressed by the serene driving experience and the cutting-edge user interface. Now we see the car without camouflage for the first time. And while it is still unmistakably a top-of-the-line Mercedes-Benz, the new model clearly represents a stylistic step forward.

2021 mercedes benz s class

The front end is graced by a new interpretation of the traditional Mercedes-Benz grille, similar to the facelifted E-class but bigger in size. The upcoming Maybach and AMG versions will each get their own unique grilles. The headlights look slim and slightly aggressive, the front hood is long enough to swallow anything from a straight-six to a V-12, and the greenhouse and side view are cleaned up and sharpened. In the rear, the new S-class gets a few delicate creases and horizontal taillights, like all other new Mercedes sedans. It is a contemporary and understated look that will be very competitive in its segment. While it is not lacking in sheer size, the new S-class appears sleeker than the Audi A8 and BMW 7-series that it will face off against.

2021 mercedes benz s class

The interior takes a far greater leap, substituting the opulent, round lines of the predecessor for a coldly futuristic style that can be tempered with supple color and trim choices. Hartmut Sinkwitz, head of interior design, speaks of “a revolutionary experience” inside the new S-class because of its combination of “digital and analog luxury.”

The basic shapes are horizontal and ultra-clean, accentuated with a plethora of added or upgraded technology. These options can make the new S-class feel like a futuristic spaceship, and they’re what will make this car into more than a comfortable long-distance cruiser. The interior can be specified with up to five screens, OLED displays, and 3D displays with real-time eye tracking. The 3D effect is absolutely stunning, as is the ultra-large head-up display, one of two available. It is so big that it offers an augmented-reality experience with large arrows projected right onto the windshield.

Speaking of projection, there’s also an an optional lighting system that projects information onto the street. And then there are the safety systems: in case of an imminent side impact, the body lifts sharply. The vehicle’s surroundings are constantly monitored, as is the driver. Mercedes’s head of automated driving, Michael Hafner, said the home market will get Level 3 autonomy as a next step toward self-driving, which will allow the S-class to drive in “conditionally automated mode” at speeds up to 37 mph in high-density traffic on the freeway, allowing “secondary activities such as the in-car office.”

Another option is the choice of two all-wheel-steering systems, further adding possibilities for personalizing the S-class to taste. The top-level feature can turn the rear wheels by up to 10 degrees, cutting the car’s turning circle by over six feet. It is a surreal experience, as we found during a prototype ride, and should make the S-class more easily maneuverable even in Europe’s tight towns and cities.

2021 mercedes benz s class

The list of luxurious options includes a 22-speaker top-level Burmester stereo system with “4D” sound, which means that the seats vibrate to enhance the aural experience. The ambient lighting system features up to 250 LED light sources. There are optional reclining rear seats, and the user interface can be specified with different screen sizes. Tesla-style flush door handles are optional.

Mercedes-Benz will offer several chassis systems; the top-level system scans the road surface and adjusts the suspension 1000 times per second. It can also lean into corners the way a boat or a motorbike does. Wheel sizes range from 19 to 21 inches, with the AMG model sure to add another inch.

Even though 90 per cent of buyers have opted for the long-wheelbase version in the past, Europe still gets a short S-class. But the U.S. sticks with the larger version, which will eventually be complemented by an even longer Mercedes-Maybach S-class, which will be offered—as the only remaining S-class—with the delightful 6.0-liter V-12.

The car’s low drag coefficient—a mere 0.22—will make sure it is used most efficiently. By the way: There will be no fully electric S-class. That approach is the domain of the upcoming EQS, a very different and even more futuristic offering in the luxury segment. But the EQS is significantly smaller and not quite as luxurious as the S-class. Daimler has preserved the hierarchy.

2021 mercedes benz s class

“The S-class is the centerpiece of our brand,” says Bettina Fetzer, marketing chief at Mercedes-Benz. Philosophically, that’s a convincing statement: the new S-class shows everything that the brand can do. And simultaneously, it sets a new, higher standard. Like many of its predecessors, it has a reputation as the best car around that can be hard to argue with. And we’ll try to confirm this preliminary judgment behind the wheel soon.

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