2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class: It’s What’s Inside That Counts

Competes with: Audi A8, BMW 7-Series, Genesis G90

Looks like: A slightly larger take on the outgoing S-Class, with subtle exterior refinements (honestly, we can hardly tell the difference, and we’re professionals)

Powertrain: 429-horsepower, 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder (S500) or 496-hp, 4.0-liter V-8 (S580), both turbocharged with 48-volt mild-hybrid systems that can add an extra 21 hp and 184 pounds-feet of torque for temporary acceleration assistance; nine-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive standard at launch

Hits dealerships: First half of 2021

Mercedes-Benz wouldn’t be Mercedes-Benz without the S-Class sedan, so even in an SUV-obsessed world, the German luxury brand is giving its flagship full-size sedan an overhaul for the 2021 model year. Already loaded with technology and safety features, the new S-Class becomes the most advanced Benz you can buy, at least until the features start trickling down to the rest of Mercedes’ lineup — just don’t expect it to look drastically different, or really much different at all, when it arrives in dealerships at some point in the first half of 2021.

Related: Next-Gen Mercedes-Benz S-Class Will Give You a Lift (in the Event of a Crash)

Exterior

The most significant change to the new S-Class’ exterior is a reduction in character lines on its sides, along with slightly smaller, flatter headlights. In back, the taillights trade the outgoing S-Class’ taller shapes for thinner, slitlike profiles — more akin to what you see on the redesigned CLA- and CLS-Class sedans.

The redesign is also a bit larger than its predecessor, at just over an inch longer and almost half an inch taller. Despite the increase in major dimensions, particularly to the frontal area of the car, the new S-Class has a lower coefficient of drag than the outgoing generation. The added dimensions also give the sedan a 2-inch longer wheelbase and wider front and rear tracks.

Interior

Interior space wasn’t really a concern in the previous S-Class, but the redesign offers increases in most measurements, including rear head- and legroom, as well as front and rear elbow room. Rear shoulder room has decreased by more than an inch, but trunk capacity is also slightly larger, by Mercedes’ measurements.

MBUX, or the Mercedes-Benz User Experience, debuts its newest iteration here. We’ve covered it in detail already: It now includes a 12.8-inch touchscreen and up to four other screens, with voice-command support for 27 different languages and significantly reduced physical controls for a cleaner aesthetic. (While we tend to lament the lack of physical audio and climate controls, as do consumers, Mercedes will pin the climate controls to the bottom of the display. It’s not our ideal, but at least they aren’t buried in a submenu.)

Other fun interior details include 10 different massage patterns for the seats and 64-color LED ambient lighting that uses some 250 LEDs. (The old S-Class only had 40 because it was for peasants.) The standard stereo includes Burmester 3-D surround-sound, while an optional Burmester 4-D stereo augments that with seat-embedded resonators.

Engines and Transmission 

At launch, buyers will have a choice of the S500 or S580, both with Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel drive. The S500 is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder engine producing 429 horsepower and 384 pounds-feet of torque. The S580 gets a turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 good for 496 hp and 516 pounds-feet. If that isn’t enough, both engines also come with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that can activate an EQ Boost feature that adds 21 hp and 184 pounds-feet of torque for “short periods” — like, say, dusting the guy who just asked if you have any Grey Poupon. Both engines pair with a nine-speed automatic transmission.

An air suspension is standard, but new for this year is Mercedes’ E-Active Body Control, which can read and adjust to road conditions and driving to reduce body motion. It also plays a role in occupant safety (more on that in the next section). Four-wheel steering is also optional, and it can reduce the turning radius by 6 feet, according to Mercedes.

Mercedes did not provide 0-60-mph acceleration, though it did say each S-Class is electronically limited to a top speed of 130 mph.

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Safety Features and Driver Assist Systems

The tech bonanza continues with a number of advanced safety features. Besides the usual driver assist features, the new S-Class is now available with a bevy of features.

  • An augmented-reality head-up display is equivalent to a 77-inch diagonal display viewed from 32 feet away, Mercedes says. It can display animated turn-by-turn instructions directly onto the lane ahead.
  • A three-dimensional driver display can display the vehicle’s surroundings without the use of special eyewear thanks to driver eye-tracking.
  • Active ambient lighting can produce visual warnings as part of the operation of various safety systems — for example, turning red to warn of an impending collision when the Active Blind Spot Assist system warns of one.
  • With the optional E-Active Body Control system, the S-Class can lift itself up to 3 inches prior to a side collision to better redirect crash forces from occupants toward reinforced body structures.
  • The Executive Rear Seat Package now includes frontal airbags for the rear passengers to better protect them in the event of a crash.
  • Capacitive hands-off recognition detects when your hands are on or off the wheel, rather than the usual force-sensitive logic in most cars. Still, lane-centering steering requires you to hold the wheel, Mercedes-Benz told us. Hands-free lane centering — offered currently or soon by BMW, Cadillac, Ford and Infiniti — is not available.

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