MARK TAKAHASHI: It’s been seven years since the iconic Mercedes Benz S-Class was last redesigned. Even as the current S-Class heads out to pasture, it remains the Edmunds top-rated luxury sedan in its class. Nevertheless, it’s about time for a new one, and here it is, the all-new seventh-generation 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Sedan. The S-Class name, which is short for [GERMAN],, special class in German, debuted in the early 1970s but has roots going all the way back to the mid 1950s. Over the years, the S-Class has been the standard for luxury, comfort, and refinement, but it’s also known for innovation and developing emerging technologies. Many features we take for granted today debuted on an S-Class, features like crumple zones, standard airbags, seat-belt pretensioners, voice recognition, and stability control. It’s a fair bet that this new S-Class will uphold that tradition of innovation. But before we get to the details, hit that Subscribe button below and head over to edmunds.com for all your car-shopping needs.
Also visit edmunds.com/sellmycar to get a cash offer for your vehicle. When the S-Class goes on sale in the first half of 2021, it’ll be just a little bit bigger, about two inches wider, two inches longer between the front and rear wheels, and just over an inch in length. So far, we know about the two main engines, the S500 4MATIC has a 3-liter turbocharged inline six cylinder that makes 429 horsepower and 384 pound feet of torque. The S580 4MATIC gets a 4-liter twin-turbo V8 that’s good for 496 horsepower and 516 pound-feet. Both get some electrification through the EQ Boost system that adds 21 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It’s an electric motor that acts as a starter generator and gives some extra oomph when needed. A nine-speed auto is the only transmission, and those 4Matic names denote all-wheel drive. Speaking of wheels, the new S-Class will be available with four-wheel steering. The concept is nothing new, but this version will allow the wheels to turn up to 10 degrees in the back. Mercedes claims it will reduce the turning circle to less than 36 feet, which is what you’d expect from the much smaller A-Class.
Mercedes is also making the E-Active Body Control available, which I experienced on the GLE drive. Not only does it keep body roll under control but it counteracts it by leaning the car into turns, much like how a motorcycle does. It’s a little weird from the driver’s seat, but as a passenger, it greatly reduces any jostling. It also powers the Pre-Safe impulse side system. This feature detects an imminent side collision and lifts the vehicle ride height to ensure the strongest parts of the vehicle take the brunt of the impact instead of the passengers. Returning is Road Surface Scan which scans the road ahead with stereo cameras and adjusts the suspension to deliver the smoothest ride possible. From previous experiences, we can say it’s magic over speed bumps. You don’t even notice them. Since this is such an iconic sedan and I’m into design, let’s talk about the design. First off, yes, it’s more of an evolution, just as every S-Class in history has been, but with some special elements that kind of kick it up a notch.
First off, yes, we have the upright physical emblem right here on top of the hood rather than built into the grille, which has been a staple of the S-Class for time immemorial. Now we have the new grille too, which has some nice little bevels here on the top corners, and it’s slightly bigger, both in terms of height and width, but I think it works. I’m not too crazy about this sensor panel here, but when you realize how many things are packed behind it, it does make sense. And when you think about that it may have level three hands-free driving sometime in the future– not just yet and definitely not at launch– yes, it’s pretty easy to put up with those panels. Further down, we look at this hood which is pretty much a clean sheet, not a lot of fussiness going on, and I like that. It gives a more substantial, heavy look, which is what you want from a big German luxury sedan, right?
Further down, well, we have this character line that starts at the headlights and goes all the way to the taillights. It’s a little higher than before. Used to run maybe closer to the door handles, but now it’s this nice accent that runs all the way down. And again, we have more of this clean sheet down here without any messiness or accessories that aren’t necessary. Doesn’t have that little chrome tab off of a 7 Series that really throws me, and it gives it that imposing presence that you want. Also, new for 2021 are these recessed door handles. Yes, everyone’s going to say it’s a ripoff of Tesla, but you know what? It worked for Tesla.
It’ll work for Mercedes too. And as we get to the back of the vehicle, well, it’s a little different, maybe not what I was quite expecting. It’s tapering down a little bit. It’s also tapering in a little bit, which kind of makes me feel like it’s a little weak. Also, I’m not too crazy about these triangular taillights that remind me of the A-Class or CLA. For an S-Class, I want something a lot more distinctive, big, bold. They do have this chrome strip going across, but that doesn’t give it the presence that I’m quite looking for. Odds are, though, I’ll be fine with it after I see it on the road a couple times. Of course, since it’s a luxury sedan, the interior is vitally important, so let’s check it out. The interior design is, well, pretty special. First off, from the driver’s seat, you get the impression that the hood continues on into the dashboard. It’s almost as though there’s no break where the windshield starts, and that’s a really special feeling and something that you don’t get in any other car. But let’s address the elephant in the room first, which is the big touchscreen in the middle. I do like touchscreens. I’ve been a huge fan of the Mercedes MBUX system, but I think I’m going to need a little time with this to get a full judgment on this. If you’ve seen the design video I did a few months ago, you’ll know that I’m not a big fan of taking away buttons. And according to the press release, they removed about 27 physical buttons out of the interior. So there aren’t any real physical shortcuts that you can just use knowing that you’re hitting the button with your fingertip anymore, so you do have to take your eyes off the road to adjust things.
But since it’s the MBUX system, you can still use your voice as well. You can just simply say, hey, Mercedes, I’m a little hot, and it’ll turn the temperature down for you. The new steering wheel is missing the kind of black thumb-scrolly things they used to have, but there is a capacitive-touch-button thing here that works the same. So you can control the main screen with your right hand on the steering wheel, and you control the instrument panel with the left thumb-scrolly thing. It’s a technical term. Bear with me. There are a lot of new features to talk about, and it starts as soon as you get in the car. On the instrument panel here, you’ll see this little notch, kind of like what you’d see at the top of an iPhone X. But behind that notch is actually a bunch of sensors and cameras that are watching your eyes. It’s also face recognition.
So when you sit down, it will recognize you if you turn on that feature. If you’re a little paranoid about privacy, well, you can turn that off, but it also has this fingerprint scanner here which does the same thing. It tells the vehicle who you are and what your preferences are for audio, climate control, as well as seat position. There’s also a cool feature in the app and in the setup here where you can just tell the car how tall you are and it will try its best to adjust the seat for you. It’s a nice little novelty, and I’d like to try it out at some point. Otherwise, the screen is very easy to read. It’s very sharp. It’s quick to respond. According to the engineer, it has 50% more computing power, and it shows. There’s really no delay. It’s nice, smooth scrolling. And most of the stuff you’d get here, you can get on this instrument panel too. The instrument panel, well, that deserves some serious love too. This has this 3D imaging feature where it looks like the dials are floating in space, but the nav map behind it is kind of flat and trailing away from you. It is super cool. And you have these different themes that you can choose. My favorite is the Sport which gives you this almost tunnel view. It’s very, very trippy. I hope you’ll be able to gain an appreciation for this on video. If not, definitely check it out when it shows up in the dealerships.
It’s not just a novelty. It’s just super cool. Also new is a much larger head-up display that projects the image very large, and visually, it seems like it’s about 30 feet ahead of the car. The cool thing with the head-up display, though, is it has the same type of augmented-reality overlay that the previous MBUX system had. So if you have a destination set in the navigation, when you have a turn coming up, it will overlay those arrows right where you need to turn on the road. Greatly simplifies navigating a city that you’re unfamiliar with. It takes a lot of the stress out of driving. As far as materials quality goes, well, Mercedes-Benz has pretty much been unassailable when it comes to the S-Class. Honestly, if you want something better, you’re going to have spend a hell of a lot more money. We’re talking Bentley and Rolls-Royce.
Let’s also talk about the interior ambient lighting. I’ve always been a fan of it. It gives the interior this cool, almost lounge-like vibe, but they took it a step further with the new S-Class. If there’s a hazard coming up, these lights will actually change and flash to red to alert you of that. Also when you have the passenger exit alert, as soon as you start reaching for the handle, the sensors will pick it up. It’ll tell you if a vehicle or bicyclist or something else is coming up behind you, warning you not to open the door. And the interior ambient lighting will change red to alert you to that as well. There’s also a new 360-degree camera system, which is a bit like BMW’s where you can set it and sort of scroll around to see what’s around the vehicle, giving you a much better idea if you’re about to hit something in a very tight parking spot. It works well in the BMW, and I think it will work just as well in this S-Class. There will be some hands-free semi-autonomous driving available but not at launch. It’s possible that we will get that as an over-the-air update since the hardware is already in the car, but the good thing is a lot of the driver assists that were optional on the previous S-Class are now standard. So you get the Distronic adaptive cruise control and the traffic-jam assist. So if you’re in dense traffic, you can actually have the car drive you up to a certain speed. On the highway, though, you still have to have your hands on the wheel, and it will warn you after about 10 or 12 seconds to put your hands on the wheel.
Otherwise, it has a lot of potential to be the next big tech sedan. But it’s a big sedan, so let’s check out the rear seats too. [MUSIC PLAYING] No surprise. I have plenty of room back here with the seat set for me up front. Tons of space under the seat. Can’t even really touch the seat with my toes and plenty of headroom as well. So I’m 5 foot 10. Most adults will be just fine back here. Of course, it slides, reclines, and all that goodness. Now, as you can see, this is a four-seat model, which won’t be available in the US, at least not in the beginning. There’s hints that it will be available on other S-Classes in the future. You can fill in the blanks there. But it will be a three-seat back here. But the center will fall down, and you do have a nice, big center console. The bigger innovation back here is actually for safety. There’s a new airbag built into the backs of the front seats. That kind of balloons out and almost catches the passengers back here like a catcher’s mitt for that added assurance just in case things go horribly, horribly wrong. Another cool accent that I like that I thought maybe other people should do is these illuminated seat-belt buckles. So on a dark night, you don’t really have to fumble around down there to get cinched in. If you opt for the rear entertainment system, you have a lot of the same options you do with other rear entertainment systems.
That includes if you’re looking up a destination, you can send those directions up to the driver. Also, you can easily share the content from one screen to another, whether it’s music or video. It’s a nice touch. Now once we do get to drive this, I’m sure I’ll be spending a lot of time back here, and I’ll be able to give you much more solid impressions of comfort and ride quality. As far as cargo capacity goes, you should have no problem squeezing a ton of luggage for a couple’s getaway. The space itself is really deep, but it’s actually kind of narrow You don’t have that cutaway here behind the wheel well, so if you have some big golf bags, you’re probably going to have to squeeze them in diagonally. But, hey, you can still get them in there no problem.
And honestly, you probably have them stored at the club anyway. There are some nice touches. You have these bag holders here so your contents don’t go scattering across and you don’t have to chase down everything. Otherwise, it should meet all of your expectations for hauling stuff. Without driving this new S-Class, it’s impossible to tell whether or not it’ll retain its Edmunds top-rated status, but things are definitely looking favorable against the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, and Porsche Panamera. We should have a more complete review with driving impressions as we get closer to the on-sale date in the spring of 2021. In the meantime, head on over to edmunds.com for the latest news on the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class as well as its competition.