For the past half century, the S-Class has been the flagship of Mercedes-Benz’s fleet and showcases the best of luxury and technology the brand has to offer. The latest model carries on this tradition except in one very important way, but I’ll get to that.
The 2021 S-Class is available as the S500 with a 429 hp inline-6-cylinder engine or the S580 with a 496 horsepower electric-assisted hybrid V8. Both are mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission, standard all-wheel drive and air suspension systems.
Prices start at $110,850 for the S500 and $117,350, so pretty much the same as a full-size pickup. (I kid because everything is expensive these days. But, seriously, now you can spend six-figures on a truck.)
The exterior is subdued as ever, and it’s not all that different from the previous version, but the interior has been given a complete overhaul that includes a new tablet-style digital instrument cluster and a 12.8-inch OLED central touchscreen with the latest version. MBUX infotainment system.
The setup does away with analog controls, and could certainly make use of the volume and tuning knobs, but the interface is well designed and not too hard to use given the vast array of features on hand. They range from massaging seats and multicolored ambient lighting to a cabin perfumery sprayer and, if you don’t want to take your eyes off the road, you can ask it to do a lot of things with voice commands at a good response rate . It even has a fingerprint scanner that brings up your personal profile configuration with just one touch.
Even more dazzling is an optional 3D version of the instrument cluster that uses eye-tracking technology to create the effect. It sounds gimmicky, but when you have Navigation Maps set to full-screen, it’s really worth a look. Unfortunately, I can’t share the effect with you here.
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Above that, there’s a heads-up display that mimics a 77-inch screen area hovering in front of a car with an augmented reality system that can float dynamic arrows in front of you to indicate the way. It also highlights other vehicles when you’re using the adaptive cruise control and self-steering lane centering system, which change lanes at a flick of the turn signal stalk, but hand you touching the wheel to operate. need to be kept.
An optional 1750-watt, 30-speaker The Burmeister 4D Audio System Price (What’s That Now?) $6,730 Adds resonators to all four of the outboard seats that pump along to the beat of the music, which is pretty neat… the first time you try it. I tested it in the S580 which was also equipped with a $1,300 rear-wheel-steering system that offers more bang for the buck.
It’s not the first car to feature technology, but the action is dramatic. It can also turn the rear wheels up to 10 degrees in the opposite direction to the front and shorten the turning radius of a 17-foot vehicle by more than six feet. Even in my test car—which was an AMG lined trim with steamroller tires that narrowed the steering to 4.5-degrees—the impact took some getting used to and let the car drive through town like a compact. Urban livery drivers must go on strike to make sure the cars in their fleet have it, but will prefer the standard 19-inch wheels because the 21s don’t get rough on city roads.
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For owners who prefer to drive themselves, the S580 is fast and smooth as a railgun. The hybrid system’s electric motor delivers a boost of 184 lb-ft of torque in short bursts, but also enables a fuel-saving start/stop feature, which kicks the V8 back into action without any kicks.
But while the S-Class is pretty impressive, the one thing that keeps it far from cutting edge is the lack of an all-electric drivetrain. Which will be resolved soon.
Later this year, Mercedes-Benz is launching the similarly-sized, battery-powered 2022 EQS, which will essentially claim the flagship from the S-Class.
Until then, you can enjoy running very small circles around the competition in the S580.
2021 Mercedes-Benz S580
Base Price: $117,350
As Tested: $138,530
Type: 4-door, 5-passenger all-wheel-drive sedan
Engine: 4.0L V8 w/ Electric Assist Motor
Power: 496 hp, 516 lb-ft
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Fuel saving: 17 city/25 hwy