Performance


First drive: Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2021.

27 April 2021

The seventh generation of the world’s best-selling luxury saloon has arrived, setting a new benchmark in the pursuit of automotive perfection.

Performance


First drive: Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2021.

27 April 2021

The seventh generation of the world’s best-selling luxury saloon has arrived, setting a new benchmark in the pursuit of automotive perfection.

Ever picked up a menu and been enticed by absolutely everything on it? Paralysed by indecision, it’s hard to know what to pick.

It’s a similar experience the first time you sit in the all-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class – innovations beckon at every turn, as sumptuousness entices the senses.

To properly appreciate the mouth-watering experience of the latest iteration of the world’s favourite and most imitated luxury saloon, try savouring each delight in turn.

A personalised welcome

It starts before you even touch the car. With the key in your pocket or bag, the S-Class senses your approach and its flush-fitting door handles gently extend in a visceral welcome. Pulling the door gently shut behind you, a powered mechanism gently completes the process. Once sealed, the serenity in the cabin is palpable. But more on that later.

Settle into the gorgeously padded and perforated leather driver’s seat and use the touch-sensitive 12.8-inch central multimedia screen – which utilises OLED technology and portrait orientation for the first time in a Mercedes-Benz – to hit up the massage menu. Choosing from one of several programs, small rollers in the seat back begin to gently knead any tension from your back and shoulders.

Mercedes-Benz 2021 S-Class interior

The seventh generation of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class features a 12.8-inch central multimedia screen, which utilises OLED technology and portrait orientation for the first time in a Mercedes-Benz. Image: Simon Shiff.

Perhaps you might like to set up a specific user profile in MBUX, the Mercedes-Benz multimedia system for each driver. This can automatically configure seating positions, mirrors and numerous settings to a pre-set preference. For the first time, you can biometrically log in to set your profile using a fingerprint scanner embedded in the centre screen, or via a camera-based facial recognition system.

The front seats also include their own individual heating and cooling, touch controls for adjustment, and a feather-soft pillow to supplement the supportive headrest. Later, during driving, the electronic embrace of active side bolsters can support you during cornering.

Now snugly cocooned, place your phone onto the wireless charging pad in the centre console and perform a quick pairing – your favourite playlist will sound even better via the 710-watt Burmester 3D surround sound system with 15 high-performance speakers. And that’s just the start of the technological innovations at your fingertips.

Intuitive navigation

Setting a destination for the satellite navigation is a simple request; “Hey Mercedes, take me to … “. Now you need to decide on a navigation view – there’s the big, crystal-clear central OLED screen that’s visible from any seat; there’s a 3D view through the driver’s 12.3-inch instrument display (a Mercedes-Benz-first); there’s the simple turn-by-turn instruments rendered in head-up display (HUD); or the optional augmented reality feature.

Mercedes-Benz 2021 S-Class interior

Setting a destination for the satellite navigation is a simple request; “Hey Mercedes, take me to …” Image: Simon Shiff.

The latter creates a particularly immersive experience for the HUD, projecting signposts and directional arrows onto the windscreen so that they appear to be three-dimensionally embedded in the driver’s view. It’s a useful feature when approaching complicated road junctions, with the ability to guide the driver through the correct turn or exit.

With the destination locked in, it’s time to roll. Touching the ‘Start’ button embedded in a swathe of timber veneer that runs the width of the front fascia, the S 450 4MATIC comes to life with a barely perceptible purr.

A strong, all-but-silent type

The 3.0-litre turbocharged six under the bonnet provides more than adequate motivation for such a sizeable saloon, with 270 kilowatts of power and 500 Nm of torque – plus an extra 16 kW/250 Nm available in short bursts from its 48-volt mild hybrid electrical system – yet it’s no show-off. Paired with a fuss-free 9G-TRONIC nine-speed auto and all-wheel grip from the 4MATIC system, it’s very much the strong, all-but-silent type.

This new S-Class may be both longer and wider than its predecessor, to the specific advantage of interior space, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it on the road. Both the S 450 and its long-wheelbase sibling, the S 450 L, give the impression of shrinking around the driver, feeling no more challenging to position on the road than the lithe C-Class sedan that is a full two classes smaller.

One exception might have been the experience of parking, courtesy of the longer wheelbase of the S-Class; but the 360° camera view rendered on the large OLED screen is superbly detailed, while optionally available rear-wheel steering can turn the rear wheels up to 10°. This reduces the turning circle by a stunning two metres, to an arc that is effectively smaller than that of a diminutive A-Class hatchback.

With AIRMATIC suspension as standard, the S 450 and S 450 L soak up road imperfections like a sponge in the appropriately named Comfort mode on a route through the semi-rural Yarra Valley outside Melbourne. Even in firmer Sport mode during a twisty, forested section, this sizeable projectile is difficult to unsettle as the turbo six’s fat band of torque effortlessly motivates it from one corner to the next.

The back-seat driving experience

It’s worth remembering that whilst the majority of New Zealand S-Class owners prefer the driver’s seat to the back seat, the opposite is true in many other markets and that means the two rear seats are supremely comfortable and well appointed, with astonishing legroom and many optional packages available for working or relaxing that can add two entertainment screens, a centre console-mounted tablet, headphones and wireless device charging, and even business class-style folding tables.

There’s plenty to surprise and delight in the new S-Class, but the final persuasive testament to the quality and refinement of this package doesn’t come until the final act of the day, a motorway commute back into the city.

Transiting through a tunnel – typically a dingy echo chamber of tyre and engine noise, complete with unsettling vibrations and the sharp waft of spent diesel – the exceptionalism of the latest generation of this luxurious saloon is truly revealed. Against this expected assault of the senses, the absolute solitude of the S-Class remains resolutely unbreached.

Amid all the wow-factor technology and innovation, it’s easy to overlook that the latest S-Class does simple things remarkably well, whilst remarkable features are simply and effectively executed.

Book a test drive to experience the all-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class for yourself.

By Steve Colquhoun