2021 Mercedes-Benz’s new S-Class: The saloon provides comfort like no other and makes driving a lot more enjoyable

With the launch of the new S-Class, Mercedes-Benz cements its reputation as the trailblazer of automotive comfort, technology and safety

Luxury automobiles have always been the Mercedes-Benz mainstay. But as times change, so do the expectations, which are heightened multifold in the world of luxury. In the early days, the German marque’s customers wanted open-top touring cars, until increased traffic made saloons the more sensible choice.

And economic factors changed things too – when Mercedes-Benz first introduced the 220 in 1951, it marked the return of powerful six-cylinder engines after years of austerity. It also marked the return of Mercedes-Benz to the pinnacle of the luxury saloon segment, where its flag remains firmly planted.

That 220 model was the forebear of what would become the S-Class – officially so in 1972, when the designation was born. The S-Class soon came to be the standard for the latest engineering advancements, safety features, and comfort amenities, with four million sales, and just as many satisfied owners, throughout its history.

And this tradition is set to continue – with the launch of the newest S-Class – combining the legendary engineering expertise and craftsmanship, while redefining modern luxury with progressive digital innovation.


Tech revolution

Leading the way with that innovation is the second generation of the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX), which heightens one’s driving experience, and debuts in the new S-Class. Controlled by learning algorithms, the system’s Interior Assist detects and interprets the driver’s head direction, hand movements and body language, and responds with correspondingly. Should you turn to look out a rear window, the system senses this and retracts the sunblind on that particular window to ensure unobstructed vision. Showing signs of fatigue while behind the wheel? The car not only assesses your alertness, but also gives warnings to keep you awake.

Augmented reality content, while not available in Singapore just yet, will also help with navigation, where animated turn-off arrows are virtually projected onto the road lane. The vehicle is also able to maintain a distance to the car in front, adjusting the car’s speed accordingly, and minimising sudden braking.

But there’s no need to commit all these functions to memory. A simple call out “Hey Mercedes” to the voice assisted app will help you get things sorted. The system can even learn to recognise different voices and activate individual profiles associated with them.

Personal preferences such as a favourite radio station and preselected settings can be transferred to any seat via the personal Mercedes me profile. Up to seven different profiles with around 800 parameters are enabled, and can even be transferred to other Mercedes-Benz vehicles equipped with this MBUX system.

Comfortable ambience

All this digital technology is designed to support what the S-Class has stood for throughout its history – the ultimate in automotive safety and comfort.

The new S-Class builds on the strengths of previous models, providing a spacious, lounge-like ambience. With the bulk of the vehicle functions being managed by MBUX, the number of physical controls has been systematically reduced, allowing drivers to focus on enjoying the drive.

Nearly all comfort-related dimensions have been improved for both front and rear seat passengers, and the sense of spaciousness is enhanced with the horizontal lines of the interior design. A fine divide between the upper section of the dashboard and the large trim element enhances this sense of breadth, as does the sense that the dashboard, centre console and armrests float above the interior landscape.

That said, the sense of space would mean little without comfort, and the seats exemplify that focus in the new S-Class.

Each seat offers 10 different massage choices that can last between eight and 18 minutes, at two different intensity levels. The activation massage makes a great incentive to get to work, while a hot relaxing back massage provides the ideal solution after a long day of meetings.

The Energising Comfort programmes take the concept a step further, combining massages, seat ventilation, ambient lighting, soundscapes, and climate control systems to enhance passenger well-being.

Whatever mood you’d like to be in, the car will set the tone with ambient lighting, temperature setting and the releasing of a fragrance

If the driver announces to the app that he is stressed, the system automatically triggers the Joy programme to create a positive mood: the mobilising massage is activated, uplifting, ambient music is played, lighting is set to warmer tones and fragrance is added to the cabin. Freshness is also likely to prove popular, with a deep wave massage, a blast of cool air, cooling green-blue ambient light, and even – curiously – the removal of the 4D sound setting effect.

That 4D effect is part of the optional Burmester 4D surround sound system, which incorporates resonance transmitters in the backrests to convert bass tones into vibrations, making music an even more immersive experience. With 31 speakers around the cabin and eight exciters in the seats, the perceived sound intensity can be individually adjusted for each seat. Ear-level speakers integrated into the head restraints improve the sound quality for all passengers and can provide the driver with instructions from the navigation system without affecting the listening pleasure of others.


Ride and relax

The S-Class is also big on giving its owner options. Depending on which of the four seat variants are selected, rear seat occupants may enjoy even more comfort and features than those in the front. Comfort seats electrically recline to 37 degrees, while optional Executive seats recline up to 43.5 degrees, making longer journeys a lot more pleasant.

Buyers can also choose the First-Class Rear, which replaces the centre seat with a business console that includes numerous features such as USB connectors and wireless charging systems. There’s even the option to deploy tables – just like an airline seat, though presumably without the in-seat service.

Comfortable seats mean little without a comfortable ride, and the S-Class has always excelled in this area, and Airmatic suspension, which continually adjusts damping, is set to cement that reputation. With the optional E-Active Body Control – a hydropneumatic active suspension that’ll be available in future S-Class cars – active controls of spring and damper rates on each wheel keeps the car body perfectly even, regardless of irregular road surfaces or an overly spirited driver.

While one hardly expects a racing-car experience in a luxury saloon, the combination of the E-Active Body Control and the optional rear-axle steering system will appeal to keen drivers. With this system, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front at higher speeds for better stability, and in the opposite direction for better manoeuvrability on city streets.

The rear wheels can also turn as much as 10 degrees at parking speeds, reducing the car’s turning circle by up to two metres, making it a genuine game-changer for a car this size. It certainly makes parking easier, though of course, there’s the Parking Package, an automated system to do that for you, because, why not? The new S-Class is now able to recognise parking spaces defined by lines on the road as well as other vehicles, thanks to its 360-degree camera that allows for an expanded side view.

It is this combination of engineering, safety, comfort and technology that buyers have come to expect from the S-Class, and this new generation continues to raise the bar.

Ola Källenius, chairman of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG, has only praise for the car, “With the latest generation [of the S-Class], we want to offer our customers innovation, safety, comfort and quality as never before.”

To that, we say: mission accomplished.

This story first appeared in the May 2021 issue, which you may purchase as a hard or digital copy