Mercedes S-Class Saloon review
The Mercedes S-Class has some of the most impressive technology you’ll see in any car. It’s luxurious and comfortable too. Its exterior design could be a bit more exciting though.
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The Mercedes S-Class is a luxury saloon that has earned the title ‘the best car in the world’, and now there’s an all-new version.
The S-Class is a pioneer because it always showcases the latest Mercedes technology saloon before it filters down through the rest of the range.
Still, using the latest tech in this luxurious high-tech limo is always special – it’s like hearing music as it was meant to be played by a live orchestra rather than streamed on your phone.
The S-Class has been updated for 2021 so it comes with even more to set it apart from an Audi A8, BMW 7 Series or Lexus LS. And it has done so. It collected the Best Luxury Car in the 2021 carwow Car of the Year Awards.
It doesn’t look radically different from the outgoing model, mind you, but it does feature quite a few traits shared with other recently updated Mercedes models. The new grille and rounder headlights look like they’ve been lifted from the latest E-Class, for example.
From the side, the new S-Class has fewer creases than the old car. This makes it look smoother, but also a little like an elongated E-Class. And, at the back, the new brake lights look very similar to the triangular lights you get on a CLS.
What’s cool is that the flush-fitting door handles pop out when the car senses that you’re nearby. And once you get inside, the new S-Class looks completely different from any other Mercedes.
You can get the S-Class interior with a load of different trims, including a gorgeous wooden design with vertical metal bars. It looks like a vintage speed boat got frisky with a grand piano.
All this wood looks especially good with the car’s new mood lighting turned on. And, just like before, you can get the S-Class with a panoramic glass roof to make its massive cabin feel even airier inside. Of course, space in the front and back is superb, and there’s even a long wheelbase version if the standard back seats feel a bit poky.
The main thing you’ll notice inside is the new touchscreen. This huge screen replaces 27 of the old S-Class’s physical buttons, including the central touchpad.
The touchscreen can tell where your finger is even before you’ve pressed it, however, and it gets haptic feedback which should make it pretty easy to use on the move. You can even lock the screen using fingerprint or face recognition so there’s no chance of your passengers fiddling with anything while you’re out of the car.
Mercedes has smashed it out of the park with the interior of the S-Class. Shame the exterior isn't as opulent
Initially, the new Mercedes S-Class will be available with four six-cylinder, three-litre engines – two petrol and two diesels. All with a nine-speed automatic gearbox. Later on a plug-in hybrid will join the range too. Every S-Class comes with a nine-speed automatic gearbox.
Also as standard is adaptive air suspension as standard, so the only thing more comfortable is likely to be a velvet-lined waterbed. Better still, it manages to combine a really comfortable drive and pin-drop silence with decent capability on winding country roads.
It’s actually fairly agile, although a BMW 7 Series is probably a little bit more engaging to drive. Mind you, who cares when most S-Class owners are likely to be experiencing life from the back seat.
The S-Class also comes with some unique safety features. For starters, there’s an optional back-seat airbag that gives passengers in the back of long-wheelbase models similar protection to the driver in a head-on collision. It is also capable of level-3 autonomous driving, meaning it can accelerate, brake, steer and change lanes for you on motorways.
So, the ‘best car in the world’ just got even better. If you want to experience it, head to our S-Class deals page for the best prices.
Watch the Mercedes S-Class group test against Audi A8 and BMW 7 Series:
Most people will buy a long-wheelbase version so everyone should have plenty of room. The comfiest seats are reserved for the four-seater versions, though.
The Mercedes S-Class is not a small vehicle, so you can expect to fit up to five people in it easily. However, in long-wheelbase models you can also specify it with two individual rear seats, which have a large console between them. This makes the S-Class a four-seater, obviously.
There’s a good-sized boot behind everyone, plenty of room for the weekend clobber in Cannes, or the case of champers.
There are four large door pockets that will take a decent-sized bottle, and the glovebox is a fair size. There’s also a large lidded storage area between the front seats, and if you choose the four-seat option there’s one between the rear seats, too.
The boot is a decent size, and the bootlid extends down to the rear bumper so you don’t have to lift heavy bags too high in order to get them into the luggage area.
Of course, an electrically operated bootlid means you don’t have to get your hands dirty opening or closing it.
The S-Class has through-loading, so you can carry longer items, such as skis.
Comfortable rather than sporty to drive – but that’s what you’d expect in a Mercedes limo. The Mercedes S-Class comes with so much autonomous driving technology that you’ll need to wait for the law to catch up before you can use it.
The engine range comprises four engines, two petrol and two diesels, all of which are 3.0-litre straight six-cylinder motors linked to four-wheel-drive system through a nine-speed automatic gearbox. Both of these come with a mild-hybrid system. This uses a 22hp electric motor that can take over from the engine when you’re cruising to save fuel, and give the engine a boost when you accelerate hard.
The S350 petrol has 367bhp and will do 0-60mph in 5.1 seconds. The S500 has 435hp and will cover the sprint in 4.9 seconds.
The diesel range starts with the 286hp S350d, which is available with rear- or four-wheel drive. The rear-drive car does 0-60mph in 6.4 seconds, with the 4WD car 0.2 quicker. The S400d has 330hp and four-wheel-drive-only. It does 0-60mph in 5.4 seconds.
For those with an eye on the future, an S580e plug-in hybrid version is on the way, and will offer a decent electric-only range to keep down fuel bills. This model will likely also be the most refined S-Class by some way – when running on battery power at least.
There will also be a high-performance AMG model, for those who prefer V8 noise to the sound of silence.
The new Mercedes S-Class comes with adaptive air suspension as standard, so the only thing more comfortable is likely to be a velvet-lined waterbed. Having said that, small, sharp bumps in town can catch it out on occasion.
Still, it manages to combine a usually sumptuous ride quality with comparatively keen driving manners. It’s actually fairly agile, although a BMW 7 Series is probably a little bit more engaging to drive. Mind you, who cares when most S-Class owners are likely to be experiencing life from the back seat.
Still, the tech will be able to give your driver an easy time on the motorway, because the S-Class can keep you a set distance from the car in front, will steer the car, can change lanes, and can bring the car to a halt if the traffic ahead should stop.
However, where European cars get up to 10 degrees of rear-wheel steering, UK cars won’t, so Jeeves will have to do a bit more arm-twirling in town.
UK cars also do without the active suspension system that tilts the body into the corner to counteract roll. That said, top-end Maybach versions should feature this tech.
The interior looks absolutely stunning and the quality is incredible, though the screen behind the steering wheel looks like it’s plonked on top of the steering column.
Mercedes S-Class Saloon colours
- From £695