Review: 2021 Mercedes Benz S-Class is faultless in its ride and smarter than Einstein

Mercedes S-Class exterior shot
If the suit maketh the man, the S-Class maketh the gentleman (or woman). Photo credit: Supplied/Tarmac Life.

By Dave McLeod of Tarmac Life

First launched in the 1950s and then actually named in the '70s, the Mercedes Benz NZ S-Class has just launched its 7th Generation, and we got to check out the S450 4MATIC model. 

The undisputed apex of the brand in terms of luxury and innovation, the S-Class exemplifies all that is great in automotive refinement, and the 7th generation takes things to a whole new level. But before I wax lyrically about all this luxury saloon's plethora of wowing wonders, let me tell you about the things I didn't like... insert crickets chirping now..

You see, simply put, if you're into having a lavish lifestyle, are gadget mad or even power-hungry, it's almost impossible to find fault with this land-going luxury yacht. 

At around 5.2m long and 1.9m wide, this latest iteration has grown in stature, with much of its new size coming in the way of wheelbase for additional passenger comfort. It offers ample road presence and takes an extra few steps to do a walkaround.

Upfront, the long bonnet features an item that has gone the way of the dinosaur for most car companies: A hood ornament.

 The three-pointed star (land, sea and air) is unmissable and in so many ways is such a sign of status, as is the 'high-status' chrome grille, a break from the normal face of both Mercedes and AM. In fact, the entire exterior of the new S-Class comes with hints of chrome garnish, yet somehow still doesn't feel overdone.

 Mercedes S-Class exterior shot
Photo credit: Supplied/Tarmac Life.

My model came with Mercedes digital headlights, containing three powerful LEDs with light that is refracted and directed by 1.3 million micro-mirrors. The resolution is more than 2.6 million pixels per vehicle, and the projection range on full high-beam is 150 metres longer compared to multibeam LED. Essentially night becomes day. 

The new S-Class's profile is a lot smoother, with less dominant character lines. The door handles pop out to meet you when you approach the saloon and overall the S-Class is more aerodynamic and (when in Sport) offers a low drag coefficient of 0.22. It rides on 20-inch alloys with loads of rubber and there are more chrome additions in areas such as the sills.

The rear has a gentle lift in the boot lid (it would be too crass to call it a spoiler), LED lights, more chrome accents and two tailpipe surrounds equally in chrome. Access to the boot can be done with the wave of a foot where 510L is there to greet you. It's loads.

Sure the exterior is good, but the interior is outstanding. Soft leather and upper-class materials fill the cabin, as does the technology. The seats are quilted, come with virtually every electrical adjustment possible AND a multitude of massage options. If you can't get comfy in the driver's seat there is something wrong with you. Even the rear seats come with lay back movement, - because rear passengers are people too -  and all headrests come with soft pillows that you never want to leave.

The dashboard trim is meant to resemble that of a luxury yacht and there are air vents everywhere, so no part of you should go un-vented. Plus with a heated leather steering wheel and heated armrests (both arms) the S-Class ensures your extremities are toasty too.

 Mercedes S-Class interior shot
Photo credit: Supplied/Tarmac Life.

I actually don't know where to begin with the technology this new S-Class has. How about the door mirrors? They are smart and face sensing (obviously), so they know when you're looking in their direction which makes adjustment that much easier. The MBUX interior assist uses cameras in the overhead control panel and learning algorithms to recognise and anticipate what you are going to do. By interpreting head direction, hand movements and body language, it responds with corresponding vehicle functions. For example, if you look over your shoulder towards the rear window, it will automatically open the sunblind while the sliding sunroof can be opened with a hand gesture. 

The infotainment screen is a massive 12.8-inches and features OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) technology. Its portrait format makes it easy to reach for both front passengers and comes with a seemingly endless list of menus. At the touch of a button, it is possible for the driver to switch to 3D mode, achieved with the help of eye-tracking via two integrated cameras. 

You can create a personal profile that can be synchronised with your existing 'Mercedes me' account. Up to seven different profiles with around 800 parametres including fave radio station and heat levels are possible in the vehicle. 

You can also activate your personal profile using the fingerprint recognition button in the console. 

My review model came with the energizing package which (again at the touch of a button) will create a cabin ambience to suit your mood and ease or invigorate your drive. It includes seat adjustment, different tunes through the powerful Burmester stereo and a change of temperature. Apparently, the energizing coach even suggests an appropriate vitalisation or wellness programme based on vehicle and trip data and also factors information about sleep quality and stress levels into its intelligent algorithm if the driver has a suitable wearable.

The navigation includes augmented reality which overlays street signs and arrows to aid your journey. This augmented reality is also available as an option for the head-up display which projects a substantial image that appears virtually on the road ahead at a distance of 10 metres. (my review model didn't have this unfortunately).

 Mercedes S-Class rear shot
Photo credit: Supplied/Tarmac Life.

In all honesty, it's easy to become overwhelmed with how many options you have available but in true MB style, you can easily go back to the home screen and simply drive.

Another tech revelation in the new S-Class is the 12.3-inch 3D digital instrument cluster. The image you see on the screen is continuously adjusted to offer the sensation of depth, without special glasses, and in some modes it's a bit freaky. The one I particularly liked was the 'Exclusive': It's a watch face presentation and the centre can display a rolling ball that you need to keep in the middle for optimum fuel efficiency. It's very funny.

I could seriously go on and on about what's on offer in this saloon, but let's move on to the drive.

Behind that hood ornament is a turbocharged 3.0-litre, inline six-cylinder engine (270 kW/500 Nm) married to a 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission and 4MATIC all-wheel-drive. It's also got a 48V mild-hybrid drive that can add an extra 16 kW and 250 Nm for short

periods, to create smoother and more responsive acceleration. It will do a 0-100km/h in just 5.1 seconds while combined cycle fuel economy is rated at 8.2 L/100km.

It's quick and powerful and yet the drive seems graceful and almost majestic, everything just feels more mature, more grown-up. The S-Class just glides over the road and the chances of spilling your non-alcoholic spritzer are minimal. It's quiet too, the high rigidity of the new bodyshell offers outstanding noise and vibration comfort, which is enhanced with the double-sealed cable apertures and acoustic foam. We registered just 20ish db's of sound on my phone app.

Now with all this opulence, it's easy to believe that Mercedes-Benz has forgotten about the planet. Well not so my friends. 

More than 98 kilograms of components made from resource-conserving materials are used in the S-Class and the number of components containing recyclates is now 120. What's more, another 40kg or so are made from renewable raw materials. For example, recycled thread is now used for the floor coverings, manufactured by recovering nylon waste destined for landfill, such as old fishnets and fabric remnants from mills and carpets.

If the suit maketh the man then the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class maketh the gentleman (feel free to put your own 'association' here). It's class all the way with grace and power thrown in for very good measure. Faultless in its ride and smarter than Einstein, is there anything this luxurious Saloon can't do?   

Why you should:

  • Extreme luxury and technology

  • 0-100km/h in 5.1 seconds

  • That eco screen ball and augmented reality

Why you shouldn't:

  • You'll want to be driven not drive

  • Hood ornament will be a target

  • It will depreciate heavily 

What else to consider

  • BMW 7-Series, Audi A/S 8, Jaguar XJL