2021 Mercedes Benz S Class – The new benchmark in luxury sedans

mercedes benz s class 1

Mercedes has just unveiled the successor to, what’s arguably, the best car in the real world. 

Design and Dimensions

mercedes benz s class 1

Design wise, Mercedes hasn’t gone crazy and reinvented it. The new S-Class, codenamed W223 and V223 for the short and long wheelbase variant respectively, sports an updated design starting with a larger grille than before, as is the norm now. But at least they stop short of making it overly massive, unlike a certain manufacturer from Bavaria.

The headlights are smaller and slimmer, giving it a slightly more aggressive look. In keeping with tradition, there’s still a 3-pointed star sitting proudly on the bonnet. The rear has a softer look to it, reminiscent of the current CLS.

When viewed from the side, the car has short front overhangs and long rear overhangs, giving it a classic cab-rearward stance.

For the first time ever, customers are given a choice of door handles. You can either have the traditional door handles, or the flushed ones that pop out when you approach the car. Overall, it is a successful update of the W222’s design.

The W223 went on a diet and it is now up to 60kg lighter thanks to a greater use of aluminium. Mercedes has totally re-engineered the bodyshell to give it more rigidity but also cutting down on weight, despite higher levels of refinement and features.

Compared to the previous S-Class, the new version has grown in all dimensions but not by much. The long wheelbase version is 34mm longer than before at 5255mm, with a 51mm increase in the wheelbase at 3216mm.

mercedes benz s class 1

Width is also up by 55mm at 1954mm, and the new car is 12mm taller at 1503mm. Good news for the towkays looking to upgrade, legroom at the rear of the long wheelbase version has grown by 24mm so you can now stretch your legs even more after a long tiring day at the office. Boot capacity has also increased by 20 litres to 550 litres.

The previous S-Class was already a rather slippery car at 0.24 Cd, but Mercedes continued to improve its aerodynamics and now it is at an all time low of 0.22 Cd, making it one of the most aerodynamically efficient vehicles ever to enter production.

Hi, Tech

Mercedes claims this is the most technologically advanced car they have ever put into production. For starters, the S-Class comes with an option of the revolutionary headlight technology called Digital Light.

Each unit of the headlights comes with 3 main LEDs paired with 1.3 million micro mirrors. Combined, both headlights add up to 2.6 million pixels of effective resolution.

To put that into perspective, a HD TV has about 2 million pixels. This means the headlights on the new S-Class can technically play a monochrome movie or, more realistically, project warning symbols onto the road for added safety.

Other notable features include MBUX v2.0, its computing power is now up to 50% higher than before. The screen directly in front of the driver that acts as the speedometer and tachometer is 12.3-inches in size and is made up of stacked OLED layers to create a 3D effect without the need of 3D glasses.

The OLED middle screen that controls the infotainment, climate controls and various vehicle functions now measure 12.8-inches in size and is in portrait orientation. The bigger screen helped to eliminate 27 physical buttons in the cabin and it comes with haptic feedback so you know you’ve activated something when you tap one of the virtual buttons.

MBUX works together with an overhead camera in the cabin to track and monitor the driver’s movement to enable gesture controls such as adjusting the wing mirrors depending on which mirror you’re looking at.

Gone are the days where you had to fiddle with a switch and toggle it L or R to adjust the mirrors. MBUX is now capable of over-the-air updates to reduce your trips to the dealer for software updates.

The W223 also comes with 2 versions of HUD. The bigger one comes with augmented reality such as projecting your navigation instructions onto the road ahead to preempt you of an upcoming turn.

Interior Highlights

The S-Class’s interior has been thoroughly redesigned with an emphasis on high quality and a lounge-like feel. There’s newly designed rectangular air vents with metallic highlights and the center of the dashboard is dominated by the massive freestanding 12.8-inch OLED infotainment screen.

There’s also open-pore wood veneers with real aluminium inlays, evoking a yacht-like feel. The front seats have 19 motors to allow you to find the optimum seating position and it comes with 10 different massage functions.

A feature called Energizing seat kinetics now appears in the W223 as well. It works by making minute adjustments to the position of the seats every now and then to prevent you from having body aches or a stiff back after a long drive, making the W223 perfect for a blast on the NSH.

“Look Mom! No Hands!”

The new S-Class now comes with Level 3 autonomous driving, making it on par with Tesla’s Autopilot function. Depending on your country’s legislation, the Drive Pilot in the S-Class can effectively drive on its own on the highway without any input from the driver. But as with all autonomous driving features, the driver must stay alert and be ready to take over control.

The above-mentioned overhead camera in the cabin will monitor the driver to see if he or she has been looking away for too long. If so, the car will prompt the driver to take over within 10 seconds.

Otherwise the car will eventually come to a complete stop. So don’t go thinking that you can take a nap or watch a movie while the car drives you to work or home.

The car also comes with Level 4 autonomous parking, which allows you to step out of the car and ask the car to park itself using the smartphone app. 

The Magic Carpet Ride

This being an S-Class, significant improvements have been made to the suspension system to ensure that it is one of the best riding cars in the world. The new hydro-pneumatic air suspension system called E-Active Body Control, is similar to the system first used in the new GLE and GLS SUVs.

It allows the car to control its movements up or down or even side to side. One of the new features possible with this new system is called Pre-Safe Impulse Side function.

It works in almost the same way as the system on the new Audi A8, where it lifts the car by up to 80mm when the radar detects an impending side impact collision. By doing so, the actual impact is on the structurally stronger side sills and not on the doors, further protecting the occupants. There are two different rear wheel steering systems available as an option.

One is able to provide up to 4.5 degrees of steering angle, and the other option is up to 10 degrees, making it one of the most manoeuvrable limousine around town. 

Did You Say “More Power”?

The launch engines include petrol mild-hybrid and diesel options. For local context, we will only be mentioning the petrol options as we are unlikely to see diesel options going on sale in Singapore.

The two petrol mild-hybrid options are the S450 4MATIC and S500 4MATIC. The turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-6 engine used in both the S450 and S500 (in two different states of tune) is codenamed the M256.

It comes with a BorgWarner electric auxiliary compressor that can spin up to 70,000 rpm at low RPMs to reduce turbo lag. The M256 in the S450 produces 362bhp at 5,500-6,100 rpm and 500Nm at 1,600-4,500 rpm. The same engine in the S500 makes 429bhp at 5,500-6,100 rpm and 520Nm at 1,600-4,500 rpm.

Both models also come with a 48V mild-hybrid EQ Boost function that provides an additional 21bhp and 250Nm when needed. They all come paired with the 9G-Tronic automatic transmission.

Exciting AMG models are also coming in mid-2021. They are badged the S63e 4MATIC+ and S73e 4MATIC+. Both use the famed M177 4.0-litre hot-vee twin-turbo V8 and work in conjunction with an electric motor attached to the rear axle for additional power. It operates on a 400V system and a lithium ion battery with a capacity of around 20kWh.

The electric motor in the S63e produces around 134bhp, giving the car a combined system output of around 700bhp. The S73e has a combined system output of around 800bhp with the electric motor supplying about 200bhp, making it the most powerful S-Class in history.

V12 lovers out there, rejoice!

Mercedes has promised to keep the venerable M279 6.0-litre twin-turbo V12 in the lineup in the form of a new Mercedes-Maybach model set to be unveiled at the Guangzhou motor show in November.

Final Thoughts and Pricing

Overall, this is a very comprehensive re-engineering of the S-Class. Mercedes has updated the design without going overboard. They know most of their customers are return customers, and they wouldn’t want to scare them away with a revolutionary redesign. 

Mercedes has always touted each and every one of their S-Class that they have launched as the most technologically advanced vehicle to ever enter production and this one definitely continues that trend.

In fact, there’s so much tech now that you really start to wonder if an owner would even have time to use all of the new features before they trade the W223 in for the next S-Class down the road.

But I guess nobody will say no to more technology? And most importantly these technologies need to be easy to understand and access, and I think Mercedes has done just that with “Hey Mercedes!”.

Being able to activate certain features just by talking to your car definitely makes it a lot easier. Mercedes has also included Level 3 autonomous driving which is a plus, but unfortunately in Singapore we are only allowed up to Level 2. But even so, it helps to future-proof your S-Class to a certain extent. 

What more can I say about the interior really? It is so wonderful looking and I have no doubt this will be one of the nicest car interiors at this price point. BMW, Audi and Jaguar ought to look out. The E-Active Body Control is also bound to give the S-Class unparalleled ride comfort in its segment, which is something Mercedes has always done with every new S-Class that they launch. 

Given Singapore’s unique vehicle legislation landscape, the most popular engine choice will always be the one with the least power and swept capacity. But this time round, you really can’t go wrong with the smallest and least powerful engine, that’s if you can call 362bhp (plus 21bhp from the electric motor) “least powerful”.

With a 0-100km/h time of 5.1 seconds, it’s definitely no slouch. But here’s a sneaking suspicion that Mercedes might launch an even less powerful engine choice for a few selected countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and China. They have definitely done this before, such as the W221-generation’s S280 and S300L and the current generation’s S320L.

But for the petrolheads out there, fear not, for there will be AMG models coming shortly with a lot more firepower.

The all new S-Class will debut in Singapore in the second quarter of 2021, and will probably command a slight premium over the current models. I’m sure a lot of towkays are waiting in line patiently to upgrade to the W223 the moment it’s launched. Cycle & Carriage will have a hard time keeping up with demand for at least the first 2-3 years. Expect the S450 4MATIC to cost around $480,000 and the S500 4MATIC to cost around $500,000. If Mercedes does indeed launch a S300 or S320, expect it to cost around $420,000.

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