It’s hard to be an innovator these days – everyone’s at it. Which makes life difficult for the all-new S-Class.
Back in the good old days, the S-Class was a beacon of future thinking and genuine technological advancement. The new S-Class still lives up to this legacy but must compete with a talented host of rival impostors cutting its grass.
The seventh generation of Mercedes-Benz’s luxury limo flagship (codenamed W223) does this through incremental advancements in key areas instead of wholesale change.
The first is a huge augmented reality head-up display, which Mercedes says is the equivalent of having a 77-inch TV screen placed 10 metres in front of the car. The system projects info such as turn-off arrows “virtually and precisely” onto the road in front of the driver.
Powering the new S-Class will be a combination of traditional combustion and plug-in hybrid engines. An S500 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six and S580 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 (both mild hybrids) will be available. An S580e plug-in flagship pairs the smaller engine with a 28kWh battery and electric motor for a combined output of 375kW and electric-only range of 100km.
Unlike prior generations, there will be no coupe or convertible S-Class models with those variants being replaced by the next-gen AMG GT and SL-Class.
All up, there can be a total of five screens in the cabin of this latest S-Class, all running the second generation of Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system, which now supports 27 languages.
The fully digitised driver instruments can now display in three dimensions. Using eye-tracking technology, the S-Class renders a 3D image to allow for spatial perception of displayed info without 3D glasses.
Computing grunt and processing power is a large part of this new S-Class, and the luxury sedan has a data bandwidth of 41.8 gigabytes per second – more than enough to mine bitcoin if that takes your fancy.
As is traditional, Mercedes has used the S-Class to debut genuine, life-saving safety technologies. The first is a frontal airbag for rear-seat occupants, which deploys from the back of the front seats, using a tubular structure to inflate and ‘catch’ the head of those riding in the outer rear seats.
The optional ‘Drive Pilot’ system is purported to allow the S-Class “to drive in highly automated mode at up to 60km/h” in certain conditions from the second half of next year. This autonomous technology will only be available in Germany initially, before being rolled out in other markets. Mercedes claims it “allows secondary activities such as the in-car office.”
Nine out of 10 S-Class buyers opt for the long-wheelbase version, so Mercedes has added an advanced rear-wheel-steer system to aid the lengthy sedan’s manoeuvrability.
The optional system can angle the rear wheels by up to ten degrees, reducing the turning circle of a LWB AWD variant by 1.9 metres, to 10.9m.
A new interior brings with it improved comfort, with elbow-room for the driver increasing 38mm, 23mm for rear passengers, and headroom growing by 16mm in the back. Boot capacity has grown to 550 litres, up 20 litres compared to the outgoing model.
So while the technology battle in the luxo executive sedan segment continues, the S-Class still appears to hold an edge.
FIVE OF THE COOLEST PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE 2021 MERCEDES-BENZ S-CLASS
- LED headlights use micro-mirrors to project custom images and warnings onto the road
- More than 50 electronic components can now be updated over the air, including MBUX
- When a possible side impact is detected, the body can rise 80mm in a few tenths of a second
- Overhead cameras predict driver needs, like lowering rear sunblind when checking blind spot
- Active suspension analyses road conditions and makes adjustments 1000 times per second