All-new flagship limousine revealed with safety segment-firsts, high-tech interior, clever rear-wheel steering
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After months of leaks, teasers and spy shots, Mercedes-Benz has officially revealed its all-new S-Class ahead of next year's Australian launch.

Stuttgart’s new-generation flagship limousine marks the seventh vehicle since 1972 to wear the hallowed S-Class sedan moniker.

Following a formula laid out by its predecessors, the new S-Class debuts a number of new innovations for both the Mercedes-Benz brand and the wider automotive industry.

On the safety front, it’s the first production vehicle to feature forward-facing airbags for the outboard rear-seat passengers. In the case of an accident, two 70-litre bags – one in the back of each front seat – fill with ambient air to minimise the forces acting on rear occupants’ heads and necks and complement the existing inflatable seatbelts.

Moving up front, the new S-Class debuts the second-generation of Mercedes-Benz’s MBUX infotainment system, succeeding the first-generation system launched with the 2018 A-Class hatchback.

Dominating the dashboard is a large, portrait infotainment touchscreen available in 11.9- or 12.8-inch sizes – the latter adding OLED technology and haptic feedback – with support for Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music and TuneIn streaming services, and over-the-air updates.

The “Hey Mercedes” voice assistant has seen an upgrade for the brand’s flagship model, now offering support for up to 27 languages and the ability for it to be activated from the rear seats.

Mounted in front of the driver is a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster which, if the right option box is ticked, uses eye-tracking via a pair of cameras to provide a three-dimensional effect when displaying any of the screen’s four standard modes (Discreet, Sporty, Exclusive and Classic).

S-Class buyers can choose between two head-up display options, the larger of which projects an image onto the windscreen equivalent to the size of a 77-inch display, and can display navigation directions and adaptive cruise control information in augmented reality.

Two 11.6-inch backrest-mounted touchscreens can be optioned for rear passengers, joining an available MBUX-equipped Android tablet between the outboard rear seats to bring the total number of screens in the cabin to five.

A fleet of clever connectivity features are on offer for S-Class passengers, from ‘MBUX Smart Home’ – which allows passengers to communicate with connected lights, thermostats and other smart home devices from their car, including through the “Hey Mercedes” voice assistant – to ‘MBUX Interior Assistant’, which uses laser cameras above the centre console to enable gesture control for the infotainment system, check child seats are fastened correctly, monitor driver alertness, control interior lights based on passengers’ head positions and more.

Up to seven ‘Mercedes me’ accounts can be linked with the vehicle, allowing different passengers to personalise and save their seat settings, ambient lighting preferences, favourite radio station and other settings.

Matching the new S-Class’ advanced interior technology is a healthy dose of comfort and luxury. Cabin highlights include 19-way heated, power-adjustable front seats with 10 different massage programs, a choice of five heated, power-adjustable rear seat configurations in two- or three-seat layouts, and the option of Lugano, nappa or ‘Exclusive’ nappa leather trim.

There’s also an optional 30-speaker, 1750W Burmester 4D sound system, available four-zone climate control (tri-zone is standard), an ‘Air Balance’ fragrancing system, ambient LED cabin lighting and an array of ‘Energizing Comfort’ selectable modes that play music through the sound system and alter the climate control, ambient lighting and seat massaging settings to product a desired cabin ‘mood’.

Recyclable materials and designs are used throughout the cabin – these include a renewable ‘microsandwich’ structure in the seatback and rear map pocket lining, recycled Nylon carpeting and recycled plastic cable ducts (which house the car’s key electrical lines).

On the outside, the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class prioritises evolution over revolution. Up front there’s a large, chrome-accented central grille, flanked by ‘Digital Light’ adaptive LED headlights – which feature three powerful LEDs and 1.3 million micro-mirrors, capable of projecting warning symbols directly onto the road – and mounted above unique lower air intakes depending on variant. Down the side, flush door handles which retract while the vehicle is in motion can be optioned, while at the rear slim LED tail-lights are connected by a full-width chrome strip.

Alloy wheels ranging from 18 to 21 inches in diameter can be specified. Mercedes claims a drag coefficient of just 0.22Cd.

The new S-Class is larger than its predecessor in nearly all exterior dimensions – see the table below for a full comparison.

MeasurementNew (short wheelbase)Old (short wheelbase)DifferenceNew (long wheelbase)Old (long wheelbase)Difference
Length5179mm5125mm+54mm5289mm5255mm+34mm
Width1954mm1899mm+55mm1954mm1289mm+55mm
Width including mirrors2109mm2130mm-21mm2109mm2130mm-21mm
Height1503mm1493mm+10mm1503mm1491mm+12mm
Wheelbase3106mm3035mm+71mm3216mm3165mm+51mm
Track width (front)1660mm1624mm+36mm1660mm1624mm+36mm
Track width (rear)1688mm1637mm+51mm1688mm1637mm+51mm

The increase in exterior dimensions has carried over to the limousine’s cabin, with more headroom, shoulder-room, elbow-room and legroom.

MeasurementNew (short wheelbase)Old (short wheelbase)DifferenceNew (long wheelbase)Old (long wheelbase)Difference
Headroom, front (max.)1070mm1069mm+1mm1070mm1069mm+1mm
Headroom, rear (with sunroof)974mm958mm+16mm974mm958mm+16mm
Headroom, rear (without sunroof)1003mm995mm+8mm1003mm995mm+8mm
Shoulder-room, front1516mm1516mm0mm1516mm1516mm0mm
Shoulder-room, rear1469mm1499mm-30mm1469mm1501mm-32mm
Elbow room, front1592mm1554mm+38mm1592mm1554mm+38mm
Elbow room, rear1583mm1560mm+23mm1572mm1561mm+11mm
Legroom, front1051mm1051mm0mm1051mm1051mm0mm
Legroom, rear1004mmmm+41mm1115mm1091mm+24mm
Boot capacity550L530L+20L550L530L+20L

The powertrain range at launch consists solely of a range of petrol- and diesel-powered turbocharged inline six-cylinder engines.

Opening the diesel range is the S350d, which produces 210kW of power and 600Nm of torque (from 1200-3200rpm) from a 2.9-litre turbo-six – identical outputs to the outgoing S350d. Drive is sent to either the rear or all wheels through a nine-speed torque-converter automatic transmission.

Mercedes claims a 6.4- or 6.2-second 0-100km/h sprint time for rear- or 4Matic all-wheel-drive models respectively, towards a 250km/h top speed. NEDC fuel economy is rated at 6.2 to 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres, depending on wheel size and drive layout.

Buyers looking for a more powerful diesel can opt for the S400d 4Matic, which ekes 243kW/700Nm from the same 2.9-litre inline-six, routed to all wheels through the same nine-speed automatic. The 0-100km/h dash is completed in 5.4 seconds.

Two petrol models are on offer, both featuring the same 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six, nine-speed torque-converter automatic and all-wheel-drive: the 270kW/500Nm S450 4Matic and 320kW/520Nm S500 4Matic.

Both models feature 48-volt ‘EQ Boost’ mild-hybrid assistance as standard, which uses an integrated starter-generator and an electric compressor to add an additional 16kW/250Nm for short bursts of acceleration.

The petrol pair claim 0-100km/h sprint times of 5.1 and 4.9 seconds for the S450 and S500 respectively. Both models sport the same power and torque outputs as their predecessors.

V8 mild-hybrid petrol and plug-in hybrid variants will join the range in 2021, with the latter claimed to offer an all-electric range of around 100 kilometres. A pair of high-performance AMG variants are also rumoured to arrive in 2021 – expected to be led by a 600kW S63e plug-in hybrid – along with an ultra-luxurious, V12-powered Maybach model.

Under the skin, the new S-Class offers a choice of two rear-wheel steering systems, the pricier of which is capable of turning the rear wheels by up to 10-degrees, enabling a turning circle on rear-drive short-wheelbase models as little as 10.5 metres – on par with the Mercedes’ smallest model, the A-Class hatch.

A lesser, 4.5-degree system can also be optioned at a lower cost. The turning circles of all S-Class models can be found in the table below.

ModelNo rear-wheel steering4.5-degree rear-wheel steering10-degree rear-wheel steering
Short-wheelbase, RWD12.2m11.4m10.5m
Short-wheelbase, AWD12.5m11.6m10.7m
Long-wheelbase, RWD12.5m11.7m10.8m
Long-wheelbase, AWD12.8m11.9m10.9m

The ‘E-Active Body Control’ adaptive suspension system featured in the GLE and other new Mercedes-Benz models is available on its new-generation flagship, which adds 48-volt hydraulics to the existing air suspension system to conduct a variety of functions, from actively leaning the vehicle into corners and maintaining a smooth ride over small imperfections by reading the road surface ahead to lifting one side of the vehicle up by 80mm in an side impact to better absorb the forces and protect occupants.

Befitting its status as Mercedes-Benz’s flagship model, the new S-Class offers a wide range of active safety technologies. Available features include adaptive cruise control, advanced lane-keep assist (at speeds up to 250km/h), traffic-sign recognition, lane-change assist, ‘Active Emergency Stop Assist’ (which pulls the vehicle aside and brings it to a halt if the driver is detected to be incapacitated), driver attention monitoring, evasive steering assist and a side-exit assist system that prevents the side doors being opened into oncoming traffic and/or cyclists.

There’s also blind-spot monitoring (with the ability to brake to prevent an impending collision), rear cross-traffic alert, and autonomous emergency braking with cyclist and pedestrian detection and support for intersections.

From the second half of 2021, new S-Class models in Europe will feature Level 3 semi-autonomous driving capabilities – dubbed 'Drive Pilot' – with the ability for the vehicle to drive itself in heavy traffic or specific sections of German motorway at speeds up to 60km/h, allowing the driver to focus on secondary activities (though still alert and present to retake control if needed).

Autonomous parking similar to Tesla’s ‘Smart Summon’ system is also on offer, allowing the S-Class to navigate to and park in a space in compatible multi-storey carparks without the driver behind the wheel.

S-Class assembly will take place at Mercedes' all-new, €730 million 'Factory 56' assembly line in Sindelfingen, Germany.

When will the 2021 S-Class come to Australia?

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class will go on sale in Australia in the second quarter of 2021, starting with the six-cylinder petrol-powered S450. Full pricing and specifications will be announced closer to launch.


Below: the current S-Class