Sedans & Coupes

Does the 2021 Mercedes S-Class Out-Luxury the BMW 7 Series and Audi A8?

Apart from the Maybach models, the top Mercedes model is the S-Class. The flagship sedan just got updated for 2021 and offers even more luxury and safety features. But the other German luxury marques have their own flagships, too. For Audi, it’s the A8. And for BMW, it’s the 7 Series. So how does the newest Mercedes S-Class measure up?

2021 Mercedes S-Class vs. Audi A8 vs. BMW 7 Series: specs

For this comparison, we won’t be considering the Audi A8’s sportier trim, the S8, the BMW M Performance 7 Series, or the Mercedes S-Class’ AMG trim. That’s because although an AMG S-Class is in the works, Motor1 reports, it’s roughly a year away.

A light-blue 20201 Mercedes S-Class in front of a silver 2020 Audi A8 L in front of a gray 2020 BMW 7 Series
2021 Mercedes S-Class vs 2020 Audi A8 L vs 2020 BMW 7 Series | Car and Driver via Instagram

It’s a similar story with each automaker’s respective plug-in hybrid models. Both BMW and Audi offer their range-topping sedans in PHEV form, Roadshow reports. And Mercedes will offer the S-Class as a PHEV, too—eventually. But even without their most powerful powertrains, these luxury sedans don’t exactly lack for output.

A silver 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class in front of a modern building
2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class | Mercedes-Benz

For 2021, the Mercedes S-Class is available in 2 mild-hybrid trims. The S500 has a 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder, which, combined with the electric motor, makes 429 hp and 384 lb-ft. Meanwhile, the S550 has a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8, rated at a total 496 hp and 516 lb-ft. Both come with 9-speed automatics and all-wheel drive.

The current Audi A8, not counting the PHEV trim, also has 2 powertrain options, Roadshow reports. The A8 L (long-wheelbase) 55 has a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6, rated at 335 hp and 369 lb-ft. The L 60 has a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 that produces 453 hp and 487 lb-ft. Both Audi A8 models have 8-speed automatics and AWD.

A rear-3/4 shot of a gray 2020 BMW 750Li in a garden
2020 BMW 750Li rear | BMW

The non-M Performance BMW 7 Series is similarly offered in 2 trims. The 740i has a 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder, rated at 335 hp and 331 lb-ft. In contrast, the 750i has a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 with 523 hp and 553 lb-ft. Both trims have 8-speed automatics, but while the 740i can be ordered with RWD or AWD, the 750i is AWD-only.

Mercedes S-Class vs. Audi A8 vs. BMW 7 Series: size and features

The tan-leather-upholstered rear seats with digital displays of a 2020 BMW 7 Series
2020 BMW 7 Series rear seats | BMW

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Between the Mercedes S-Class, Audi A8 L, and BMW 7 Series, the BMW is the smallest, Autoblog reports. Though admittedly, not by much; its wheelbase is just 0.2” shorter than the S-Class’. However, it also has the most rear legroom and headroom of the 3, though the Mercedes is just 0.3” behind in rear shoulder room.

A white-leather 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class' interior
2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class front interior | Mercedes-Benz

But if your goal is front-seat space, the Mercedes S-Class takes 1st place. It has the most front headroom and shoulder room, though it has slightly less front legroom. However, the S-Class also has the largest trunk, while the Audi A8 has the smallest.

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In terms of luxury features, these sedans are also fairly evenly matched, Car and Driver reports. The Mercedes S-Class has the largest touchscreen, but the Audi A8 has 2 of them. And all 3 can be equipped with heated, ventilated, and massaging seats, rear-seat tablets, and high-end audio systems, Motor Trend, and Motor1 report. Naturally, they also offer navigation and Apple CarPlay.

However, as of this writing, the 7 Series doesn’t offer Android Auto. In addition, while all 3 sedans have digital driver’s displays, only the Mercedes S-Class’ has 3D functionality. Plus, while the BMW’s infotainment offers gesture-control, the S-Class has voice-control.

Safety comparison

The leather-and-wood-trimmed center console of the 2020 Audi A8
2020 Audi A8 interior | Audi

Where the Mercedes S-Class pulls ahead, though, is in safety features. The BMW 7 Series and Audi A8 both come with lane-departure warning, automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot monitoring. However, the A8 also comes with standard lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control, as does the S-Class.

The S-Class, though, goes even further with safety. For example, the Mercedes also has rear-wheel steering and adaptive suspension. And, like the A8, it can automatically rise to redirect potential side impacts. However, while the Audi only rises on one side, the S-Class rises on both, The Drive reports.

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The S-Class is also the first production car to cover all the rear passengers with rear frontal airbags. Plus, its ADAS features are directly connected with its 3D-capable HUD, letting the car literally project warnings onto the road ahead. It also has a rear-facing camera that alerts occupants of rear-approaching cyclists/pedestrians. And, although it won’t be available in the US, by 2021 the Mercedes S-Class will offer Level 3 autonomy in Germany.

Which is the one to get?

Because the 2021 Mercedes S-Class was just unveiled, it’s not possible to say if it’s better on the road than the Audi A8 or BMW 7 Series. However, Car tested the pre-update Euro-spec S-Class against the contemporary A8 and 740. And in that comparison, the Mercedes came out ahead, with the BMW in 2nd place. Between the 3, the BMW was the most fun to drive, while the Mercedes was the most luxurious.

It’s a similar story with pricing; Mercedes hasn’t released official S-Class pricing as of this writing. However, the S-Class will likely be the most expensive of the 3. The 2020 S450 starts at $94,250. In contrast, the A8 L and 740i start at $85,200 and $86,800 respectively.

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Choosing between these 3, then, is a bit like picking between your favorite desserts. What are you in the mood for? The more minimalist Audi A8, the driver-focused BMW 7 Series, or the tech-laden Mercedes S-Class? Regardless of which one you pick, though, you’ll likely come away satisfied.

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