Is the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Really a New Standard in Luxury?

Even amongst other luxury vehicles, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class commands attention. It’s the German automaker’s flagship, serving as the base for the ultra-luxury Maybach sedans. And many of its features often find their way to other companies’ less-expensive cars. So, when Mercedes brings out an updated S-Class, it’s a big moment for the brand and the luxury car world as a whole. But does the 2021 S-Class live up to the hype?

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class: what’s new underneath

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

Externally, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class looks much like the 2020 model, Autoblog reports. True, the front fascia, headlights, air intakes, and rear bumper are new, Road & Track reports. And the Mercedes S-Class now has power-extending door handles, which sit flush when not in use.

But in overall shape, it’s still a large sedan. However, for 2021 it’s slightly larger, Motor1 reports; it’s wider, longer, and slightly taller. Yet, it’s over 100 pounds lighter, Hagerty reports.

For 2021, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class also gets updated powertrains. Although Europeans can order it with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, the US models all have AWD, Car and Driver reports. Although we won’t get the diesel engines, all US Mercedes S-Class models are 48-volt mild hybrids with 9-speed automatics, Roadshow reports.

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class' mild-hybrid powertrain
2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class powertrain | Mercedes-Benz

The base S500, with its 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder, makes 429 hp and 328 lb-ft. Meanwhile, the S580 has a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 that, together with the hybrid system, produces 496 hp and 516 lb-ft. And there are even more powerful AMG models planned.

All 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class ride on air suspension. But for the first time, rear-axle steering is a standard feature. It can even be upgraded to allow greater steering angles. Another option is the GLE’s ‘Active Body Control,’ Motor Trend reports, which uses active electro-hydraulic dampers to reduce body roll and improve ride quality. It can even raise the S-Class so side impacts hit the sills rather than the weaker doors.

For 2021, the Mercedes S-Class has more safety

An orange 1969 Jensen Interceptor FF Mk I on a foggy countryside road
1969 Jensen Interceptor FF Mk I | Historics

Other vehicles besides the Mercedes-Benz S-Class have introduced novel safety features, Hagerty reports. The Jensen Interceptor FF, for instance, was the first car with anti-lock brakes. However, the S-Class has popularized and standardized many safety features, such as stability control and adaptive cruise control.

The 2021 Mercedes S-Class is similarly safety-focused. Naturally, it has the usual ADAS features, such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot monitoring. And of course, it has multiple airbags front and rear.

But one, or rather two of those airbags are actually an industry-first, Autoweek reports. The front seats each have a built-in rear-facing frontal airbag for the rear passengers. Autoweek notes that the 1990s Nissan President offered a rear passenger airbag, but only for a singular rear passenger.

Mercedes also claims the 2021 S-Class is capable of Level 3 autonomy. As such, the steering wheel features capacitive-touch pads to detect if the driver has their hands on the wheel.

The interior updates

A white-leather version of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class' front seats
2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class front interior | Mercedes-Benz

The new safety features also come with an updated interior. The US-spec 2021 Mercedes S-Class won’t offer the dual rear ‘captain’s chairs,’ though they may appear on the Maybach model. However, the rest of the interior isn’t spartan by any means.

The seats themselves are heated and cooled with built-in massaging functions. They can also be paired with neck warmers and pillows. And they offer so many settings that Mercedes installed fingerprint recognition to make resetting them easier.

The perfume atomizer returns, alongside an air purification and ionization system. There’s a new 250-LED ambient lighting system; even the seatbelt buckles light up. And there’s a 30-speaker ‘4D’ Burmeister audio system available, too.

Then there’s the interior tech. The 2021 S-Class comes standard with a 12.8” OLED touchscreen, which can be supplemented with up to 4 additional displays. One of those is the optional digital driver’s gauge cluster, which has 3D functionality, another first, Autoblog reports. The rear passengers can get their own 11.6” displays, as well as a removable 7” tablet.

Plus, the S-Class has an updated version of Mercedes’ augmented-reality infotainment system, which can now be voice-controlled by front and rear passengers. The AR also boosts the S-Class’ standard heads-up displays projection capabilities, creating the equivalent of a 77” display, Roadshow reports.

Pricing and availability


Without the Mercedes 300SEL 6.3, There Wouldn’t Be an AMG

All this new tech and luxury won’t come cheap. However, as of this writing, Mercedes-Benz has not revealed the 2021 S-Class’ pricing details. The current S450 4Matic starts at $97,250. As such, the 2021 Mercedes S-Class will likely start at about $100,000.

The first examples should arrive in dealerships in the first half of 2021.

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