2021 Mercedes S-Class driven: price, specs and release date

The all-new Mercedes S-Class may look restrained from the outside, but there's a bold new interior packed full of tech. Is it the new king of luxury?...

Mercedes S-Class 2021 front cornering

On sale Early 2021 | Priced from £78,705

If you think big luxury cars are stuffy relics of the past with no relevance in modern society, consider this. Like its predecessors, the new Mercedes S-Class is rammed full of clever safety tech, which – if history is anything to go by – will filter down to more mainstream motors in due course. How clever? How about seats that can move you away from an impending side-on collision? 

However, that’s hopefully not something you’ll be showing off to your friends or family, so what else is there to wow them? Well, there's the interior, with a giant, portrait-oriented 12.8in touchscreen flanked by a 12.3in driver’s display and barely a button to be found. Opt for one of the higher trim levels and you even get hot stone massage seats.

For the moment, there’s a choice of just three engines, all with 3.0-litres and six cylinders. You can have S350d and S400d diesels, with 282bhp and 325bhp respectively, or the engine we’ll be testing today: the 429bhp S500 petrol. We wouldn’t bet against plug-in hybrid and hot AMG performance versions joining the line-up before the end of 2021, though.

Mercedes S-Class 2021 rear cornering

2021 Mercedes S-Class on the road

Only the entry-level S350d is rear-wheel drive, meaning that, for the first time in the UK, the S-Class is available with four-wheel drive – something previously reserved for left-hand drive markets. That means the engine’s considerable reserves are transferred to the Tarmac in a fuss-free manner, with plenty of traction even if you’re showing off again. The sprint from 0-62mph takes a mere 4.9sec and, thanks in part to some mild-hybrid electrical assistance, the S500 is happy to slog from low revs.

It’s silkily hushed when you’re cruising, too, and very smooth at all times. So, while hard acceleration makes the engine find its voice, the result is neither intrusive nor unpleasant.

Then there's the way the new S-Class rides, with it doing a fine job of convincing you the UK’s battered roads are far smoother than they actually are. You do feel imperfections and potholes a little more than in the Audi A8, yet it’s still supple enough to waft away your worries without ever feeling wallowy.

Mercedes S-Class 2021 four-wheel steering

If you decide to investigate the drive modes and play with the S-Class’s sportier settings, you’ll find a very capable car. The steering has plenty of reassuring heft and great precision so you can place the nose easily. There’s a fair bit of body lean even with everything stiffened up yet plenty of grip and a reassuring stability.

More to the point, refinement is hugely impressive. Most of the time you’re not aware of the gearbox swapping cogs and the hybrid assistance means the engine can start and stop quickly, quietly and smoothly or turn off altogether to let you coast in eco mode. Finally, road roar and wind noise are well contained so you really can settle into the luxurious interior as the miles pass by.

Mercedes S-Class 2021 dashboard

2021 Mercedes S-Class interior

You sink into the highly adjustable and supportive front seats, while their active side bolsters only hold you in place when you need them to. Heating, cooling and massage functions are all present, but only if you opt for one of the high-spec Premium Plus trims. All adjustment is naturally done electrically, including for the steering wheel.

Visibility is good, with all but entry-level models getting a clear, birds-eye view camera to help in tight spaces. Look down and you’ll spot the 12.3in digital driver’s display that’s able to show a wide variety of information clearly on sharp 3D-effect graphics.

Entry-level AMG Line models make do with plainer 2D dials. And scrolling through the menus can be a little tricky, because all of the controls on the steering wheel are touch-sensitive pads rather than proper buttons; you’ll occasionally operate something by accident as you’re twirling the wheel.

Mercedes S-Class 2021 touchscreen

In fact, you’ll find very few physical switches, buttons or knobs anywhere. There are a few on the door, including a handily placed and highly visible headlight dial, but you’ll have to delve into the 12.8in central touchscreen to control the temperature.

Thankfully, that’s done by big icons that remain at the bottom of the screen, while the voice control system is genuinely useful, unlike some rival systems. On our test drive, we couldn’t locate the button for the roller blind in the rear window, yet asking the car to open the rear blind had the desired effect. Neat.

The sharp-looking touchscreen is responsive to commands and it doesn’t take too long to get to know the menus and where to find the stuff you need. Sat-nav, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and wireless smartphone charging are all standard, as are a variety of online services.

Mercedes S-Class 2021 rear seats

Interior quality has been improved, with rich materials and a sturdy build that’s closer than ever to the A8’s hewn-from-solid-rock feel. And there’s no doubt that the S-Class wins on razzamatazz, thanks to glitzy multi-colour ambient lighting, flashy vents with push button controls and expensive looking trims. 

Space is plentiful, with loads of head and leg room along with plenty of useful cubbies and storage areas for your belongings. Two lengths of S-Class are available, with our test car being the longer version. Again, head and leg room are more than generous so you really can lounge out, especially if you’ve got an Executive model with electrically operated rear seats and even a footstool.

The boot is bigger than an A8’s, although there is a bit of a loading lip to contend with. You can’t fold the rear seats flat to extend the loadbay, but at least there’s a pretty big hatch in the middle of the bench that opens for particularly long items.

Next: 2021 Mercedes S-Class verdict and specs >>

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