WATCH HILL, Rhode Island-Mercedes-Benz leads with the S-Class. it is a model that dates back almost 50 years, but some generations of the s-Class are taking a bigger step forward than others. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2021, codenamed W223, is the biggest leap since the W140 model from the early 1990s. Like this car, the recentlatest S-Class pushes the limits with technology and features-and also in price.
The style of the car is more scalable. The new s-Class is 1.3 inches longer, 2 inches wider and rides on a longer 2-inch wheelbase. It is also fractionally larger than the outgoing model, but looks lower. This is due to the unique primary side fold, which runs in an arc from the top of the “Multibeam LED” headlights through the doors just below the window line to the taillights. The rounded body also makes the car appear smaller.
At the front, as usual, there is a massive grille, but its effect is blunt because of its rounded corners and because some of what should be a complex metal work are rather black plastic panels with silver lines. They protect the various radar sensors that, together with the cameras behind the windshield, enable the advanced assisted driving functions. Surprisingly, the three-pointed star hood ornament returns, although Mercedes has leaved it from its other models, most recently also the E-Class. The profile shows new flush door handles that come out when the driver approaches with the key ring. On the back there are new taillights in the inverted triangle.
Interior and technology
The head of design at Mercedes-Benz, Gorden Wagener, describes this car as “the first digital s-Class”, and a look inside shows why. In the center of the interior, figuratively speaking, there is a 12.8-inch OLED touch screen, which flows from the center of the dashboard to the center console. A separate 12.3-inch digital station wagon is the second large display. It is an impressive presentation, even if it stops at the hyperscreen that covers the dashboard seen in the next equalizers.
In the Executive Line version of the s-Class, the rear two-person compartment corresponds to the front in terms of the screen area. Two 11.6-inch screens are mounted on the backs of the front seats, and a removable 7-inch tablet is located in the center armrest. Both can access the same features as the front screen, and items such as a navigation destination can be shared from one screen to another.
The two front screens take pride in their background, setting a theme that is followed by the switchgear sitting in raised black sleeves. We see it in the ignition button, the seat controls on the door and even the power window switches on the armrests.
Ambient lighting is widely used throughout the cabin-on the upper edge of the dashboard, around the tweeters at the base of the a-posts, along the sides of the center console, in several places on the door panels and on the backs of the front seats. The lighting claims to have more than 60 shades, but the different schemes rely heavily on PURPLE, blue and pink, giving a stretch limousine atmosphere. The lighting is active, bright red or blue when the air conditioner is set, or, more useful, pulsing red on one side of the car as part of the blind spot warning system, or bright yellow to signal a lane departure warning.
The MBUX operating system, introduced in 2018, is already in version 7 and is more central than ever in the operation of the car. The OLED screen is bright and sharp, and the processor is powerful enough that we have not experienced any lags. And of course, the system can receive live updates to keep it up to date.
The lower part of the screen is entrusted to the CVC controls, and the middle stack is without body controls, except for a strip of haptic buttons at the bottom of the massive screen. You select the driving mode, activate the parking camera, enter the settings menu of the car and adjust the volume. The latter is done via a touch cursor, which is never the preferred solution.
Fortunately, the home screen now displays eight icons at once, compared to previous versions of MBUX, which display only three. But what is annoying is that jumping from one menu to another (for example, the map on the radio) always requires a stop on the home screen. The Home button or the back button will take you there, and these will be located both on the main screen and on the steering wheel. Nevertheless, the system would be improved if the keyboard shortcuts to the main functions were available at all times, rather than just on the home screen.
The touchpad just in front of the center armrest has now been leaved because the main screen is at hand, but some will still miss it to slide and scroll (this has also helped keep the stains on the main screen). One can use the mini touch pads on the spokes of the steering wheel, which used to be convex but are now encrusted and less easy to handle; we often had an up or down sweep response in an attempt at horizontal sweep motion. Finally, gesture controls are not currently part of the program, but will come with the 2022 model year.
The digital instrument cluster has a variety of designs: the familiar classic, the exclusive with a white face (shown above) and the discreet minimalist have two gauges. Sport mode skips the gauges completely, or there is a complete map mode, as well as a mode that renders the car and surrounding vehicles. Optionally, the screen can have a 3D effect-which can be turned on or off-for the gauges and the cluster card (but not the main screen card), and the 3D effect is more noticeable on some display models than others. The head-up display also has its own new trick. During navigation guidance, animations are displayed with floating directional arrows that hover over the street view and show you where to turn.
The s-Class is a car with which you connect. A fingerprint identification point at the base of the main screen identifies the recorded profile of the driver (up to seven), which includes, among other things, the preferences for the seat, audio system and ambient lighting. The driver can alternatively be identified via facial recognition, or you can enter a PIN. The system extends to rear passengers in cars with rear seat screens.
The first thing you notice on the seats is the headrest cushions. Previously available for the rear seats, they are now added to the front seats and the rear headrests can be heated. The seat adjustment takes place via conventional seat switches. However, each switch is a single solid piece and does not move; instead, it is tactile.
The back seat offers plenty of legroom, and the standard back seat is adjustable depending on the backrest angle, cushion length, and headrest height. In the two-person version, the right rear seat has a retractable leg rest, which can be inserted after moving the front passenger seat forward. Still, you have to be a short-legged billionaire to enjoy this mode. The longer masters of the universe will have to wait for the next version of Maybach, which has an additional wheelbase of 8 inches. Models with individual rear seats also include new airbags mounted on the backrest of the front seats for the rear passengers.