The new Mercedes S-Class boasts more tech than ever, mild hybrid drivetrains

The sixth-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class is turning seven years old in 2020, so the German company acted accordingly and introduced a brand-new version of the sedan. In the absence of auto shows due to the coronavirus pandemic, the seventh-generation S-Class, codenamed the W223, broke cover online with revised styling, a brand-new interior with modern tech, and a pair of electrified drivetrains for the U.S. market.

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is a sleek full-size sedan

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As expected, the new S-Class isn’t a massive departure from the old model design-wise.

It retains the overall shape and size of the old model, but it also adopts some modern design cues seen on the company's recent models.

The front grille looks about the same, but the chrome frame is much thinner now, so it looks as if the nose extends farther away from the body, resulting in a more aggressive fascia. The grille is now flanked by thinner and longer headlamps that extend from the upper corners of the grille all the way into the front fenders. The front bumper retains the traditional A-shaped vent layout, but the center outlet is slimmer while the side vents feature bigger winglets and black and chrome trim for an exotic look.

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The sedan's profile remains almost as clean as before and boasts the same arched beltline that reminds of the sportier CLS.

The roof also seems to sit just a tad lower, so the new S-Class looks sleeker overall. The rear end of the S-Class is far from surprising. As expected, given redesigned versions of the CLS and E-Class, the S-Class adopted the wide, triangular taillights in a two-piece design. This is a big change from the previous model with fat and horizontal lights that did not extend into the trunk lid. The latter features a similar cutout and integrated spoiler, but the license plate recess is smaller (but it still mimics the shape of the front grille). The bumper remains the same save for the thin red lights repositioned higher, so it features the same rectangular exhaust pipes with chrome trim over the black diffuser-like element.

Size-wise, the new S-Class is only marginally bigger. It’s 1.3 inches longer, two inches wider, and 0.4 inches taller. Its wheelbase is just two inches longer.

2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class exterior dimensions
Exterior dimensions (in) Long wheelbase Preceding model Diff.
Length 208 207 +1.3
Width 77/761 75 +2/+0.81
Width incl. exterior mirrors 83 84 -0.8
Height 59 59 +0.4
Wheelbase 127 125 +2
Track, front 65 64 +1.4
Track, rear 66 64 +2

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class debuts a brand-new interior design

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While the exterior still reminds of the old S-Class, the interior is brand new.

The dashboard is a big departure from any existing Mercedes-Benz model, so we're basically looking at a new design language.

The display layout with the instrument cluster and infotainment screen placed under the same hood was phased out. Instead, there’s a much bigger, free-standing display behind the steering wheel and a huge, tablet-style screen over the center stack. The four A/C vents are placed atop this display while the rest of the dashboard is clean and elegant.

2021 Mercedes S-Class Arrives To Redefine Automotive Luxury
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The new S-Class looks decidedly luxurious. It’s packed with fine leather and complex stitching patterns, as well as massive slabs of trim, available in a variety of materials, on the dashboard. The seats are available with up to 19 power functions for outstanding comfort, as well as ten different massage programs. The seat heating is now combined with the inflatable air chambers for improved comfort over long trips.

Mercedes also offers an Executive Line allows for multiple rear seat variations, so you can configure this section to be a working or rest area.

For the first time ever, the German company is offering a heatable cushion for the head restraints.

Interior room remains about the same, with mild improvements for elbow room and an extra inch of rear-seat legroom. The trunk is now rated at 22 cubic feet, one more than the old model.

2021 Mercedes S-Class Arrives To Redefine Automotive Luxury
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More good news comes from the technology department, as Mercedes is debuting the second-generation MBUX infotainment system in the S-Class. This new system makes the S-Class "more digital and intelligent" and includes features like a 3D driver display without having to wear special glasses, augmented reality content, and an Active Distance Assist function that displays images virtually at a distance of 32 feet in front of the driver. It also includes a more advanced voice assistant with increased dialogue capability.

2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class interior dimensions
Interior dimensions (in) Long wheelbase Preceding model Diff.
Max. headroom, front 42 42 +0.03
Headroom, rear1 38/39 37/39 +0.6/+0.3
Legroom, front 41 41 0
Legroom, rear 44 43 +1
Elbow room, front 63 61 +1.5
Elbow room, rear 62 61 +0.4
Shoulder room, front 60 60 0
Shoulder room, rear 58 60 -1.2

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is powered by mild hybrid drivetrains

2021 Mercedes S-Class Arrives To Redefine Automotive Luxury
- image 932260

The new-generation S-Class will be initially offered in two trims in the United States, both powered by gasoline engines paired to integrated starter-generators and 48-volt electrical systems.

The first trim is called the S 500 4Matic and features a 3.0-liter inline-six engine rated at 429 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque.

The 48-volt system adds an extra 21 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Both figures are identical to those of the outgoing model, so there’s no change in performance here. No word on 0-to-60 mph acceleration yet, but top speed is rated at 130 mph.

Next up is the S 580 4Matic, a new trim that replaces the old S 560 model. This version combines a twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V-8 engine to the same 48-volt system. The V-8 mill cranks out 496 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. While torque is similar to the old S 560, output is up by 33 horsepower. Top speed is also locked in at 130 mph.

2021 Mercedes S-Class Arrives To Redefine Automotive Luxury Exterior
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Both engines mate to a 9G-Tronic, nine-speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive system.

For the first time ever, the S-Class is available with rear-axle steering, a feature that is becoming the norm on sports cars, luxury sedans, and even luxury SUVs.

Both models come with the Airmatic air suspension as standard plus the fully active Body Control system that improves both comfort and agility.

In Europe, Mercedes-Benz also offers two diesel models, the S 350 d and the S 400 d 4Matic.

2021 Mercedes-benz S-Class - U.S. lineup
S500 4MATIC S 580 4MATIC
Engine (no. of cylinders, arrangement) 3.0L Inline-6 4.0 L V8 Biturbo
Displacement 2999 3,982
Output 429 496
at 5,500 - 6,100 5,500
Add. output with EQ Boost 21 21
Peak torque 384 516
at 1,600 - 4,500 2,000 - 4,000
Add. torque with EQ Boost 184 184
Accelerations 0-60mph TBA TBA
Top speed (electronically limited) 130 130

When is the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class coming to U.S. dealers?

2021 Mercedes S-Class Arrives To Redefine Automotive Luxury
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The brand-new full-size sedan is scheduled to hit U.S. dealers in the first half of 2021. That’s a bit later than Europe, which will get the luxury four-door starting December 2020. Pricing information is not yet available, but the S 500 should come in at around $105,000, while the S 560 trim will retail from around $115,000 before options.

Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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