The S Class has always been seen as the benchmark for future tech that will no doubt filter down to many other cars of all brands. Looking at the tech that’s included in this latest model, the future looks very cool.
But the S Class isn’t supposed to only be about tech. It should be supremely smooth, luxurious, and a class leader in the high-end sedan segment.
So – even if this model is the winner of the 2021 World Luxury Car award – does the latest Mercedes-Benz S Class 450 achieve this, or has its opposition caught up and passed it?
What We Like and Dislike About The 2021 Mercedes-Benz S Class 450
|What we like||What we don’t like|
Lack of road, tyre, and wind noise
Luxury feel and look
Relative fuel economy
Sheer style and class
Still has the ‘X’ factor
|Haptic steering wheel controls|
Door handle operation
What’s In The Mercedes-Benz S Class Range?
There are three models to choose from here; the S 450 4MATIC (tested) at $215,000, the S 450 L 4MATIC at $235,900, and the top-of-the-range S 580 L 4MATIC at $291,700.
The 450 L model is mainly an extended wheelbase version of the base model, but this does also add electric rear seats with memory, rear climate controls and rear airbags. Both 450 models are powered by a 3.0-litre, straight six with EQ Boost that puts out 270kW of power, and 500Nm of torque.
The S 580 L has Digital Headlights as standard, as well as Nappa Leather Upholstery, a 3D driver’s display, MBUX Augmented Reality Heads-Up Display (HUD), heat/noise-insulating glass, and infrared reflecting glass. Its engine is a 4.0-litre V8 with EQ Boost, managing 370kW of power and 700Nm of torque, and includes cylinder shut-off to save fuel and reduce carbon emissions.
All models have a 9-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
2021 Mercedes-Benz S Class Standard Equipment Highlights
- MULTIBEAM LED headlights with Adaptive Highbeam Assist
- AIRMATIC Suspension
- Exterior mirrors heated, electrically adjustable and folding
- Heat and noise-insulating acoustic glass for front side windows
- Heat-insulating dark privacy glass for rear windows
- Sliding glass panoramic sunroof with tilt function and two-piece electric roller sunblind
- 20″ AMG Multi-spoke alloy wheels painted in Himalayas grey with a high-sheen finish
- Tyre Pressure monitoring
- Driving Assistance Package, which includes:
- Route-Based SatNav
- Evasive Steering Assist
- Active Stop-And-Go Assist
- Extended automatic restart in traffic
- Active Lane Change Assist
- URBAN GUARD vehicle protection
- Traffic Sign Assist
- Parking Package with Active Parking Assist and 360 camera
- Power closing doors
- MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) Infotainment system, incl. LINGUATRONIC, touchscreen and touchpad
- DAB Digital radio tuner
- Burmester® 3D surround sound system, 15 high-performance speakers, DSP amplifier, 710W
- 12.3″ 3D Digital instrument cluster & 12.8″ OLED high-resolution central media infotainment touchscreen display
- Head-up display, MBUX augmented reality for navigation, MBUX Interior assistant & fingerprint scanner
- Smart Phone integration with Apple CarPlayTM and Google Android Auto
- Qi wireless phone charging
- Ambient lighting
- Dual-zone AC
- Leather upholstery / High-gloss black poplar wood trim / Centre console in black crystal-look
- Electrically adjustable front seats, steering column with memory function (includes lumbar support)
- Climatised front seats (includes Seat Heating Plus)
- KEYLESS-GO with flush-fitting door handles
- Electric boot lid with hands-free access
- illuminated door sill panels with Mercedes-Benz lettering
Our Review Vehicle’s Optional Equipment
- Energizing Package ($14,500)
- Exclusive Package ($15,500)
- AMG Line ($6,500)
- Digital Headlights ($4,990)
- Upgraded Tyre Pressure Monitoring System ($850)
Surprising too that there are no rear aircon controls for your VIP passengers unless you move up to the long-wheelbase model.
Including $42,340 worth of optional equipment, our review car’s retail price is $257,340.
As is usual for the brand, there’s a good selection of options and optional packages. You get to pick from 9 interior colour/fabric options, two wood trim options, 4 wheel types, and a total of 13 colour choices:
- Obsidian black metallic
- Onyx black metallic
- Nautic blue metallic
- Rubellite red metallic
- Graphite grey metallic
- Mojave silver metallic
- High-tech silver metallic
- Emerald green metallic
- Selenite grey metallic
- designo cashmere white magno
- designo selenite grey magno
- designo diamond white bright
- designo kalahari gold
None of these colours is what you would call bright, with Rubelite red metallic and Emerald green metallic the most daring. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the colours are extremely subdued.
Our test car was finished in Selenite Grey Metallic, probably as this will be the easiest colour to sell the car in. I expect 90% of S Class sales will be white, black, grey or silver.
A nice-to-have option is rear-wheel steering, priced at a very reasonable $2,700. This reduces the turning circle by over a metre, very impressive. It also aids in better cornering at speed.
For a full list of specs and options available for the Mercedes-Benz S 450 4MATIC, jump on over to the Mercedes-Benz New Zealand website.
How Does The 2021 Mercedes-Benz S Class 450 4MATIC Compare To Its Competition?
|Lexus LS 500h||3.5-litre, V6 hybrid||264/350||5.4||6.6||430||$225,900|
|Mercedes-Benz S 450 4MATIC||3.0-litre, 6-cylinder turbo||270/500||5.1||8.6||550||$215,000|
|BMW 745e||3.0-litre, 6-cylinder, twin-scroll turbo-hybrid||250/600||5.2||2.4||515||$194,900|
First Impressions Of The 2021 Mercedes-Benz S Class 450 4MATIC
I think the phrase is ‘evolution rather than revolution’. The latest S Class is immediately identifiable as such but doesn’t stretch the bar too high. Is that a bad thing? I expect that the Mercedes-Benz designers were reigned in to keep the changes subtle rather than perhaps (for example) exploding the grille out like another German brand.
In saying that, it looks good. The lines have been tightened and modernised, so the new S Class can hold its head up with its peers. Could having kept a ‘normal’ grille help with sales and those upgrading from the previous-gen S Class? Quite possibly.
Around the rear of the car, it’s much the same scenario – fresher lines, and a normal S Class look, so that’s the same but different. The taillights have come in for a redesign, and look spectacular at night.
From the rear, it looks wide, low and expensive, so the designers have once again nailed that part of the car. I can just see the paparazzi chasing it down the street, admiring its rear end while trying to get a photo of Lorde in the back seat.
What’s The Interior Like In The 2021 Mercedes-Benz S Class 450 4MATIC?
Well, you have to open the doors to get inside, and the S Class’ first party trick appears; the door handles pop out automatically when you approach the car, like a certain EV-only model from America. The handles feel incredibly solid, and as an added bonus have ‘Mercedes-Benz’ embossed on them to remind you what you are getting into. I must admit it does look cool when you drive off and check the exterior mirror and see the door handles move into the door, flush.
Unfortunately, the door handles don’t work that well in practice. Both John (who had the car after me) and I had issues simply opening the door. They are electric closing, we get that, but even a light pull on the handle often didn’t open the door. Really, a light pull is all that should be needed. This took something away from the luxury experience, perhaps having a driver open the door for you.
Getting in the driver’s seat, you will be presented with alloy pedals. I was surprised at this, as it didn’t feel in keeping with the intended buyer of this car. Still, they look good, and I appreciate that Mercedes-Benz (and other euro marques) continue to have a floor-mounted accelerator pedal for better control.
A lot of this review will centre on the car’s seats, for many reasons. One of those is that they look amazing when looking in; soft, large, and expensive. Keep in mind the extra options our test car has which includes electric rear seats with memory function. Regardless, the seats are stunning to look at, sit in, and travel in. If the pillows on the headrests don’t yell “welcome to luxury” to you, there’s a possibility you are one spoilt individual.
On the negative side of things, the new S Class has moved to use haptic controls on the steering wheel. More on this on the drive side of things, later.
People might (will) baulk at a car costing a quarter of a million dollars, but sitting in any seat you can see the quality of this car. The expansive dashboard, stretching right across the car has a wood finish (naturally) and is a stand-out. But there’s so much more. The double air vents on each side of the dash, the real-alloy quad air vents in the top centre, and then your eyes are drawn to that massive 12.8” OLED centre screen, beautifully integrated into the centre console.
One of the options in our test car is the Exclusive Package, part of which means virtually all surfaces are finished in nappa leather, and the headlining is in microfibre. When Mercedes-Benz says ‘virtually’ you can read that as almost everything. Even the doors; they are almost all padded nappa leather (including the lower panels) and feel superb. So soft and sensuous. I could live here quite easily.
The driver’s door has the main headlight switch on it, and that might sound a little strange, but it looks like it’s always been there and makes it for easy access – no more peering around the side of the steering wheel. I hope this design feature flows down to other models. The headlight switch itself is a thing of beauty and design; solid alloy, it feels incredible to touch, and admittedly almost all controls in the car are made of aluminium and feel just as good (except that steering wheel).
Under that massive centre display are the front cup holders, and the Qi wireless charging pad is right up under the display. You physically slide your phone up and then onto the charging pad. It gets it out of sight and temptation, and besides, there’s wireless Apple CarPlay so you shouldn’t need to look at it anyway.
There are some hard buttons below the OLED screen, like the Drive Mode button, volume, and mute. One of these is a fingerprint reader, for logging in as you for your own Driver Profile, so you can automatically set your seat, radio stations, steering wheel position etc. Up to two fingerprints can be stored in the system.
There’s some storage behind that OLED screen as well, and another small storage area next to the cup holders, along with a couple of USB-C ports. The rear centre console cubby is on the small side but does have two USB-C ports.
Inside with that dark grey microfibre headlining and lots of black, it’s pretty dark. I did find I left the electric sunroof blind open to get some light into the cabin all the time. I guess with everything shut up, including the (optional) rear door electric blinds, you can keep that paparazzi at bay.
Jumping in the back seat – because let’s be honest, that’s what the S Class is about – there’s not as much legroom as luxury should have. It’s not bad, but I was surprised it wasn’t better. I think I’d be going for the long-wheelbase version if I was buying an S Class. Other than that, your rear passengers are pretty spoilt. Our test car had the optional electric rear seats, so passengers can adjust the backrest, move the bottom part of the seat forward, or adjust the headrest electrically. There’s also 3 memory settings for your passengers, as well as heating and cooling of the rear seats, and of course, your headrest pillows to lay back on.
The left-rear seat has a button on the door to move the front passenger seat forward for more legroom if there was no one in it of course. Above the rear seat is a full-width LED strip, and this LED strip runs around the entire interior and does look pretty cool at night. Naturally, you can pick from a lot of colours, or split the colours, or have the colours changing as you drive.
Headroom in the rear is good, although there is a smaller non-opening sunroof back there with its own electric blind, so this does take up some of the headroom. An interesting omission is the lack of rear AC controls; the S Class 450 4MATIC is dual-zone AC only – you have to move up to the long-wheelbase model to get rear AC controls.
You would expect an S Class to have a huge boot and you won’t be disappointed. At 550 litres, it’s the largest in our comparison table, and you can lift the floor up to reveal another small storage area, perhaps for your bottles of champagne and the like.
There’s no spare or pump in the boot; instead, the S Class has run-flat tyres.
What’s The 2021 Mercedes-Benz S Class 450 4MATIC Like To Drive?
I had high expectations for this car. It should blow me away with a smoothness like no other, and a luxury driving experience with zero stress. Did it deliver?
Let’s start with getting in the car, and what was for me, the least enjoyable part of the S 450 (and admittedly, some other new Mercedes-Benz models): The steering wheel with its haptic controls. Mercedes-Benz had almost the best steering wheel controls of any car out there. The buttons felt amazing (they were alloy), looked amazing, and they worked. Check out our Mercedes-Benz EQA review to read more about this wheel.
Now, we have haptic steering wheel controls, and they don’t work well at all. The issue (and both John and I found this) is that you slide your fingers over the controls to get to the one you want, and while you are sliding said fingers, you are changing things by the very fact of them going over other controls. It’s all a bit messy, and honestly, a little annoying. Even more annoying when the controls were so good before.
For the S Class, they have split the steering wheel spokes, so there are two parallel spokes on each side. This looks pretty cool, but I doubt there’s any ergonomic value. But please, Mercedes-Benz, bring back the old steering wheel, at least as an option. There is electric adjustment for the steering wheel, with the switch hidden well back on the rear of the steering wheel. I didn’t actually find it at all and had to ask Mercedes-Benz New Zealand where it was. Once found, no drama. Anyway, rant over.
Nearly everything else on this car? Just about perfect.
After the steering wheel, it’s all about the seats. Yes, our test car had the optional rear electric seats with heating/cooling and memory functions, but they were oh-so-worth-it. Front or rear, you got just about the same experience, and it’s a luxurious experience like no other.
I could write an entire article on the seats alone, but I’ll try and summarise. Looking in, you see the pillows on the headrests of all seats – that tells you it’s going to be a comfy ride. There are the usual door-mounted electric seat controls, and of course, this includes electric adjustment of all headrests. Upfront there are ten different massage options to choose from, and two of those include using the seat heaters with the massage. Front seat passengers can also electrically adjust the shoulder pressure, bolsters, and lumbar.
Adjusting the lumbar support isn’t anything as crude as a button on the door or seat; instead, you go into the menus on the massive central OLED screen, and slide your finger over the exact point on your seat where you want lumbar adjustment, and exactly how much pressure you want. It’s all very impressive, and effective.
But wait, there’s more. You can also select the seat’s Multi-Contour option, and have it so that when you go around (for example) a left-hand bend, the right bolster will come in to hold you better. There are two levels of adjustment for this setting alone.
As mentioned, all seats are cooled and heated, and if you use the heating option, the centre armrest (in front) and all door armrests are also heated. For some weird reason, Mercedes-Benz allows you to have both heating and cooling on the same seat at the same time. As a slight negative, the cooling function did seem to struggle to actually keep me cool enough, so I always had it on the highest setting. You can select from low-medium-high for either cooling or heating.
Our test car also had (optional) electric rear door blinds and an electric blind for the rear window. This meant that the rear doors had four buttons on each – plus buttons for seat adjustment and heating/cooling. The 4 door buttons control that door’s sunshade and window (in a single button) but also the other rear door’s sunshade and window. The other two buttons controlled the rear electric blind, and also the electric blind on the rear sunroof. All the blinds could also be opened or closed by the driver, in case you had a hard day at the office and couldn’t be bothered doing it yourself. If the rear sunblind is up and you put the car in reverse, it automatically retracts and then extends again when you move forward.
The new S Class range includes LED ambient lighting, and this extends around the entire cabin, including around the back of the rear seats. As a party trick, but also useful for safer driving, if you try and change lanes and there’s a car in your blind spot, the LED lights will flash red to warn you that there is someone there. Great stuff.
Still inside the car, there are some amazing textures and materials used, and the whole car oozes opulence. Part of this includes alloy air vents, with four of them up proud on top of the dash, and double air vents for the front seat passenger and driver. They look and feel like total quality, but weirdly, the double air vents at the end of the dash are linked together, so you can’t move one for your face and one for your hands (for example). It’s the same scenario for the 4 centre air vents – they are linked in a 2×2 pattern, and are not 4 individual air vents. They look so classy but this seemed like an oversight in their functionality, and not very German at all.
In front of the driver is a single pane for the 12.3” dashboard; there’s no cowl over the top of it, and at times there were a few reflections, but far less than you’d expect. The clarity is brilliant, and our test car was optioned up with a 3D dash, so you got a 3D SatNav view, taking up almost the entire dashboard. It moves with your eyes too, which is both cool and a little disconcerting. For reasons unknown, there’s also a sports dash option you can switch to, and that shows the power and torque outputs in kW/Nm, turbo pressure, RPM, and G Forces. I guess this is the dash you pick when you select the Dynamic drive mode (and yes, it has one), but I doubt it would get used often.
The centre 12.8” screen is the feature that really grabs your, or your passenger’s eyes. The definition is mind-blowing, the clarity amazing. It’s so simple to use as well and makes the most of the MBUX infotainment system. Anyone can be up and using the screen quickly.
As standard, the S 450 comes with Augmented Reality for SatNav. This is ‘only’ on the centre screen, and if you want to get it on the heads-up display (HUD) as well, you’ll need to option that. Still, having it on the centre screen is excellent, and many passengers were blown away by it. Augmented Reality means that when you are using SatNav and there’s an intersection or a turn coming up, the centre screen will change to a live view, where the front camera will show you what’s ahead. Layered on top of that (augmented) will be arrows and signs showing you where you need to turn. These move with the image of the screen, and it’s an excellent way to navigate.
So I’ve gone on for 1,200 words without actually saying how the car actually drives. There is one word that sums up the 2020 Mercedes-Benz S 450: smooth. How smooth? My week with the S 450 included a trip across to the Wairarapa, and that means everybody’s favourite hill, the Remutakas. Those unfamiliar with this road, well, it’s freaking twisty, and the bane of many a weekday commuter. We headed over the Remutaka Hill on a Friday after work, and I switched the car into Dynamic mode. If it’s got that mode, I want to test it out. So here I was, testing out the car’s handling and road-holding (both very good, actually) and a quick glance into the back seat, and I see my passenger back there has fallen asleep. Yep, it’s that smooth.
Driving on a windy road, or any road, the whole car feels heavy, surefooted (hey, it is all-wheel drive after all), and planted. It’s a joy to drive, but admittedly it does encourage you to drive extremely smoothly. We’ve had cars – the BMW M3 Competition springs to mind – that encourage you to drive with a bit of verve, hybrids encourage you to drive economically, and the 2020 Mercedes-Benz S 450 encourages you to drive like a chauffeur.
Honestly, I had that car pulling up to every stop with zero dip in the bonnet. Some of this is helped by the brakes; it’s so easy to modulate the brakes in the S Class, it does make driving like a chauffeur pretty simple. It was good to see the new S Class has dumped using a brake auto-hold button, instead a hard push on the brakes will engage all four brakes until you touch the accelerator. But this was a minor failing of the car, as I had to really push hard, or sometimes that wouldn’t do it and I’d have to pump the brake twice to engage brake auto-hold. This isn’t very chauffeur-friendly, as you can imagine. Of course, this could have only affected our test car.
The engine in our test car was the 3-litre, straight-six turbo petrol unit, perfectly suited to the car and its purpose. Again, silky smooth – incredibly so – and torquey too, with 500Nm at hand. Not only these things, but so quiet you barely know the car has an internal combustion engine. I’m sure the double-glazing helps here, but regardless this engine is a model of civility. It can punch it too if you really need it, and will get to 100km/h in 5.1 seconds. Your VIP in the back seat might not like that, but to get away from the paparazzi, needs must.
Additional to the petrol engine is the EQ Boost mild-hybrid system, and this includes an electric compressor, so no turbo lag at all. It aids in lowering emissions and fuel economy, as well as improving performance. It also means a far quicker engine startup time, and this is really noticeable, with even my passengers mentioning it.
Matched to the engine is one of the best transmissions out there. That nine-speed automatic is faultless, right gear at the right time and velvet-smooth changes. Another part of this car that’s perfect.
On getting to the Wairarapa, we headed towards Martinborough and our AirBNB for the weekend. Using SatNav, she told us to take a turn and that meant driving on a gravel road. I was a bit concerned at this point, as I doubt this is the type of road the Mercedes-Benz suspension designers had in mind for the car. Well, the S 450 nailed it. Even on a rutted-out corner, it sailed on around, the air suspension totally soaking up any impact on the car’s passengers. Driving in a straight line on that metal road the car felt sure and steady, drama-free. It might as well not have been a metal road at all.
Our test car was fitted with the optional $4,990 Digital Headlights package, and nighttime in the Wairarapa was a perfect time to test them. We’ve had digital headlights (BMW calls them laser headlights) before, and they will always impress. In saying that, the ones on this car seem like they could burn out a possum’s retinas at 100 metres. I think when you are getting to this car’s price point, you’d simply option them in, and I would encourage that. They are brilliant headlights and make night driving that much safer. They’re adaptive of course, so will black out any cars in front of you, while maintaining high beam. As is becoming very common, turning the car on will see the headlights dance about, while they get themselves levelled and ready. It’s both showy and a little cool.
As standard, the car comes with a 710-watt, DSP, 15-speaker Burmester audio system. There will be few owners who are disappointed with the sound quality of this system; it has stunning clarity and separation, and the frequency range seems very wide. This was the best audio system in a car that I’ve heard in a long time.
Over 700km of driving, the S 450 returned 9.6 litres/100Km. For a 2-ton car with a six-cylinder turbo motor, that’s extremely reasonable, bordering on excellent.
[John’s Point of View]
After spending a disappointing week behind the wheel of Audi’s $280K Etron GT RS (that didn’t reflect its cost on the inside), I was looking forward to driving the new Mercedes-Benz 450 S Class Sedan. I had driven the S Class coupe before and been blown away by the level of comfort and luxury that was offered. I could only hope that the new S Class sedan would not disappoint me.
The S Class is not so much about the car and the drive, but more about the experience of the journey. A journey that should have no taxing effect on you whatsoever, leaving you looking forward to the relaxing environment that you enjoyed behind the wheel.
The car is filled from head to toe with cutting-edge technology and luxury furnishings. The main stage is the seats, they are amazing. There is no other car in this price bracket that’s as comfy as the S Class, and their seats take the cake. I really loved the select your height feature. Being 200cm tall, there are not many cars that fit me well. But after entering 200cm into the central display, the seat came to life, as did the steering wheel, both moving around as if they were dancing together. Suddenly it was over, and the seat had positioned itself remarkably well. I had only to pull it forward about 1 cm to make it perfect, but every other aspect of the seat base, back, legroom and steering wheel position were spot on. The seat now felt like it had been formed just for me, which made the experience of driving that much sweeter.
It’s hard to get stressed or road ragey while driving the S Class; the car is really quiet, and you’re so comfortable, relaxed and happy to let the crazy world carry on outside. The engine was as quiet as, if not more than the electric Audi I had been driving. It had plenty of power, but it was not for show, but to move this big car effortlessly along while keeping the revs low and as quiet as possible. Even for such a big car, the S 450 never felt big or heavy, it just floated along the road, even levelling itself on the corners so as not to put any strain on the driver or passengers.
It’s safe to say that the new Mercedes-Benz S Class 450 Sedan did not disappoint me at all. This car is amazing, and it’s clear to see why it’s held as a benchmark of luxury for the general consumer market.
Is the S Class 450 sedan worth it? That depends on what you want from it. Does the cost reflect what you get in the S Class? Certainly, it’s on another level of luxury driving.
2021 Mercedes-Benz S Class 450 4MATIC Specifications
|Vehicle Type||Luxury Sedan|
|Price as Tested||$257,340|
|Engine||3.0-litre, inline 6-cylinder with EQ Boost|
|Spare Wheel||Extended run-flat safety tyres|
|Kerb Weight, Kg||2,076|
|Length x Width x Height|
|Fuel tank capacity|
95 RON required
|Advertised Spec – Combined – 8.6|
Real-World Test – Combined – 9.6
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
|Turning circle, metres||12.8|
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
|Safety information||Rightcar.govt.nz – 5 Stars – MBNZ7|