2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 450 cruises into Australia

Flagship Mercedes S-Class sedan launches in Australia – and it’s more tech-laden than ever.

Mercedes-Benz is celebrating the introduction of the seventh-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class into Australian showrooms.

The new Mercedes S-Class is available to order now with prices starting from $240,700 plus on-road costs for the S 450 4MATIC and is available also in long wheelbase. The all-new model is Mercedes’s answer to a competitor set of rivals such as the Audi A8, updated BMW 7 Series and the upmarket Bentley Flying Spur.

Mercedes-Benz makes a simple but bold claim about the latest S-Class, stating that it is “the best car in the world.” And if that refers to the technology on offer, it might have a point.

Our brief encounter sitting in the S-Class reveals that Mercedes’ flagship pushes boundaries once again.

Standard equipment for the S 450 4MATIC model includes soft-close doors and keyless entry, heated front and rear seats, cooled front seats, Nappa leather upholstery, 12.3-inch 3D digital instrument cluster and 12.8-inch OLED high resolution central media infotainment touchscreen, wireless smartphone charger, panoramic sunroof and airmatic adaptive suspension.

Long wheelbase models gain an extra 110mm wheelbase, electrically adjustable rear seats including memory function, automatic rear climate control, and forward-facing rear airbags.

Mercedes aims to take a step forward with semi-autonomous driving technology with the new S-Class, introducing Level 3 capability for the first time. The company says that from the second half of 2021 in some markets, the new S-Class will be capable of “hands-off” autonomous driving on freeways and in traffic jams.

The S 450 comes standard with Driving Assistance Package, including Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC, Route Based Speed adaptation, Evasive Steering Assist, Active Stop-and-Go Assist, extended automatic restart in traffic, and Active Lane Change Assist.

A pair of chassis systems lacking on its predecessor now feature. A new rear wheel steering system incredibly reduces the turning circle of the S-Class to less than that of the A-Class family hatchback, according to Mercedes-Benz. Airmatic air suspension with continually adjustable damping is standard equipment.

Both S 450 short and long wheelbase models is powered by a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six engine with 48-volt assistance mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. It produces 270kW and 500Nm to all four wheels.

The new S-Class is the first Mercedes to be based on a new generation of the firm’s MRA platform for saloon cars. It means that alongside the model’s traditional fastidious approach to luxury and comfort, this new car is an important milestone for the company – it comes with a technological revolution inside the cabin, that will set the tone for the next-generation versions of the C-Class and E-Class.

The standard car sizes up at 5179mm long, meaning it has grown by 54mm. Step up to the long-wheelbase model, and the car measures 5289mm nose to tail. In both cases, the benefits of the growth spurt are found in the back, with both cars fielding more legroom and headroom than before, as well as bigger boots, both up by 20 litres to 550 litres.

Mercedes says the new S-Class is the most opulent expression of the brand’s latest saloon design language; the grille is larger and more upright than before, and is now flanked by new Multibeam LED headlights, which are now available with projector beams as part of the new Digital Light system. The setup can project shapes and symbols onto the road ahead, warning the driver of hazards such as roadworks, traffic lights, pedestrians, and capable of projecting lane guidelines too.

This time round there will be no Coupe or Cabriolet versions, with the S-Class to be kept strictly in limousine form factor. Alongside the standard and long-wheelbase versions of the car, an extended wheelbase Maybach badged variant will appear later, described by R&D boss Markus Schafer as “very differentiated” and a big step forward for the brand’s Maybach models.

The most radical design changes are reserved for the cabin, where the S-Class features an all-new interior architecture centred around a new, second-generation MBUX infotainment system.

It’s impossible to ignore the new central display, using smartphone quality OLED screen technology and haptic feedback. It’s 12.8-inches in size and portrait in orientation, flowing directly into the new-look centre console and sitting on top of a dashboard with a new, flat plane surface running from one side of the car to the other. It comes with a new user interface and is compatible with over-the-air update functionality.

A new digital instrument panel with real 3D-effect graphics sits in front of the driver, alongside a new-look steering wheel with touch-sensitive functions. Behind it all is a new head-up display capable of augmented reality technology. This means warning symbols and prompts, such as directions from the navigation, can appear as if they are being projected in 3D directly onto the street. A standard HUD without this technology is available. Altogether, the new screen-based tech means Mercedes has removed 27 buttons from the previous model’s dashboard.

Mercedes’s Energizing programme is also fitted as an option. This adds an array of sensors to automatically control the interior atmosphere, changing the ambient lighting, air temperature, audio level and massage feedback depending on the profile selected. A new mode even teams up with the massage function and a 30-speaker audio setup from Burmeister to create “4D” sound, with additional vibration in the seat for low bass tones. There are six Energizing programmes for occupants to choose from.

MBUX Interior Assistant is a new feature, too. It uses cameras in the car’s overhead panel to interpret the head, hand and body movements of those on board and automatically enable corresponding vehicle functions and provide contextual prompts. For example, if the driver reaches over to the passenger seat to grab something at night, the light above the passenger seat will automatically switch on. Looking at a side mirror also allows it to be adjusted without the need to operate a physical switch. If an occupant attempts to exit the car as another vehicle approaches, the ambient lighting will pulse red as a warning.

Matt O’Malley

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