Long held as the standard in luxury sedans, the Mercedes S Class is back for the 7th generation of excellence. Being revered as a gold standard can make complacency easy, but Mercedes Benz continues to innovate in new ways to keep its status not only relevant, but pushing boundaries. I spent some plush time with the AMG-Line of the all-new S 580, and they had to pry me out of its massaging seats at the end. Here’s why…
Out of Spec Score: B
It’s long. The wheel base is over 10 feet, 126” to be exact, giving it a longer wheelbase than that of a Cadillac Escalade. The length is comparable too, coming in at over 17 feet. Once your eyes get used to the sheer size, you start to notice the class in the undertones. 19 inch alloy wheels sport a machined finish and black insides. The rest of the car is a neutral Cirrus Silver, something to draw somewhat less attention. With the AMG-Line, you get AMG body styling, with the Night Package adding black accents along the lower edge of most of the car. They also like to point out the inclusion of AMG floor mats, which didn’t feel all that special other than, of course, the AMG badge.
The front fascia is a highlight, though the grill is blocked down the center by various sensors required for the adaptive cruise control. It’s not my favorite part to view, and you wouldn’t think of it as a touch point, but it certainly feels cheaper than anything else on the car by far. The classic Mercedes emblem rises above the front of the long hood. The headlights are simply works of art, being the LED Intelligent Light System with Ultra Wide Highbeams. Three distinct projectors sit below large white DRL strips that turn amber for turn signals.
Around back, the car is relatively unassuming, with large red taillights being the main accent. Though they are red in their entirety, the upper portion will turn orange for turn signal use. My test car was not equipped with a spoiler, but you can equip one in either body color or black. At the bottom is the diffuser-type accent piece from the AMG-Line, housing two exhaust exits each holding two pipes, for a total of a quad-exhaust.
The sides feature doors handles that present themselves to you when approaching the car, and a light yet firm tug will open the door release. They are quite hefty, large doors. But once inside, the door closes with a very firm and premium thud, and the sounds from the outside simply disappear.
If you aren’t a business executive, I know a shortcut to feeling like one. Inside the S-Class, the initial touch points consist of beautiful Napa leather, black in this case, and literally every touch point seems to be of high quality. In most modern cars, it’s easy to have your attention immediately captured by a specific part, such as a large infotainment display greeting your entrance. In this case, however, there is simply too much to take in. The displays are stunning, and they greet you with a deep black screen with Mercedes logo, while the Burmester sound system emits a deep bass rumble upon closing the door prior to starting the car.
Immediately in front of your eyes, the steering wheel sports many buttons on piano black plastic, which is unfortunate for my taste, but I forgive them due to its incredible intuitive use and excellent touch and click controls for cruise control and adjusting the screens. Floating in front of the driver is a large 12.3” gauge display, with the largest heads up display I’ve ever seen above the dash. In the center is the infamous waterfall display, 12.8” diagonal and OLED, and it waterfalls down into the center console of piano black.
In the doors, dash, and ceiling you will find artisanal metal grates housing the Burmester sound system, which boasts incredible design just as much as it does incredible sound. More on that in the technology section, but the design truly captures the eye more than any sound system I have ever seen.
Whether night or day, your eyes will also immediately catch the 64-color LED ambient lighting, emitting from the doors, dash, and even parts of the ceiling, all around the car. This can be set to a static color of your choice, or you can choose from a multitude of dynamic multi-color arrays that gradually change over time.
Once you finally settle in, comfortable with your surroundings, you can truly get comfortable. If featured with the weather package like ours, all four main seats contain heating and cooling, and the front seats in our case even had full heated massage capabilities. The seats themselves are incredibly comfortable, featuring pillow head rests, cross-stitched Napa leather, 12-way power, and even active bolstering in the front seats. It’s not a fully panoramic glass roof, but two good-sized moonroofs are great, with power shades on all rear windows controllable by rear seats. There is really no downside to the interior. Some piano black here and there, but let’s face it, your driver can make sure it’s cleaned daily. There are few cars where the front and back are equally comfortable, and it would be a daily challenge as to whether I would rather drive or be driven in the S-Class.
The US market S-Class comes with two engine options, manifesting as the S 500 or S 580 models, both with the 4MATIC all-wheel drive system. The S 500 utilizes a 3.0L inline-6 turbo engine with EQ Boost and electric auxiliary compressor. Boasting 429 hp and 384 lb-ft torque, it can move the 4,760 pound saloon to 60 mph in just under 5 seconds. Springing for the S 580 grants you a 4.0L V8 Biturbo with EQ Boost, with 496 hp and 516 lb-ft torque. This lowers the claimed 0-60 time to 4.4 seconds, and let’s be honest, it’s the S-Class to get. The transmission in either case is a 9G-TRONIC 9-speed automatic that shifts with incredible precision and results in one of the smoothest drivetrain experiences I have ever felt. The EQ Boost functionality acts as a pancake motor, replacing a typical starter motor. Engine auto-shut off actually initiates upon cruising to a stop, and starts right back up with no hesitancy and results in one of the only auto-shut off systems that I don’t immediately disable. That being said, it is more responsive when turned off, as it is in Sport+ driving mode.
The 4MATIC all-wheel drive system works very well, and when coupled with the air suspension and adaptive damping, the large sedan retains excellent grip and planted feel in corners. When in comfort mode, it soaks up bumps in the road better than any car I have experienced, and when switched all the way to Sport+, it firms it up well while still retaining a sophisticated level of performance-minded comfort. I have been in car with much more speed and power, but I never felt like this lacked the performance I needed. The unique rear wheel steering also allowed for impressive maneuverability around corners and at low speed, while at higher speed it actually works in tandem with front wheels to make the wheel base feel even longer. Every single scenario I found myself in was met with aggressive yet classy attitude and I realized the potential of daily driving this silver beast of a bullet.
There are many subsets to the term: practicality. But a big one in today’s world with today’s gas prices is the question surrounding efficiency. Fortunately, the S 580 delivers. Even with its biturbo V8 power plant, we achieved nearly 30 mph in our 70 mph highway range test. Of course if you switch to Sport+ mode and drive aggressively around town or on fun roads, you will see the fuel economy suffer while your spirits are lifted.
In terms of storage capacity, it’s not exactly in correlation with the lengthy sedan. At the most, it comes just under 14 cubic feet, or as little as 12.5 if you have all the options that protrude a bit into the trunk space. However, it is a very usable cavity due to the rectangular shape. Airline luggage would have no issue squeezing in. The back seats are plenty comfortable and I might argue are worth minimizing your trunk space a bit.
Another impressive facet to the new S-Class is the technology used to enhance any experience with the car. Aside from the performance technologies mentioned above, the S-Class delivers technology in almost every way imaginable for a car, and then in some ways I never imagined. First of all, you are greeted (whether you like it or not) with facial recognition to match you to an existing driver profile. To complete the biometric suite, you can opt to use the fingerprint scanner below the center display. If recognized and matched to a driver, the seat and preferences will be set according to your liking.
We’ve already touched on the ambient lighting, but it is truly a magical experience to behold, especially at night. The lighting will actually correspond with alerts as well, such as light up the right side of the car red if you accidentally cross the right line of your lane when driving. It also pulses blue or red depending on your climate control input, matching the adjustment for warmer or cooler temperature in each zone. The ambient lighting will also match the vitalization mode if you prompt it from the display. Whether it’s joy, well-being, comfort, it will adjust ambient lighting, play an impressive animation on the OLED display, use massaging seat functions, and even infuse the fragrance into the central air system. The cherry on top is of course the 4D Burmester system with a unique soundtrack for each mode. The Burmester is a fantastic piece of technology, with the 4D denoting the capability of each seat having a dedicated bass-response speaker. This can be adjusted in the sound settings on a scale from 0-10, and I can attest to 2 or 3 being the sweet spot. Any higher and it becomes ridiculous, for lack of a better word.
We experience many test cars, and each example tends to be exemplary in one regard while sacrificing others. This is to keep costs lower amidst an ever-saturating market of competition. In the Mercedes S-Class, however, the sacrifices are hard to discern. The price tag is just as long as the wheelbase, but if you want to feel every box being checked masterfully, it is hard to beat even this value.
At $140,000 priced as tested, it’s a common comparison to the more modern, more common luxury sedan from Tesla. The Model S Plaid is nearly the same price, and provides unbelievable acceleration. But that is where its unique list of traits tends to end. The S 580 provides excellent, engaging, smooth response in its acceleration, more than enough for any driver to appreciate. And the attention to detail, build quality, and pure class in every feature truly sets it apart. It’s considerably more expensive than many luxury sedans, but it is also considerably better, leaving little on the table for improvements yet again.
– Exterior design 7/10
– Interior design 9/10
– Materials 9/10
– Build quality 9.5/10
– Comfort 9.5/10
– Capacity 6.5/10
– Acceleration 8/10
– Handling 8/10
– Efficiency 7/10
– Connected services 9/10
– UI/UX 9.5/10
– Active Safety 9.5/10
Editor’s Assessment 8.7/10
– Value 8/10
– Market placement 9/10
– Editor’s Influence 9/10