The term “luxury” as it pertains to automobiles can mean different things to different people. For Mercedes-Benz, a luxurious automotive experience has always centered on exceptional comfort, elements of personalization, and added levels of convenience. In the modern, postwar era, the German automaker’s S-Class has best epitomized this rationale, beginning with the six-cylinder Model 220, which debuted in 1951 and shortly thereafter featured a spacious “Ponton” body design that offered unprecedented driver and passenger comforts.
Five distinct S-Class eras have since followed suit, each one defined by well-appointed advancements—from long wheelbases for added legroom to then-revolutionary safety features like antilock braking systems. As Mercedes-Benz now enters a sixth era of luxury-focused automotive design, it does so with two S-Class models—the S 500 4Matic and the S 580 4Matic—that are defined by innovative capabilities in driver assistance, protection, and interaction.
“Luxury today is defined by comprehensive refinement,” says Dirk Fetzer, head of S-Class product management. “A luxurious driving experience depends on a host of factors and must appeal to all the senses. … This also includes making life easier for the customer … because intuitive operation and comprehensive connectivity save a great deal of time.”
Taking center stage in the new S-Class models is a refined interactive system that connects drivers and passengers to the car in unique ways. MBUX, which stands for Mercedes-Benz User Experience, features as many as five screens on board, and through cameras mounted in the overhead control panel—as well as through artificial intelligence algorithms—the system learns and adapts to the behaviors and needs of the people inside the car. When a driver looks over their shoulder toward the rear window, for example, MBUX Interior Assist automatically opens the sunblind. Equally impressive, a large head-up display with augmented-reality content can virtually project turn-by-turn navigational arrows onto the road in front of the car, allowing drivers to utilize the car’s GPS-powered navigational system without taking their eyes off the road.
“The new S-Class does full justice to its innovative tradition,” says Uwe Ernstberger, who leads the automaker’s S-Class model series product group. “The new generation will once again set the pace in the automotive industry.”
Other noteworthy features include frontal airbags for the rear seats, which deploy gently thanks to an innovative tubular structure. An optional rear-axle steering upgrade also makes it possible for the car’s rear axle to turn at a maximum angle of 10 degrees, which reduces the new S-Class’s turning circle by 6.5 feet. In other words, it offers maneuverability that belies the luxury sedan’s 17-foot length. “The rear-axle steering makes the S-Class as maneuverable as a compact car,” says Jürgen Weissinger, S-Class’s chief engineer.
Mercedes-Benz has yet to reveal the details of the two sedans’ performance capabilities—those will be made available closer to their arrival in US dealerships. What is known is that the German automaker will produce two models. The S 500, powered by a three-liter, inline-six turbo engine with EQ Boost, churns out 429 horsepower and 384 lb. ft. of torque (at 1,600 rpm). The S 580, by comparison, is powered by a four-liter V8 biturbo engine with EQ Boost that produces 496 horsepower and 516 lb. ft. of torque (at 2,000 rpm). Top speed for both vehicles is electronically limited to 130 mph.
Like the new S-Class sedans’ performance capabilities, the prices for both models will be released closer to the cars’ arrival in US dealerships. Nevertheless, as Mercedes-Benz COO Markus Schäfer implies, the luxuriously appointed, groundbreaking vehicles will justify their cost. “The new S-Class reinforces our claim to produce the best automobile in the world,” he says. “This is where covetable luxury meets the greatest possible safety and highest level of comfort.”