This 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class's Back Wheel Is Not Broken

Illustration for article titled This 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Classs Back Wheel Is Not Broken
Photo: Mercedes-Benz

The press release announcing the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class this week was over 20,000 words long. (It has a table of contents.) The most visually interesting aspect of the generally reserved-looking car may be that its rear wheels can turn, quite a bit actually, to give this long land yacht tighter turning abilities. We’ll get into specifics on that below.

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If you want to dig deep, you can go straight to the source. Meanwhile, we can discuss the highlights here.

Benzo distributed a list of what it’s most proud of in the new S-Class, so let’s start there. In the company’s words:

  1. The second generation of MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) [Mercedes’ infotainment software] debuts in the new S-Class. Setting another milestone as the interface between the driver, passengers and vehicle: with up to five screens on board, some with OLED technology. At the touch of a button, the new 3D driver display, for the first time, allows spatial perception of the surroundings with a real 3D effect thanks to eye-tracking. A similarly impressive feature is the very large head-up display with augmented reality content. When navigating, for example, animated turn-off arrows (“fishbones”) are virtually and precisely projected onto the road lane.
  2. Active ambient lighting with around 250 LEDs is now integrated into the driving assistance systems, and is able to reinforce warnings visually. In addition, feedback is possible when operating the climate control system or the “Hey Mercedes” voice assistant, for instance.
  3. The latest generation of the Driving Assistance Package has new and numerous improved functions. One example is predictive compliance with speed limits. The new driver assistance display clearly shows the operating principle of the driving assistance systems as a full-screen view.
  4. During severe frontal collisions, the optional rear airbag can considerably reduce the impact on the head and neck area of the seat-belt-wearing occupants in the outer rear seats. The frontal airbag for the rear seat deploys particularly gently thanks to its innovative construction using a tubular structure.
  5. Thanks to rear-axle steering (optional), the S-Class is as maneuverable as a compact car in the city. The steering angle at the rear axle is up to ten degrees. Even for the S-Class with a long wheelbase and all-wheel drive, the turning circle is reduced by 6 feet to under 36 feet.
  6. More than 50 electronic components in the new S-Class can be updated with new software over-the-air (OTA). These include the entire MBUX infotainment system, the driver display and the driving assistance systems. This technology saves the customer time, as they no longer need to visit a dealership for these updates. Furthermore, the vehicle remains up to date throughout its lifecycle and is equipped to incorporate new features. The explicit consent of the user is always a precondition for OTA updates.
  7. When a side impact with another vehicle is impending, the vehicle body can be raised by the E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL suspension (optionally available next year) within a few tenths of a second. This is a new function of PRE-SAFE Impulse Side: It can reduce the impact on the occupants because it directs the impact forces towards particularly resistant structures in the lower area of the vehicle
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There’s a long wheelbase version for extra rear-seat comfort, and you can see the differences in dimensions detailed precisely in this handy comparison:

There are so many photos of this thing online I barely know where to begin, but your best repository is probably, as ever, NetCarShow. So cruise over there if I didn’t grab an angle you were hoping to see.

Clearly the big themes are safety and modern connectivity, which has pretty much been the S-Class shtick since forever. I did find it kind of funny that Mercedes stated “Comfort levels on the front passenger seat are assisted by up to 19 motors,” before the listing the engine displacement or horsepower. But really, it makes sense. Lux is a lot more important than HP here, of which I’m sure the S-Class has plenty.

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Photo: Mercedes-Benz

I did check, don’t worry, and it is plenty. The flagship S580’s biturbo V8 claims 496 HP and 516 lb-ft of torque. The S500 has to make do with an inline-six rated to a paltry 429 HP and 384 lb-ft of torque. Actually, wow, that’s a pretty meaty sixer.

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All new S-Classes at the onset will have nine-speed automatics and all-wheel drive according to the spec sheet. But the most interesting piece of equipment affecting driving dynamics will probably be the rear-wheel steering system. As Mercedes states:

“...[the] rear-axle steering that allows large steering angles of up to 10° and is integrated into the dynamic control systems of the steering, brakes and suspension (more about the rear-axle steering in the next chapter). The S-Class has an electro-mechanical direct steering system at the front. The suspension settings of the Dynamic Select driving modes allow individual adaptation of the assistance characteristics.”

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There’s a table on that too:

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Photo: Mercedes-Benz
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But driving an S-Class is really more about riding in an S-Class. So besides the many-motored power seats and advanced ambient lighting setup, the cabin is screen city with “up to five” monitors spec’d out in detail here:

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Photo: Mercedes-Benz
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You’ll be able to watch stuff from your smartphone or plug devices in via HDMI inputs if you can’t possibly bear to be away from your gaming console or whatever for the duration of a car ride.

I can’t say I’m a fan of the look. It’s just so, so bland. But as my colleagues on Twitter have pointed out, the S-Class was never supposed to have a particularly iconoclastic look or anything. It’s just meant to be the epitome of executive transport for rich people whose comfort level for flashiness is right below BMW and Rolls-Royce.

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I’m sure all variants of the S-Class will be sumptuously comfortable to float around in. And even the six-cylinder model should have no problem getting out of its own way.

With that, it’s picture time. Let’s take a look at the body:

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Photo: Mercedes-Benz
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And here are a few angles and colors of the interior, which is far more interesting:

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I’d like to ride in one of these, yes, but I think I’ll leave the screens turned off and stare out the sunroof.

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik | 1975 International Scout, 1984 Nissan 300ZX, 1991 Suzuki GSXR, 1998 Mitsubishi Montero, 2005 Acura TL

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DISCUSSION

Fuck this:

“We printed a picture of the grill on a piece of plastic on the grill to hide the radar.” It would look cheap on a Mitsubishi, it’s inexcusable on a $100k+ car.