All-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class: the CAR lowdown | CAR Magazine

All-new Mercedes S-Class: Maybach version tops up the luxury

Published: 19 November 2020 Updated: 19 November 2020

► All-new Mercedes S-Class luxury car
► W223-generation also has Maybach version
► Tech explained, plus specs and on-sale date

Mercedes is continuing its efforts to reshape Maybach as a luxury flagship for its already luxurious cars, with this being the latest creation: the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

The new model is 18cm longer than the long-wheelbase S-Class, with Mercedes saying it almost entirely benefits those in the rear. Bespoke Maybach details include a different front grille and a central parting trim piece on the bonnet and badging on the C-pillar. Two-tone paint options (which takes Mercedes a week to apply) and the return of Merc’s iconic Monoblock wheels are also available.

Maybach S-class rear seats

While these are options on a normal S-Class, the Maybach S comes with the Executive Seat package, which converts the three abreast seating in the rear into two reclining armchairs with tables and infotainment screens in the rear, and the Chauffeur package, which allows the backrest of the front passenger seat to tilt forward beyond the 90-degree position for more legroom. Other options include the S-Class’ E-Active Body control, as is rear-wheel steering, digital headlights and more.

Mercedes is commencing a staggered launch of the Maybach S-Class, with the first ones arriving at the end of 2020. The USA and Chinese markets will get their first deliveries in April 2021 and will be available to all of Europe in the summer of the same year.

For more on the standard S-Class, keep reading.

The S-Class looks rather reductive…

Indeed – it’s not in-your-face, or even dramatically different from the previous-generation S-Class. But that’s not the point, as Mercedes doesn’t need to. Around 70% of buyers in the US buy another Mercedes, even moreso in Europe where that figure is 80%. For the last generation, Merc sold a third of them to China and about 90% of buyers globally go for the extended wheelbase version.

New Mercedes-Benz S-Class W223, 2020, side view, silver, studio

New headlights and a tweaked grille arrangement can be seen at the front, with a lower apron benefitting from a more aggressive look if you go for an AMG Line model. At the sides and rear, there’s a reduction in bulges and lines, with the tapered rear showing off lighting that’s similar in shape to the CLS.

The most novel detail is flush doorhandles that pop out when you approach, and Mercedes says that helps keep a low drag coefficient figure of just 0.22Cd.

What engines and versions are there?

At launch, there will be two diesels and two petrols using Merc’s latest straight-six engine range. The petrols also have 48v mild hybrid assistance that helps boost torque and all hit 155mph. See below for some key specs:

  • S350d (with optional 4Matic all-wheel drive): 282bhp, 443lb ft, 6.2sec 0-62mph
  • S400d 4Matic: 325bhp, 516lb ft, 5.4sec 0-62mph
  • S450 4Matic: 362bhp, 553lb ft, 5.1sec 0-62mph
  • S500 4Matic: 429bhp, 568lb ft, 4.9sec 0-62mph

An S580 V8 will arrive later on, as will a plug-in hybrid S-Class that’s capable of 62 miles of e-power. Expect an all-out Maybach model at some point and, as for AMG versions, our insiders suggest that it will be electrified for more than 800bhp and a sub-3.5sec 0-62mph sprint, badged S63e.

Any handling trickery?

Plenty. The S-Class rides on standard air suspension that smooths out lumps and bumps and will lower itself automatically at speed to reduce aerodynamic drag.

Splash out on the brand’s E-Active Body Control system, however, and this trick system allows the new S-Class to tilt into corners to maintain an equilibrium while on the move, much like the Audi S8’s Predictive Active Suspension system. The technology also raises the ride height by 8cm when sensors detect a side impact is imminent, in order for the chassis to take the brunt of the crash via the door sills, rather than the doors themselves. The technology comprises a fully-active 48v air suspension system, which made its debut on the GLE SUV (albeit not available on models in Europe).

New Mercedes-Benz S-Class W223, 2020, rear view, black, driving

Rear-wheel steering will also be available in two phases, with the more extreme version allowing the rears to turn at up to 10 degrees. Mercedes claims that, when equipped, the system can ensure that an S-Class has a similar turning circle to an A-Class hatch.

Read our prototype ride review of the new S-Class

About that interior…

Definitely the most important part of a luxury limo, and so much to talk about here.

New Mercedes-Benz S-Class W223, 2020, interior, wide view, front, brown

Design and layout first, which is much like that of the Vision EQS concept – a single panel slopes downward, with a central portrait touchscreen that dominates your view. A new air filtration system is included, and can do things like pump perfume into the vents and automatically activate the recirculation setting when you go through a tunnel.

Mercedes Energising Comfort: does it work?

The seats are AGR-approved (the German ‘Campaign for Healthier Backs’), with new massage bladders that are closer to the upper surface for a more pronounced feel, and can be had with speakers in the headrests that support the Burmeister surround sound system. There’s also a pillow that can be used as a neck warmer. Mercedes says that there are 10 massage programmes available for all seats, and the car includes the brand’s Energising Comfort and Coach suite of programs that help you relax or even exercise while in the vehicle.

Look at that big screen…

Yes – the Merc’s new interior debuts a brand-new way of displaying information. The S-Class’ new central infotainment screen is flush with the centre console and flexes upwards on the dashboard, keeping the rest of the front fascia clean.

New Mercedes-Benz S-Class W223, 2020, interior, red, screen

It’s available with haptic feedback and super-crisp OLED technology. That clean interior design approach extends to the use an augmented reality head-up display and 3D instruments. Several different designs can be had for the digital instruments, including a sporty one with red dials to a one named Exclusive that displays white dials and backgrounds.

Hey Mercedes!

Merc’s voice assistant has also had an upgrade, allowing for even more natural speech; if someone says they’re tired, one of Merc’s Energising Comfort programs can be activated, for example. When certain prompts arise, like an incoming call, the ‘Hey Mercedes’ activation phrase is not required – someone can simply say ‘Accept call’. Mercedes says its voice assistant can be used in 27 languages.

The voice assistant can be also used like a Alexa or Google Home, so you can ask it general knowledge questions and get answers via the internet. Also like smart speakers, you can link up your car to your smart home network and activate smart devices in your home from the car.

An augmented reality head-up display?

Absolutely. It’s a step on from the brand’s augmented reality navigation via the central infotainment screen. The ‘AR-HUD’ tech effectively makes the windscreen a 77-inch display in itself and, like the version before it, displays arrows ahead of you when a turn is coming up. It also reads lane markings and can display arrows pointing which lane you should be in, too.

New personalisation options

The new MBUX technology is designed to be more personalised to each occupant (hence the ‘my’ tag) and introduces a number of biometric security measures like fingerprint and face scanning tech and individual voice recognition. An occupant’s Mercedes Me account can be scanned via a QR code, instantly interlinking the account with the car. Driver displays and colour schemes for the infotainment system can be personalised, too.

New Mercedes-Benz S-Class W223, 2020, interior, brown, rear, screens

Merc highlights that up to three screens are available for the rear passengers, with individual content accessed by the Mercedes Me account (via those aforementioned biometric detection systems) can be displayed quickly and shared between all occupants.

The voice assistant can be activated from the rear, too, and gestures like glancing over your shoulder can close the rear sun blind. The car even guesses your size and weight when you sit in the drivers seat and pre-positions the door mirrors.

The S-Class is known for its safety…

Absolutely, so, along with the aforementioned raising of the body in side impacts, the S-Class debuts two new airbags first seen on the Mercedes ESF concept first seen at the 2019 Frankfurt motor show.

New Mercedes-Benz S-Class W223, 2020, front view, white, driving

Those new airbags comprise a central one that splits up the driver and front passenger during a side impact and a world first frontal crash airbag for rear passengers. The latter is housed in the back of the front armrests.

When does the new S-Class go on sale?

The launch engines described above will arrive in dealers in December 2020. You’ll have to wait a little longer for the S580 V8, plug-in hybrid variant and AMG S63e.

Check out our Mercedes reviews on CAR

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, gamer, serial Lego-ist, lover of hot hatches