2021 Mercedes-Benz S580 Review: Flagship Sets the Bar

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick


Engine: 4.0L V8 Turbo w/ EQ Boost
Output: 496 hp, 516 lb-ft (+ 21 hp / 184 lb-ft)
Transmission: 9AT, AWD
US fuel economy (MPG): 17/25/20
CAN fuel economy (L/100KM): 14.4/9.4/12.2
Starting Price (USD): $110,850 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (USD): $136,405 (see text)
Starting Price (CAD): $123,500 (w/o dest.)
As-Tested Price (CAD): $165,850 (w/o dest.)

The S-Class has never been just the Mercedes flagship. It’s also a crystal ball.

That’s what makes the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S580 such an important car to test: it gives us a taste of the tech we’ll see trickle down through the rest of the industry over the next decade.

Get a Quote on a New Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Here at the end of 2021, the S-Class also reminds us of the power of big luxury sedans. You can roll up to any fancy event in one of the myriad high-end SUVs these days, but you arrive in an S-Class. The ninth generation of Merc’s flagship still oozes class and comfort, yet it mixes in more tech and surprisingly agile responses, all without upsetting the equilibrium that’s made this the standard of the class for decades.

What’s new?

Mercedes has developed an entirely new platform for the S-Class, one that’s stronger yet also lighter. It’s larger, too, though only slightly. This is the long-wheelbase version, which is the only length of “regular” S-Class you’ll find in America. The extra-spendy Maybach stretches longer still, while Canada has a short-wheelbase S500. This Goldilocks Sonderklasse still measures nearly 208 inches (5,280 mm) tip to tail—longer than a GLS, with an extra 2.8 inches (70 mm) between the axles, too.

SEE ALSO: 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 Review: Wafting Wunderkind

The styling speaks softly. Thinner headlights frame a reshaped grille, with the traditional three-pointed star sitting proud above. There’s precious few creases along those substantial flanks, only an arcing shoulder line and a mirrored one below, flicking upwards to provide definition as it wraps around the rear bumper. A thick C-pillar emphasizes the car’s cab-rearward stance. Triangular taillights are simple in design, and a marvel to look at up close, with cascading waves of LED elements.

Overall, the S-Class makes more of impression based on sheer scale than any overwrought design element. It’s a big, classy rig—and that feeling only intensifies when you pop one of the flush-fitting door handles and head inside.

2021 Mercedes-Benz S580 interior and comfort

You won’t find the steampunk aesthetic of other Mercs here. Like the exterior, the inside of the S-Class majors on subtlety. Or at least, as subtle as a giant 12.8-inch, portrait-format touchscreen can be. The center console gently leans against the dashboard, angled like a waterfront chair at a beach in Nice. There’s enough space to stash a phone behind it, as well. It’s disappointing that even the S-Class can’t escape piano black, however.

A thick wedge of high-gloss black poplar stretches across the dashboard. The subtle pattern is on point with the car’s low-key aesthetic, but it also looks instantly dusty, even when it isn’t. I do enjoy how the texture flows down into the door panels, however. Soft leather rims the upper portions of the dashboard and doors, only a quartet of air vents breaking up the expanse of former cow right in the center of the dashboard. Build quality is simply exquisite. It’s not just for show, either: there’s enough space in the door pockets for large water bottles, and the armrest storage will swallow small bags.

The seats are easily a highlight, regardless of row. Multicontour seats offer up heating, ventilation, and massage functions in all four spots. They’re as comfortable as they are good-looking, too, with a wide range of adjustments available via the door-mounted controls. Lumbar adjustments do require a dive into MBUX though—more on that soon. The optional headrest pillows are softer than the full-size ones on my own bed. With 43.8 inches (1,113 mm) of rear legroom, you can kick out and relax. In fact, this tester comes with the Chauffeur Package, which lets the rear starboard passenger remotely tilt the front passenger seat forward and call out a footrest. The experience is positively palatial.

2021 Mercedes-Benz S580 technology and features

This entire review could focus on nothing but the technology Mercedes has crammed into the S-Class. There’s a lot, so let’s focus on the headliners.

The large central touchscreen runs the second generation of MBUX, which is even quicker than before. It’s as impressive as ever, quick and easy to navigate. Since Merc has binned all but a handful of physical buttons, the climate controls remain at the bottom of the screen at all times. That little square beside the hazard lights button? A fingerprint scanner, to easily access all of your personalized settings.

A standard head-up display provides all sorts of useful information smack-dab in the driver’s line of sight. This tester is missing the trick upgraded HUD though, which beams its navigation arrows over the relevant parts of the road ahead. It’s proper next-level, video game stuff. HUD placement is also tied to the seat memory settings, so no need to re-adjust if Jeeves has the day off.

That high-spec HUD also comes paired with a 3D instrument cluster. This car’s 12.3-inch instrument panel is hardly lacking, though. It’s crisp, clear, and offers all sorts of different information and even designs. Access is via the small touch-sensitive pad on the left steering wheel spoke. I don’t like it as much as the previous generation touchpads—something I’ve criticized in the refreshed E-Class as well.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Mercedes-Benz E 450 All-Terrain Review: Keeping the Dream Alive

This particular S-Class also includes a rear-seat tablet. This allows rear riders to set their own respective corner of the four-zone climate control. The S-Class is smart enough to prioritize zones based on which seats are empty, too. There’s another wireless charge pad for the back row as well.

Mercedes’ Energizing Comfort system coordinates the audio, front seat massaging, ambient lighting, and climate control for 10-minute “programs.” They might seem like gimmicks, but come in handy in some of the worst gridlock I’ve ever experienced. The hot stone massage is one you shouldn’t skip, either.

Of course, the S-Class comes loaded to the rafters with all manner of advanced driving aids. Full-range adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and parking sensors front and rear keep the S-Class’ nose clean. The latter now works in concert with the ambient lighting, which gently pulses different colors based on proximity to obstacles. A 360-degree camera helps further.

SEE ALSO: 2022 BMW Alpina B8 Review: The B Stands for ‘Best’

2021 Mercedes-Benz S580 driving impressions

Simply put, the S-Class rides better than anything else I’ve had the pleasure of driving. This big four-door boasts a standard adaptive air suspension, and the setup smoothes construction sites into Catalunya tarmac. The entire time, it does so without letting any audible unsavouriness in, keeping the spacious interior vault-quiet. This creamy smoothness also doesn’t come at the expense of control. The steering is fingertip-light, yes, but there is a pleasant consistency to its responses.

Even at over 17 feet long, the S580 is agile enough that I had to check the spec sheet to confirm this one didn’t have the rear-axle steering system. There are two options there: up to 4.5 degrees of steering, or a full 10. Opt for the latter, and the S-Class can pull U-turns as tight as an A-Class. This one can be hustled, but that’s not really what it’s about, is it? Wait for the inevitable AMG model for that; until then, bask in the most waft-worthy car this side of a Rolls.

The combination of V8 and EQ Boost is a potent one. On its own, the 4.0-liter produces 496 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, sent to all four wheels via a nine-speed auto. That’s plenty, and Merc’s quoted 4.4-second dash to 62 mph (100 km/h) feels oh-so-characteristically conservative. Thank the EQ Boost system, which seamlessly stirs in an additional 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque when needed, or to mask what little turbo lag there might be.

SEE ALSO: 2019 Mercedes-Benz A 220 Sedan Review

All of this happens with barely a rumble from ahead of the driver. The S-Class is barely noisier than an EV, a result of lots of sound deadening and a slippery 0.22 coefficient of drag. That also spells good news at the pumps: the EPA rates the big flagship at an even 20 mpg (12.2 L/100 km). During the week it performed even better, scoring 21.2 mpg (11.1 L/100 km).

2021 Mercedes-Benz S580 pricing and competition

For 2021 the S-Class has left the realm of mere five-figure price tags behind. You’re looking at $110,850 including destination for an S500, or $125,000 CAD or so for the short-wheelbase version north of the border. Stepping up to the V8 requires $117,350 (~$142,500 CAD). Our Canadian-spec tester doesn’t quite have a US equivalent; the closest you’ll find is the $132,500 Executive Line, which features many of the rear seat upgrades, plus the rear seat entertainment screens and rear-wheel steering.

The usual suspects include the BMW 7 Series and Audi A8. If outright power is your thing, BMW still fits a V12 behind the kidney grilles in the bonkers M760i xDrive. You’ll have a hard time matching the opulence and effortless ride of the S-Class, however.

Verdict: 2021 Mercedes-Benz S580 Review

That the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S580 is expensive—more expensive than its competition—should come as no surprise. This is the best Mercedes has to offer, all crammed into once four-wheeled package. From the outside it’s low-key luxury, elegant and graceful while still a touch imposing. Inside, it pampers drivers and passengers alike, awash with tech that serves the driver in clever, useful ways.

The future may be electric, but if this is how the internal-combustion luxury car bows out, well, it’s doing so on top. The S-Class has long been the bar which the entire segment is judged against. Now, it’s even higher.


How much will the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class cost?

The new model starts from $110,850 (around $126,000 CAD), including destination. That’s for the six-cylinder S500; budget an extra few thousand for this V8 S580 model.

How long does a Mercedes S-Class last?

That’s hard to tell with new models, but S-Classes tend to last for well over a decade if well maintained.

What does S-Class stand for?

“Special Class,” or Sonderklasse in its native German.

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Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

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