Analog-Era Luxury Meets Modern Tech

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When walking us through the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-class on a FaceTime call, senior exterior design manager Eugen Enns kept referring to the luxurious flagship sedan as having touches of “analog luxury,” meaning the tech-filled new S-class has not forgotten quality and physical interaction. “You have something that’s almost more intelligent than a smartphone,” he says. “But at the same time, you’re expecting the craftsmanship of a Swiss watch. Connecting these two worlds and making it seamless is a big challenge, but in this case, we made it really, really well.”

At first glance, the new S-class might not look like much of an overhaul. Major changes include loads of new technology, including a 3D display and a “waterfall” central touchscreen. The W223-generation S-class’s interior is dominated by screens (up to five), and in doing so, Mercedes was able to remove 27 buttons from the previous generation. But still, that left parts of the car—air vents, cupholders, and door handles—where Benz could focus even greater attention to detail. Enns tells Car and Driver that Mercedes is not “afraid of being progressive” when it comes to altering such an iconic sedan, and the W223’s design proves just that.

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A Non-Obnoxious German Grille

The W223 generation’s grille is only slightly larger vertically compared to the previous generation, with, of course, the Mercedes-Benz hood ornament directly overhead. “The Mercedes grille is so strong that we don’t need to overdo it,” Enns says when asked about its competitors’ grilles. “We don’t have to tweak it in a way that becomes ridiculous.” If you look closely, you’ll also spot radar sensors in the grille; they’re for driver-assist features. “We don’t want to brag about them,” Enns says to explain why they’re not more noticeable.

New Headlight Signatures

The new S-class’s headlights have a three-point signature that is smaller and flatter than those on the previous model.

Pull-Out Door Handles

Standard pull-out door handles, which electronically open when the driver approaches the car, aren’t only aerodynamically important, they bring back the theme of analog luxury. Once extended, the handles give slight feedback when you open the door.

The 12.9-Inch OLED Waterfall Screen

The first thing you’ll notice inside the new S-class is the dominant 12.8-inch OLED touchscreen that, again referring back to the concept of analog luxury, has slight vibration feedback to mimic mechanical switches. The screen flows and curves into the center stack and continues throughout into the rear.

Interior Door Handles Mimic the Waterfall Screen

The interior door handles, front and rear, feature the same waterfall-like flowing shape as the central touchscreen with the ambient light shining behind them. Enns says that passengers don’t have to search for the door handles because their arm is already resting there.

Mercedes Removed 27 Buttons. Less Is Now Better

Mercedes was able to remove 27 buttons compared to the previous-generation S-class, which made it focus more on the remaining buttons and knobs. “I personally like to touch [them] because the precision of it is insane,” Enns says. “It’s really next level.” He also points out the air vents above the screen, saying they give the car the aspect of an Italian yacht.

Mercedes’s designers thought that even if taking elements of the car out of context, they should still work physically and aesthetically. “Like a sculpture in a museum. It should work on the street, it should work in the museum, it should work in the basement,” Enns says.

C-Pillar Moved Millimeters

The C-pillar was only moved a few millimeters on the new generation, emphasizing that it’s a rear-wheel-drive car. “The S-class defines and dominates in the segment, and I think that’s something where it’s way more evolutionary,” Enns says.

A Digital Skyline in the Taillights

Compared to the previous-generation S-class, the new car’s taillights are sleeker and more dominant. Enns compares them to a digital skyline.

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