Luxury’s Lap: Mercedes Details the 2021 S-Class’ Spectacular New Interior
Enhanced massaging seats, cushier leather, and wellness programs are all part of “Luxury & Well-Being.”
Ten massage programs offering everything from a traditional back and backside rub to an active workout, leather surfaces as soft and elegant as an overpriced luxury women's handbag, open-pore veneer with aluminum inserts, "noiseless" driving, and a big "floating" tablet center screen comprise the most important details of the all-new 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class: its passenger-coddling interior. This is all key to what Mercedes calls the "Luxury & Well-Being" of its new flagship, which the manufacturer will unveil in its entirety on September 2. (The U.S. on-sale date has not yet been announced.)
Considered the global standard for chauffeured and livery luxury sedans, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is more of an owner-operated car in North America. While much of what's new in the 2021 S-Class concentrates on coddling the passengers, with up to five interior infotainment screens including an optional MBUX tablet for the back, there's plenty of equipment in the details to make the driver feel like the master or mistress of the universe. The pillow inserts on the rear-seat headrests that have been available on the outgoing S-Class now can be had for the two front seats. Rear-seat passengers still have the advantage, as the pillows can heat up on the 2021 Mercedes S-Class. The new seats' air bladders are closer to the seat surfaces for more distinct massages.
2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Interior: Built to a Standard, Again?
Back in the Adenauer era (look it up, kids), when Mercedes-Benz built cars to a standard and not a price, interiors of its top models were reputed to be so well-made that the average car enthusiast couldn't tell the difference between a new driver's seat and one that had endured 100,000 miles of use. Mercedes has been working its way back to this kind of standard since its philosophy morphed into a more cost-conscious attitude a quarter-century ago. The company is not about to give up the hefty profit margins of its S-Class, so the old standard is now achieved by combining fine materials and exquisite fit-and-finish with leading-edge technology and colorful fashion--and luxury-yacht-inspired color and texture contrasts.
The S-Class has been a pioneer with its theatrical interior lighting and its seat-shaped power controls in the front-door panels. For the 2021 S-Class interior, new ambient lighting controlled via an overhead panel, with fiber optics and a diffuser, make color progressions and "chase light" possible, with 10 times the brightness of the outgoing model's interior lighting. More detailed, Mercedes says there is an LED for every 0.6-inch in the fiber optics, for approximately 250 LEDs overall. The lighting changes automatically to reflect a driver or passenger changing the climate control to warmer or cooler, and 20 levels of color and brightness are adjustable with the MBUX voice assistant.
The power seat controls now are one-piece, with touch-sensitive, haptic operation of the myriad seat adjustments.
2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Interior: New Architecture
Mercedes says the new 2021 S-Class' interior details, architecture, and user experience create a lounge-like ambience, with contrasting light, dark colors, and soft-leather contrasting with hard surfaces, such as piano lacquer. The dashboard blends in with the front trim-section to form a single piece. The interior trim is structured much like a ship's deck, with flowing lines, and the top of the dash features four low-profile center vents with horizontally mounted adjusters.
The 2021 Mercedes S-Class's unibody frame uses acoustic foam for the first time in order to make it even quieter than before. Short-wheelbase versions of the 2021 S-Class, and a split two-seat setup with its own center console in the rear, will not be available in North America; instead, we get the three-position rear-seat only.
S-Class chief of product management, Lars Wehmeier, said Mercedes "hasn't achieved a full vegan interior" option for the S-Class yet, but indicated one will come later in car's lifespan. Customers may special-order a cloth-seat interior with simulated leather (vinyl) door-panel inserts in place of leather.
2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Interior: Luxury-Yacht Panels
Asked what her favorite 2021 S-Class interior detail is, Belinda Gunther, chief of design, color, and trim, pointed to the large, open-pore walnut dashboard panel, with metal elements, inspired by luxury-yacht design.
"It's a very complex, time-honored process," Gunther said.
Asked whether the Covid-19 pandemic accounted for any last-minute interior features on the new S-Class, Wehmeier said its design was completed ahead of global quarantines and shutdowns early this year, though enhancements to the new car's Energizing Air Control qualify as a well-timed update. The system now features active charcoal to further filter out particles and pollutants.
2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Interior: Luxury, Well-Being, Warmth, and Comfort
Two features that will be available only with the optional Warmth & Comfort package seem designed to make the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class a good alternative to staying at home during the present social-distancing environment.
The Energizing comfort program offers Refresh, Vitality, Warmth, Joy, and Comfort programs that trigger changes in ambient lighting, MBUX screen displays, high-resolution animations, and surrounding soundscapes passengers can join and recommend to other passengers. Occupants can trigger them via the "Hey Mercedes" voice assistant simply by stating, "I'm stressed." The Energizing Coach suggests an "appropriate" fitness or wellness program based on trip data and the car's data. It can factor sleep quality and stress level information into the intelligent algorithm if the driver has a compatible smartphone or fitness bracelet.
How does this work? Will Energizing Coach prompt passengers to run in place while seated?
"Energizing Coach gives the driver and passengers instructions on how to improve their well-being, comfort," Wehmeier explained. "For example, rolling your shoulders, which you can do safely while driving."
All of this high-end "Luxury & Well-Being" stuff begs the question of what else Mercedes-Benz could possibly offer in top-of-the-line Maybach versions of the new S-Class, and how much of all of this will make it into the upcoming EQS devoted battery-electric luxury sedan.
"I don't want to give away too much at the moment," Wehmeier said, adding that he wanted to talk only about the new 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, its interior, and details, and no other models. But, "Your assumption is not very wrong," he added, hinting that a new Mercedes-Benz S-Class Maybach will arrive in the future.