- Power: 435 hp/520 Nm
- Number of speakers: 16
- Amplifier: 760 class D
- Speaker setup: 1
- Other: Auro 3D sound processing
- Web: burmester.de
If the Porsche 911 is the symbol of a sports car, then the Mercedes-Benz S-Class must be the very symbol of a luxury sedan. This is the galleon figure for Mercedes, filled with most of what the car world has to offer in terms of technology and comfort. Those who are so lucky to drive it – or be transported in one – must admit that they have succeeded, in a way?
On the outside, it looks like a regular, discreet executive car. But inside, it oozes luxury: Mercedes has redesigned the interior of the S-Class from scratch, where the number of buttons has been reduced and replaced with a large Tesla-inspired OLED touch screen in the center console.
S-Class has also received the latest version of the digital user interface MBUX, with, among other things, voice control in Norwegian. And the sound system is, as usual, signed by the court supplier Burmester. Thus, the sound experience should be well taken care of whether you are the driver behind the wheel or the director in the back seat, and regardless of whether you prefer Mahler or Metallica for the ride.
Car: Mercedes-Benz S500 4-Matic
Mercedes has already declared a heavy investment in electric cars in the future, with as many as 10 all-electric models by 2025. But the classic S-Class remains: The flagship model was launched in a new version at the end of 2020, and now the first copies are rolling on Scandinavian roads.
The test model we have borrowed is of the type S500 4-Matic: a pure fossil car with a petrol engine (three-liter in-line six) of 435 hp. But the S-Class will later also come as a plug-in hybrid with up to 100 km electric range.
The Mercedes S-Class is a lot of car: 1.9 meters wide, and over 5 meters long. Navigating the car through narrow parking garages can make your pulse rise a little extra! Fortunately, the car is equipped with lots of electronic aids (including 360 degree camera, recommended option) that hopefully avoid expensive scratches.
This is not even the longest version: Many customers order the S-Class in a long version, which provides extra legroom in the back seat. But then you should remember to fill it with 4-wheel steering!
Brain: MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Interface)
The S-Class comes equipped with the all-new MBUX (2nd Gen) interface, which is operated via a sleek 12.8-inch OLED screen in the center console. Here you get direct access to almost all the car’s functions and features. But you should of course avoid fiddling too much with the screen while driving. Therefore, much of the operation takes place with the voice.
We were pleased to note that the new MBUX generation works significantly better than the previous one we tested in EQC. You start by saying – “Hello, Mercedes,” followed by what you want accomplished. If you say “I’m cold” then the Mercedes lady turns up the tempo.
By downloading the Mercedes Me app for iOS or Android, you can create your own user profile for the car. Then the car recognizes you when you get in, and switches to your pre-stored, individually adjusted settings. And there are many of them in an S-Class. Of course, the app can also be used to turn on the heat, enter destinations and the like.
The sound system: Burmester 3D sound system with 16 speakers
Mercedes and Burmester have long had a collaboration on the sound front, and for the S-Class they offer two different sound systems beyond standard: The first option is the 3D system we test here. It seems (at least on paper) to be very similar to what we have previously tested in the electric SUV EQC.
The Burmester plant itself constitutes an option of approximately NOK 17,000. But most people will choose it as part of a larger accessory package, such as the Advantage package (86,330 kroner) which also includes a panoramic sunroof, 360-degree camera and ambient interior lighting.
The so-called 3D system (equipment code 810) consists of a total of 16 speakers around the passenger compartment, including a separate center channel in the dashboard. These are powered by a dedicated amplifier with a total of 760 watts output power. Built into the amplifier is also an advanced DSP unit with digital crossover for each speaker unit. The Burmester system also has active noise reduction, which dynamically adapts the sound to the driving conditions.
Drivers and passengers can choose between different sound modes with surround effect, or a more neutral sound image, and whether the sound should be focused forward or backward in the passenger compartment. Otherwise, the speakers are of course characterized by the brushed metal grills with the Burmester logo.
If you really want an out-of-the-ordinary audio experience, you can specify the larger 4D system (811) from Burmester. Here, the number of speakers is increased to 31, plus built-in bass vibrators in the seats. But we will return to that on a later occasion!
Exquisite driving characteristics
Whether you drive yourself or are driven around in one, you feel a bit like a VIP in an S-class. And that was just missing. Everything is arranged here for the passengers to feel comfortable.
The large leather seats are electronically adjustable in all directions, and feel absolutely fantastic to sit in. They wrap around you and come with built-in air conditioning and massage, among other things. When the turns become extra sharp, they tighten the side support on one side, to compensate for the G-forces. Mercedes seems to have thought of most things.
The first impression of the driving characteristics is about as expected: the S-Class is equipped with air suspension as standard, and swallows small and large bumps in the road without you noticing much of it. But it is noticeable that this is a large and heavy car of almost two tons, we note. And here there is no battery at the bottom that makes up the bulk of the weight. It sways and tilts a bit in the turns.
The petrol engine under the hood does not make much of a difference during normal driving, but you hear and feel that it is there. We become more aware of engine, road noise and small vibrations here, than we did in the almost silent EQC. Mercedes has not quite managed to disguise the fact that we are dealing with a traditional fossil car. If so, that was the intention.
It turns out, however, that we have started the journey in Comfort mode. With the press of the Dynamic button, we change to sport mode, and then the S-Class becomes a completely different animal: the seats tighten, and the chassis becomes more firm. The whole car suddenly feels a little smaller on the road. The engine also gets a completely different response, with intense snarling from the exhaust. Something that brings a bread smile on the driver’s face!
The compressor-fed six-in-line has a silky smooth ride, and with 435 horsepower and 520 Nm, it has plenty of power, with plenty of torque from bottom to top. But despite a gearbox with as many as 9 steps, it obviously does not reach the super-smooth power supply from the latest electric powertrains. Min you, this is probably the quietest fossil car we have ever driven – yet it jerks, rumbles and shakes a little more than we have become accustomed to these days. That is why we believe the upcoming hybrid model can provide “the best of both worlds”.
The sound of Burmester
We already have good experience with the Burmester system from Mercedes EQC, but can immediately state that the version in the S-Class has received an ever so small boost. Here there are more speaker units and more power to route with, which is immediately characterized by fresher, more open and resilient sound. Not least, more bass!
We start the listening session with Marcus Miller’s Silver Rain at high volume. This song has a nice mix of drums, bass and wind instruments, and quickly helps to place the system in terms of sound. And we immediately nod appreciatively. The cabin is filled with a generous, rich and tonal precision bass, which sticks well to the rest of the soundscape. This can probably be attributed to the front-mounted subwoofers, which are hidden in the footwell. The winds and Eric Clapton’s vocals on the same song also sound fresh and clear, and get a precise position in the middle of the soundscape. Here, there is significantly more push, splash and commitment than we experienced in EQC.
The bass is still more rhythmic and precise rather than being “spin wild”. We still miss a bit of the really heavy deep bass you get from large, dedicated subwoofers. Some hip hop and electronic songs – for example The Weeknds I Feel It Coming – could have had even more juicy pressure in the projections. It sounds and feels, but does not exactly make the back of the chair shake. You can possibly put on the massage…
Burmester also offers so-called 3D surround sound that introduces some manipulative DSP functions, reverberation and other tricks. But by and large, we preferred the more unaffected Pure mode.
Mercedes and Burmester have also provided excellent sound for the passengers in the back seat: Via the control panel in the center seat back, we were able to adjust the sound image and focus to provide an excellent stereo sound image. The Burmester system is also equipped with equalizer functions, which are connected to your personal user profile. If you like a little more bass than your partner, you just need to adjust and save!
However, we noticed that the placement of the sound image on some occasions felt a bit “low”. The location of the speaker elements is mostly in the doors slightly below ear level. The sound image does not fill the cabin in the height direction as well as we have experienced with other sound systems, including Bang & Olufsen. Therefore, we immediately start wondering how the even larger 4D system from Burmester can sound. Here, by the way, an extra potent subwoofer in the luggage compartment and “rumpers” in the seats, their own height channels in the ceiling have also been introduced. If we know ourselves right, we will probably have to test this too!
The new Mercedes S-Class has for many years been the standard for comfort, technology and user-friendly features, and with the 2021 model, they once again add to the list. With MBUX, app control and individual customizations, the S-Class feels like a state-of-the-art car. At the same time, perhaps it marks the end of something, and the beginning of a new era?
During April, the new EQS will be launched, which will be Mercedes’ first large and luxurious electric car sedan with a range of up to 700 kilometers (WLTP). If Mercedes invests as much resources in comfort and driving characteristics on it as they have done in the S-Class, they probably have a winner! Let’s hope it also comes with Burmester system…