In the realm of large luxury vehicles that have stood the test of time, the Mercedes-Benz S Class seems to be at the upper echelon of a somewhat short list. In my view, the S Class has set and retained the benchmark in the full-size luxury sedan segment for decades, and the latest model in the S 580 trim that I had a week to experience brings home that notion utilizing today’s advanced technology and the special touches that only Mercedes-Benz can deliver.
There’s something extra that’s put into the S Class, as if Mercedes-Benz wants their pride and joy vehicle to offer a superfluous level of luxury that essentially reiterates what the brand stands for and then trickles down to other models from the S Class. Essentially, every feature or option that Mercedes offers is available on a new S Class within the proper trim level (three trims now offered – S 500 4MATIC, S 580 4MATIC, and S 580e 4MATIC).
While the design has remained on the conservative side for good reason as to not outwardly offend anyone, there are plenty of updated details that make the S Class a perpetual classic, hiding many delightful surprises and an appeasing, unrelenting luxury theme. The 2023 model year doesn’t change much from the 2021 redesign other than offering a new plug-in hybrid S 580e model and giving us some additional exterior and interior colors.
There are fundamentally two powertrains for the new S Class, but now there’s an additional plug-in hybrid version (S 580e 4MATIC) that pairs the base S 500’s turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6-cylinder (429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque) with an electric motor to now produce a total output of 510 horsepower. My Mercedes S 580 test vehicle features the turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 engine that’s good for 496 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque.
Having a V8 engine in the S Class is a factor that many repeat buyers look for in a stately full-size luxury sedan. The engine mated to a smooth but direct-shifting 9-speed automatic transmission and an advanced 4MATIC all-wheel drive system, is actually a mild hybrid setup that utilizes a small motor/generator to act as the alternator and starter motor, which provides a nearly seamless restart experience for when the engine shuts down a stop or coasting in the Eco drive mode, in addition to being supplemental power-filler when power is demanded.
One unique trick that the S 580’s mild hybrid engine setup has is an electric air-conditioner compressor that remains running when the engine shuts off. Such a simple thing permits you to have fresh and cooled ventilation during the extended times that the engine shuts down, which is welcomed in our humid and often hot Florida climate. Most mild hybrid setups don’t offer such, which leads to stale air and short engine shutdown periods. In the S 580, the engine remains off for an extended time while the electric air conditioner compressor continues to run off previously-generator power recouped during braking.
Power from the turbo V8 engine is strong and always adequate, always doing its business in a quiet manner but not to the point that you don’t know what the engine is doing. The same can be said about the supple and extremely soft ride quality from the air suspension system that lowers for better aero at 75 mph. The ride is ultra-smooth, but it isn’t sloppy, and it doesn’t completely isolate you from the road that you don’t know what type of surface you’re rolling over. Even with the optional 21-inch wheels and low-profile tires with noise-reducing foam, the S 580 is among one of the best riding vehicles around. When you want to push the S 580 hard through turns, the suspension reacts quickly to mitigate body roll, pitch, or dive, making the big S Class feel lighter on its feet without unwanted play in the suspension.
Piloting the Mercedes S 580 is a simple task as it doesn’t feel intimidating for its large size and long wheelbase at 126.6 inches. Thanks to an aggressive rear-axle steering system, the rear wheels can be turned up to 4.5 degrees, which assists with maneuvers in tight spaces to virtually shorten the wheelbase. The aggressive turn in the rear is actually more natural than I thought it would be, where the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction from the front at lower speeds, but at highway speeds, they delicately turn in the same direction for ease of switching lanes.
The one disappointment in the drive is how the brake pedal feels, which is mostly inconsistent and often very light if the S 580 detects you approaching a vehicle using its front radar. Most Mercedes vehicles will make brake system adjustments that affect the pedal feel upon approaching oncoming vehicles or objects, which is sometimes counterintuitive considering how the brake pedal is attempting to add additional braking pressure to promote heavier braking. Fundamentally, the S 580 leaves you with a soft, unnatural-feeling pedal that you often overcompensate with too much braking force.
The Mercedes S Class was never known for being extremely efficient in its fuel consumption. However, with the addition of a plug-in hybrid, there’s something extra to get out of the range and fuel efficiency of such a large vehicle. For my S 580 test vehicle, the mild hybrid aspects go a long way to best the EPA fuel consumption estimates of 16 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, and 19 mpg combined. I consistently saw figures of around 26.4 mpg on the highway utilizing the Eco drive mode at times and then saw around 17 mpg in town, pushing the S 580 a little hard through downtown, big city traffic. Filling the 22.1-gallon tank full of premium fuel gives you a range of just over 550 miles, which was on par with what the miles-to-empty calculation displayed.
Mercedes-Benz has always been known to never be shy about rolling out new technology in their vehicles. The new S 580 opens a world of available tech features and luxury amenities that treat the driver and passengers to a lavish world of luxury. Just short of what the Maybach S Class offers, the S 580 can be had with a plethora of luxury features, such as having one of the best-sounding audio systems in the business, a Burmester 4D surround sound system. The 4D aspect of the audio system places speakers deep into the seats that can be adjusted at levels that pulsate through your body for the front seats and two rear outboard seats. The experience is like no other, but it can also have you thinking your body is having a hard time digesting food if you put on the right soundtrack and pump the level up too high. Otherwise, the 31 speakers powered by 1,750 watts is more than enough to titillate your ears.
The seating areas are vast and don’t skimp on supple perforated leather with heating, ventilation, massage functions, and an abundance of adjustments up front. Out back, the outboard seats get heating and ventilation, as well as several power adjustments.
The trunk area is surprisingly on the smaller side, but I did find it just large enough for four medium bags, all that you may need for four travelers enjoying the lap of luxury.
The latest infotainment unit in the Mercedes S 580, featuring a 12.8-inch OLED touchscreen that waterfalls down the center of the dashboard, was often inconsistent about its operation in that it had a few faults where the audio system would simply not work. Apart from such a hiccup that could have been unique to my early production vehicle, the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment system is quite heavy on its features and functions and is often very responsive to inputs. There’s even a welcomed haptic and tactile sound feedback when pressing the onscreen buttons. The use of the “Hey Mercedes” voice prompt has a nearly endless list of commands to control several vehicle functions. I found the system useful for turning off the heated steering wheel that doesn’t have a dedicated button or function as it comes on automatically with the driver’s heated seat function. The 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster is unique in the S 580 as it has a 3D viewing feature that tracks your eyes to offer a 3D viewing experience for its display, which is stunning if you view the navigation map in the cluster.
The integration of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is welcomed and CarPlay worked well about 85% of the time, but the USB connection of Apple CarPlay seemed to be more stable. For an added visual appeal, Mercedes implements the best iteration of ambient LED lighting in the S 580 with multicolor animations throughout the dashboard trim areas and door panels. It’s like a plush club on wheels.
As you would expect, Mercedes doesn’t skimp on giving the S 580 a massive safety blanket of active features, which include the typical adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitors, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, forward collision warning with emergency braking, rear-cross path detection with emergency braking, and an ultra-wide 360 camera system with a 3D walk-around interactive view.
The Mercedes-Benz S Class, while it remains a benchmark for a full-size luxury sedan, doesn’t get too crazy for pricing, considering it can be compared to the likings of Rolls-Royce and Bentley. However, the pricing scale is substantial, starting at $114,500 for the base S 500 and quickly tiering up to my nicely equipped test vehicle’s total price of $156,590.