TESTED: The 2021 Mercedes-Benz S 580 4Matic Is Effortless Fun

TESTED: The 2021 Mercedes-Benz S 580 4Matic Is Effortless Fun

What really impresses is just how well it handles on a track as well as on the street

  • The fully redesigned S-Class sedan remains one of the most advanced, comfortable and well-appointed cars on the road.
  • But outside of AMG performance-tuned models like the S 63, the S-Class has never been known for its sporty driving dynamics.
  • The S 580 4Matic breaks the mold, increasing driver engagement without sacrificing the world-class comfort we've come to expect from the S-Class.

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been fully redesigned for 2021. In addition to fresh styling both inside and out, the new S-Class offers updated in-car tech, an even more advanced suite of driver aids and a pair of new engines, with more powertrains to follow. This is all to help it better compete against rivals that include the Audi A8 and BMW 7 Series, both of which have undergone full redesigns since the outgoing S-Class debuted in 2014. Not that the S-Class needed much improving, as it has continually been one of Edmunds' top-rated sedans.

While the S-Class has always been a comfortable, well-appointed and tech-forward vehicle, it's never been known as a driver's car, save for the rarefied AMG models. The story has changed with the new one, at least according to Mercedes. Not only does the S 580 4Matic's twin-turbo V8 make more power than before, but Mercedes' engineers have tuned the adaptive air suspension to improve handling.

Do these distinctions make a difference? There was only one way to find out. We took a 2021 Mercedes-Benz S 580 4Matic to the Edmunds track for our full battery of tests, and here's what we found.

How did the S 580 4Matic perform?

Like last year's S 560 4Matic, the 2021 S 580 4Matic uses a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine. Output is up by 33 horsepower for a total of 496 hp, though torque remains the same at 516 lb-ft. For 2021, Mercedes has also fitted the V8 with its EQ Boost mild hybrid system. In addition to smoothing out shifts from the nine-speed automatic and improving fuel economy, the system helps improve acceleration by filling in low-end power before the turbochargers really get going.

As expected, the 2021 S 580 4Matic is quicker than the outgoing S 560, though not significantly so. It hit 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, shaving just 0.2 second off the last car's dash to 60 mph, while its speed at the quarter-mile mark ("trap speed") also improved only modestly at 110.8 mph versus 108.2 mph.

Looking at segment rivals, the S 580 4Matic edges out the entry-level Porsche Panamera to 60 mph and widens the gap considerably by the quarter mile. You can go much faster in fancier Panameras, but it'll cost you. A direct rival to the S 580 is the BMW 750i xDrive, which handily beats the Benz's acceleration times and trap speed. The S 580 trails the pack in braking distance by a wide margin, which we're hoping is mostly due to our test car's all-season tires as opposed to the grippier summer performance tires worn by the BMW and Porsche.

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Test Car
Test
Date
Weight
Acceleration
0-60
Acceleration
1/4-Mile
Braking
distance 60-0
2021 Mercedes-Benz S 580 4Matic9/20/215,069 lbs4.7 sec12.9 sec @ 110.8 mph129 ft
2014 Mercedes-Benz S 5502/4/144,883 lbs4.9 sec13.1 sec @ 108.2 mph115 ft
2020 BMW 750i xDrive7/15/194,873 lbs4.1 sec12.3 sec @ 114.6 mph113 ft
2021 Porsche Panamera Base6/21/214,344 lbs4.9 sec13.3 sec @ 104.5 mph102 ft

Beyond the numbers

As we stated above, it's not the new S-Class' straight-line performance that got us excited, but rather its newfound handling prowess. On the track, it feels relatively sharp and nimble, even if you're always aware of the 2.5-ton curb weight. Before, the S-Class always felt a bit soft and sloppy when pushed hard, but that's no longer the case. The air suspension allows for a bit of body roll, but it's composed and controlled.

There's not a ton of steering feel, but the nose turns in sharply, aided by the rear-axle steering (a $1,300 option). Around town, the rear axle turns the opposite direction of the front wheels, making it much easier to maneuver and park in tight spaces. At higher speeds, the rear wheels turn the same direction as the front, improving high-speed stability. It doesn't feel artificial like some other rear-axle systems, and we think it's a worthwhile option for any S-Class. All-wheel drive means there's no trouble putting the power down even when the all-season tires get too hot.

While it's no S 63 AMG, the 2021 S 580 is no longer simply a sedate cruiser either. On-paper performance might only be marginally better than before, but it's how much better the whole package feels that makes the difference.

2021 Mercedes-Benz S 580 4Matic

2021 Mercedes-Benz S 580 4Matic

Edmunds says

The new S-Class impresses us in all of the same ways as the old one but improves the mix with some surprising new moves. Mercedes has done an excellent job of making the car sportier and more fun without ruining an already successful formula.



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