Can the new S-Class defend the 'Benz brand values?

2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Image: Newspress
2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Image: Newspress

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For decades, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has consistently been classified as the world's best luxury car. 

Although Rolls-Royce and Bentley might have the brand cachet, legacy and old-world charm, they could never compete with the impeccable engineering details, and meticulous luxury features or build quality of S-Class. Owners of the most over-engineered Mercedes-Benz range have always been willing to pay a significant premium for accessing the best technology and comfort features, but the market is changing.  

The new W223 S-Class comes at a very troubling time for the brand. Mercedes-Benz has lost a lot of money thus far, in 2020, and the claim of S-Class as the world's most advanced luxury car is no longer beyond dispute. 

Despite Tesla's Model S being slightly smaller and unable to compete with an S-Class in terms of build quality, it has bested Stuttgart's finest when the topic of comparison is technology. Since its introduction in 2012, Tesla's Model S has been a significant disruptor in the luxury car market. 

More screens and processing power 

The new S-Class cabin architecture is a clear indication of how influential Tesla's design has been on the broader luxury car market. Whereas the S-Class was once a world of considered analogue ergonomics, there are 27 fewer buttons in this latest S-Class, compared to its predecessor. 

Vast digital screens span the dashboard's width, and there is a concern that older drivers and passengers, might suffer from screen fatigue in this new version. 

With Tesla having championed the concept of a minimalist cabin design, with virtually all functions controlled via voice and touchscreen haptics, most traditional luxury car brands have had no choice but to integrate more information and touchscreen real estate to their interior design. 

A much higher frequency of digital functions and interfacing could possibly become an annoyance if the S-Class responds tardily to inputs. To prevent this, Mercedes has invested in a vehicle computing system which has 50% greater processing power than before.  

The processor claims for new S-Class are very bold. Its screen displays, graphics and artificial intelligence systems are powered by three chips and GPUs, sourced from Nvidia. The American technology company is renowned in the gaming and computer world, and it should provide new S-Class with a lag-free infotainment experience. 

Nvidia's software is also a crucial part of how the new S-Class harmonizes all its digital functions. This is an important point, as many legacy car companies have struggled with advanced coding requirements, attempting to replicate Tesla's native software abilities and failing. 

Mercedes-Benz has cleverly outsourced the core digital and software functionalities for new S-Class to a company which is specialized in producing slick digital systems and seamless graphics. Nvidia claims that Mercedes-Benz's S-Class now has more computing power than any other production vehicle, controlled by 30m lines of code. 

That said, Mercedes-Benz has not ignored its duty in making mechanical engineering breakthroughs, to deliver an even easier and convenient driving experience for its S-Class owners. 

The W223 has four-wheel steering, with 10-degrees of input angle available on the rear axle. That might not sound like much, but it does trim 2m off the rather large limousine's virtual turning circle, making it as easy to park as an A-Class. 

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