Updated: Apr 1
My dad, the late Jack Hagerty, had a hard-and-fast rule about buying a car: Never buy a car that costs more than half your yearly salary. I've lived by that rule and it has served me well.
Anybody know where I can get a gig that pays $286,480 that starts before 11:00 a.m. tomorrow?
Okay, I know you're not reading this until mid-September. But I'm writing this while the S580 is still in my driveway. They don't come get it until tomorrow between 11 and noon, so if I can just land that gig...
Driving 104 cars a year carries with it some occupational hazards. You like some cars, you love some others. Some you're happy to swap for the next one after seven days. What you try to avoid is "can't live without", especially on the ones you can't afford. And I don't make $286,480 a year, so...
Why this car? I think a lot of it has to do with the element of surprise. I've been driving a fair number of Mercedes-Benzes the past year and a half. I think I know what to expect when it's time to introduce the new generation of a model. The new S-Class managed to meet, exceed and turn upside down a few of those expectations.
Fundamentals first. Under the hood is a 4.0-liter bi-turbo V8 engine with EQ Boost---a system of integrated starter-generators and a 48-volt electrical system. It lends an extra 21 hp and 184 lb.-ft. of torque, giving the S580 a total of 496 horsepower and 516 pounds per foot of torque.
Yeah, that's a chunk. And it shows up rightnow when you put your right foot to the floor. Zero to 60 is 4.4 seconds. Think about that for a second. This is a huge sedan. It weighs 4,775 pounds. And it just freaking flies.
The transmission is a nine-speed 9G-TRONIC automatic. The EPA fuel economy average is 17 city/25 highway. In a vacuum, those aren't special numbers. But again---it's a 4,775 pound sedan capable of 0-60 in 4.4. With that context, it's pretty damn remarkable. I put 259 miles of city street, urban freeway and Sacramento Valley backroad driving on it and averaged 22.7 miles per gallon. I'm handing it back (*sob*) with a bit more than half a tank left.
The AIRMATIC air suspension provides a cloud-like ride, but not at the expense of control. Even leaving the drive mode in "Comfort", the handling capability is remarkable.
I never get time in the back seat. With vehicles like the Maybach GLS 600 and the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S580, it's clear I'm missing out. Limo-like legroom and creature comforts like pillows attached to the headrests.
Fortunately, the pillows are up front as well. I'd have never even thought to do this, but it's brilliant.
In the new S-Class, Mercedes has also chosen a different path from the cabin-width screens in other models, going for a 12.3-inch OLED screen for the instrument cluster and a 12.8-inch, more vertically-oriented center screen for what amount to a dizzying array of functions, both standard and available.
The base price of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S580 is $116,300. The window sticker is at the end of this review, so you can see for yourself, but among the standard equipment highlights at that price are power multicontour front seats with lumbar, memory and massage, active ambient lighting, infrared-reflecting laminated glass, MBUX with navigation and "Hey, Mercedes" (a digital assistant not unlike Siri or Alexa), a panoramic roof, wireless charging, the AirBalance cabin fragrance system and a Burmester audio system with online music streaming.
Our tester came with $26,070 in extra-cost options. Again, I'll refer you to the window sticker at the end of this review for all the details, but let's talk about some highlights, starting with the 30-speaker Burmester High-End 4D Surround Sound system. $6,730 is a lot of money for an audio system---but this is, without question, the best audio system I've heard in a vehicle. Reproduction, power, the ability to tailor the sound----it's just stunning.
The Burmester surround system also plays into the Energizing Comfort system that's part of the $3,800 Warmth and Comfort Package. There are five settings with distinct lighting and sound that fold in seat massage, heating and/or cooling. It seems gimmicky until you relax into each ten-minute cycle. I'm hooked.
The black exclusive Nappa leather interior is $3,110. And the flowing line piano lacquer trim adds $1,300.
All told, with $1,050 destination and delivery, the as-tested price of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S580, as I said at the beginning, is $143,240.
There was a time when the Mercedes S-Class was the finest full-size luxury sedan on the planet. Twenty years ago, M-B made the mistake of overreacting to Lexus' success, and it's spent the past two generations bringing itself back in a world that's growing colder to sedans.
The world will do whatever the world wants. But with the 2021 S580, Mercedes has done what it made its name doing---building the absolute finest motorcar. To a standard, not a price.