- the 2021 mercedes s-class gets a technology remodel with a new, larger infotainment screen, more processing power, and a 3d dash cluster.
- the 12.8 oled infotainment touchscreen is closer to the driver and adjusts the layout of the mbux infotainment system to make selecting features quicker.
- the optional 3d dash cluster looks impressive in real life, although it's tough to say if it will cause eye fatigue during long drives.
the difference is apparent as soon as you sit in the 2021 mercedes s-class. gone are the landscape display and the center-console touchpad with its hand rest. in its place is an oled 12.8-inch touchscreen that houses the latest edition of the automaker's mbux infotainment system. mercedes calls the vehicle "the first digital s-class." with 27 fewer hard buttons than the previous generation plus a new screen, a new mbux layout, a 3d dash cluster, and a new processor, the 2021 s-class dives deeper into the world of tech.
center console: bigger, brighter, more control
mercedes has pulled the center-mounted touchscreen and home to the infotainment system off the dash, made it larger, twisted its orientation, and placed it at an angle in the center console. the 12.8-inch oled display is brighter with more contrast, so it's more pleasing to look at. it houses a new tablet-like layout with options situated in a grid, as opposed to the carousel found in the previous version of the system. the change offers quick access to features that previously required the driver to swipe left and right to find.
behind the screens, mercedes says, the system has 50 percent more processing power than the previous generation. our time with the system reveals that there is very little latency, or delay, between screen loads. the 360-degree camera feature allows the driver to rotate the vehicle onscreen to see any angle around the s-class. you can make it generate an image in real time, which is fun, but it also serves an important task: it's a real environment in 3d. "we had that before from the top of the car. now you can do it live here with 3d interaction. there's no excuse anymore for any scratches," stephen aull, manager of electronic system testing at mercedes r&d north america, told car and driver while showing off the feature.
some of the processing power has been tasked with taking over the climate control. the entire system is now in digital form and sits at the bottom of the large display. the buttons that are left near the screen are drive modes, a camera, a quick key to vehicle features in mbux, hazard lights, a fingerprint scanner, a power button for the screen, and a new volume-control situation. adjusting the loudness of your tunes involves either sliding your finger back and forth or tapping on the plus or minus button. tapping is not ideal, but the sliding works well and will change the volume based on how quickly you slide. slide it up super quick and the volume moves up a bit more than if you were to slide your finger across it more slowly.
3d behind the wheel
the new 12.3-inch digital dash cluster adds an additional dimension to driving. the optional 3d display tricks the eyes into seeing various elements in the cluster residing either closer or farther than reality. mercedes has achieved this using an lcd screen with an lcd grille aperture. scrolling through the various cluster modes, where it really sticks out (no pun intended) is on the map screen. a tiny three-dimensional s-class sits on a 3d map that stretches ahead of the driver.
using the driver camera, which is situated at the top of the dash cluster, the system tracks the driver's eyes to create the effect and to turn itself on and off depending on where the driver is looking. if the person behind the wheel is looking at the road, it turns the 3d off. when the driver adjusts their gaze back to the dash, the 3d feature expands from two to three dimensions. mercedes says that turning off the 3d feature while the driver is looking at the road is to reduce distraction. during our time in the car, there is a slight change in focus as the map extends outward. without using this feature on the road, we're not sure if eye fatigue is an issue during extended sessions. overall, though, it's impressive, if a bit weird, and if a driver does splurge on this optional feature, it can be turned off anytime from the main infotainment display.
head-up augmented reality
with mbux, mercedes showed off the system's ability to annotate a live video feed of the road with arrows and street names during navigation. the augmented-reality addition to turn-by-turn directions should make it a bit easier to drive in tricky situations such as roundabouts and intersections where more than the typical four roads intersect. now mercedes is moving it to the head-up display (hud) for the latest version of mbux, and it's premiering on the s-class. it's a smart move that should reduce the amount of time drivers need to adjust their gaze away from the road during complicated driving scenarios.
for households with multiple drivers, mercedes offers up to seven individual profiles in the 2021 s-class. logging in though has gotten more secure and easier. in addition to a pin, drivers can use their fingerprint, voice, or face to tell the car who just sat in the driver's seat. a fingerprint sensor has been added to the bottom of the infotainment screen, and a camera in the dash cluster can quickly identify which person is behind the wheel. if you're used to it on your smartphone, you'll be pleasantly surprised when your car does it.
once you set a profile, it can be fine-tuned using the mercedes app on your phone. so instead of sitting in your car making adjustments, you can do so from the couch. the changes can be synced with the vehicle either automatically via the cloud or when you enter the vehicle to set up your personalized driving experience.
the automaker says that this latest version of the in-car voice assistant is capable of more dialogue, and some items like answering the phone or displaying the map no longer need the wake word. rear microphones mean that all passengers can partake in the "hey mercedes" feature. it also means someone from the back seat won't be yelling over the driver's shoulder to have a query answered by the car.
the little things
when someone buys an s-class, they expect to be pampered, and it's the little things that the automaker adds to the car that make it something larger than the sum of its parts. for example: the pop-out door handles have a tiny motor that creates a small vibration when someone opens the door. it doesn't need to do that, but it's a tactile addition to the door opening mercedes wanted to add.
the accent lights that run throughout the vehicle now will shoot a blue or red strip of light toward the driver or passenger as they raise or lower the temperature using the climate controls. the steering-wheel-based buttons are now at an angle to make them more ergonomic. the rear screens can be used to set destinations and waypoints. the sound system has a configuration wizard to set up an audio profile for each driver. there are 10 massage settings now. so the car is techy, but also ready to pamper you.