Any premium automaker can show you a full-size luxury sedan. Comparatively few have the gravitas of Mercedes-Benz and the S-Class. Certainly only Rolls Royce has the depth of history to compare with the 130-year story of Mercedes. The 2022 S-Class is fully modern, but its design is informed by classics like the 1950s-era Adenauer sedans and other stately full-size cars in the decades since.
When I say the S-Class is fully modern, what I really mean is that this is just about the most technologically advanced vehicle on the road. The 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine is powerful, but it's also assisted with a mild hybrid electric motor that smooths out starts and shifts, giving the big Benz an even more graceful quality than you expected. The 9-speed transmission does its business without disrupting the cabin at all, while Mercedes' 4Matic all-wheel drive system delivers power where needed at all times.
Inside, the technology and comfort combine into state-of-the-art luxury. The S580 we tested didn't even have the new interface, which combines three screens in a single curved ribbon of glass that stretches across the dashboard. But we did have the full 12.3-inch digital driver screen, and the 12.8-inch OLED center screen, as well as a head-up display and the MBUX advanced user interface. MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User eXperience) is an advanced voice control system that will do anything from turn on the seat heaters to read you a book out loud. The tech is bound up with a fantastic Burmester audio system, but what will really amaze you is the navigation system. As you drive, the car will occasionally display a forward-looking view of the road ahead on the center screen, augmented with street names and big arrows to show you where to turn. You'll never drive past your turn again.
One thing about the S-Class is that the Mercedes designers do not assume that the owner of the car is in the driver's seat. With this grade of car, the owner will often be enjoying the ride from the back seat while an employee does the driving. So the back seat is every bit as comfortable and spacious as the front. Every seating surface is upholstered in soft quilted and perforated leather with heat, ventilation and available massage functions. There's even an air fragrance system.
On the road, the S-Class delivers on its luxury more than performance, but if you want performance, the Mercedes-Benz dealer will cheerfully show you the lineup of AMG hot rods. The S580 is plenty fast, but it's also almost 5,000 pounds, so it's no race car. The suspension is adjustable, and in comfort mode you'll float down the road on your own personal cloud. Dial it up to sport mode with the Airmatic air suspension and it will tighten up some, but not a lot. The technology is along for the ride, too, with steering assistance, speed limit assistance, adaptive cruise control, and a full suite of modern advanced driver assistance and safety features.
Mostly, the 2022 Mercedes-Benz S580 was made to be a refuge from the stresses and strains of the world, and it does that very well. Slide into the seats with a little sigh as you relax, put on your music, and enjoy the drive without the noises or bumps of the outside world. With a starting price well over $100,000, if you're buying an S-Class, chances are you've earned it.
2022 Mercedes-Benz S580 Sedan 4Matic
Base price: $117,700
Price as tested: $137,760
Type: Full-size sedan
Engine: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with hybrid assist (486 hp, 516 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 16/25
Overall length: 208.2 inches
Curb weight: 4,775 pounds
Final assembly: Sindelfingen, Germany
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