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2020 Mercedes-Benz S Class Review

LIKES
  • Smooth, powerful engines
  • First-class cabin
  • Attention to detail
  • Available all-wheel drive
  • More tech and safety features than ever
DISLIKES
  • Ready to be upgraded
  • Maybach doesn’t feel as special
  • Absurdly expensive at the top
  • Plug-in hybrid isn’t touted as it should be
BUYING TIP
  • A new S-Class is due for introduction this year, so score a deal on a 2020 model while you can.


The 2020 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the benchmark for large luxury sedans.

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the yardstick we use to measure all large luxury sedans. It has power, sophistication, tech superiority, and endless paths to customization. Available in multiple body styles and with everything from a plug-in hybrid to a V-12, we give it 7.8 out of 10 overall, based on the base (if you can call it that) S450 sedan.

For 2020, the S-Class gets active parking assist and keyless ignition standard to hold it over until a new model debuts next year.

As one of the older vehicles in the Benz lineup, the 2020 S-Class lacks the slightly more angular styling of newer Mercedes sedans, but its three-box proportions, sleek long body, and attention to detail are next to none. The exterior is as sophisticated as ever—it’s truly head-turning in coupe and cabriolet form—while the interior ranges from very nice to billionaire-worthy in the Maybach version.

Power is supplied by everything from a plug-in hybrid system to a turbocharged V-12, making between 362 and 621 horsepower depending on how much you’re willing to spend. This makes the S-Class one of the rare vehicles that can be both a sublime cruiser and a back-road bruiser.

While both front seats are supremely comfortable and offer optional extras like massage functionality and cooling, the rear seat may be an even more pleasant place to experience the S-Class from, especially in lavish Maybach form. Four-way power bucket seats, a power footrest, twin entertainment screens, even a champagne chiller with silver flutes can all be fitted, pushing the price to well over a quarter million. With a base price below $100,000, the S-Class has one of the largest price ranges of any new vehicle.

Though safety scores have not been measured by either the federal government or the IIHS, the S-Class has been synonymous with safety tech innovation, from padded dashboards to the first driver airbag, and the world’s first brake assist system nearly 25 years ago. All 2020 models get automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitors as standard, while future-ready tech like night vision with pedestrian and animal detection and a driver assist suite are optional.

Besides its hybrid version, which has yet to be tested by the EPA, the 2020 S-Class returns fairly poor fuel economy as you’d expect from a powerful luxury sedan. Average mileage ranges from 18 to 22 mpg and premium fuel is required.

Styling
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is sophisticated and sleek outside, but a true occasion inside.

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz S-Class exemplifies restrained German elegance in any of its three available body styles. While the exterior is last generation at this point, we think the first-class cabin will look good for decades to come, warranting 9 out of 10 here. 

Available in sedan, coupe, and cabriolet, there’s not a version of the S-Class that isn’t long, sleek, and elegant. Sedans are somewhat ubiquitous for a large luxury vehicle, but classy details and traditional three-box proportions make it immediately clear that this is a Mercedes-Benz. The coupe and convertible dial up the sophistication with available options like Swarovski crystal headlights and massive AMG wheels. A slight ducktail effect to the rear and an incredibly long body make for a sleek luxury two-door that looks as special as it feels.

Inside, the S-Class features a first-class cabin in any form, from the base S450 to the lavish Maybach. Twin 12.3-inch displays that span one solid piece across the dashboard are configurable, bright, and clear, and control or display everything from night vision to interior scent selection. With several woods, metals, and carbon fiber available as trim options, not to mention a seemingly limitless selection of leather upholstery, the S-Class looks and feels every bit worthy of its exorbitant asking price.
Maybach models add luxury rear seats that include power footrests, massive entertainment screens, even a champagne chiller with two flutes (for passengers only, of course).

Performance
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is all-powerful, ranging from fast to very, very fast.

The powertrain lineup of the 2020 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is about as broad as its price range, but every version is powerful and smooth at the least, and missile-like at the most. We give it an 8 out of 10.

Entry-level S450 models feature a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 with 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. Power is readily available through the rear wheels, or through all-wheel drive for an additional $3,000, and a 9-speed automatic shifts smoothly and predictably.

The S560 utilizes an excellent 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 that makes 463 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. A muscular engine note and effortless acceleration are befitting of the one-percenter’s ride of choice. 

An AMG models dubbed S63 sits in the middle of the family of S-Class cars. The S63 uses a souped-up version of the same V-8 in the S560, this time making 603 hp and a whopping 664 lb-ft of torque. It’s so powerful and smooth, we can hardly fault Mercedes-Benz for dropping the former S65, which used a massive 6.0-liter biturbo V-12 with 621 hp and a mountain-moving 738 lb-ft of torque. 

Maybach models, dubbed the S560 4Matic Maybach and S650 Maybach, make use of the less powerful V-8 and AMG V-12, respectively, with all-wheel drive for the V-8 as standard and rear-wheel drive only for the V-12. It should also be noted that V-12 models use an older 7-speed automatic transmission instead of the 9-speed for V-6 and V-8 models.

Mercedes has shown a S560e plug-in hybrid S-Class with twin-turbo V-6 power and a 90-kw electric motor, making a combined 469 hp and 516 lb-ft. The car is no longer available in the U.S., but the idea of an electrified S-Class makes a lot of sense to us. We expect it to return with the next-generation car.

While AMG models dial up the sportiness, every version of the S-Class is supremely smooth and comfortable, and insanely fast in a straight line. Even the base V-6 makes the 0-60 run in about five seconds flat, while the all-wheel-drive V-8 S63 does it in an insane 3.5 seconds. For a nearly 5,000-pound sedan, that’s breathtakingly quick.

The S-Class puts a regal ride on display no matter which model is chosen. The standard air suspension with adaptive damping is sublime, getting even better with the addition of the millisecond-perfect Magic Body Control system, which constantly adjusts air springs and dampers to maintain the car’s even keel.

Comfort & Quality
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz S-Class has a sublime interior with seemingly endless options to choose from.

Vehicles don’t get much more comfortable or high-quality than the 2020 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. It’s a perfect 10 out of 10 here.

If we delved into the S-Class options list fully, this review might take a few days to read, so we’ll stick to the highlights here. 

All S-Class models come with 12-way adjustable power front seats (16-way available as an option), and have the capability for heating, cooling, and adjustable air bladders that can massage you and move the bolsters or cushions to nearly any position you like. Twin 12.3-inch infotainment screens directly in front and in the center provide full-screen map info, endless configuration options, and controls for the ambient lighting, performance settings, and even optional cabin scent control.
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Maybach models also can be fitted with executive rear seats that incorporate power adjustable footrests, massage functionality, even a champagne chiller with two flutes for you and your other lucky passenger. The fold-out tables aren’t quite big enough to accommodate a laptop, but if you own a Maybach or are being driven in one, it’s likely there’s someone who checks your email for you anyway.

Tech features reign supreme here too, from fully configurable driving modes, interior lighting displays, and available safety features like night vision with pedestrian and large animal detection. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also available through the infotainment system, making the driver’s life just a little bit easier.

If we’ve got one gripe with the S-Class, it’s the relatively modest trunk – just 16.3 cubic feet. Coupe and Convertible models have four seats, but the rear two are particularly confined for how large a vehicle this is, so it’s really meant for two occupants only, especially in drop-top form.

Safety
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz S-Class hasn’t been crash-tested, but it’s long been a leader in safety innovation.

While no crash-test results are available, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz S-Class includes nearly every safety tech innovation in the book either as standard or optional. Despite its reputation for pioneering new safety technologies, however, we’re unable to give it a score here for its lack of safety scores.

Neither the NHTSA or IIHS has bothered smashing the S-Class into a wall or two, but the big Benz does include automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitors. Additional safety options are available, and represent the pinnacle of what’s currently available in passenger vehicles, including a night-vision mode with pedestrian and large animal detection, an advanced surround-view camera system, and a driver-assistance suite that uses cameras, sensors, and satellite data that provides a near-autonomous experience on the highway, changing lanes with the flick of a turn signal.

Perhaps our only gripe in this area is the outward visibility, which is fine up front but is compromised by thick pillars and a sloping roofline in the rear.

Features
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is available any way you like it, from expensive and well-equipped to outlandishly lavish.

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz S-Class lineup is one of the broadest of any vehicle, from its three body styles to its nine trims and powertrain options. We give it 8 out of 10 as such, and feel compelled to not that its warranty coverage is competitive, but not game-changing.

The “entry level” S450 starts at $95,245 including a $995 destination charge, while the all-wheel-drive version costs $3,000 more. For that, you get twin 12.3-inch infotainment displays, ambient lighting with 64 colors, automatic emergency braking, active lane control, LED headlights, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, and 18-inch alloy wheels, among many other features. For 2020, Mercedes has added active parking assist and hands-free access to the mix of standard equipment. S560 models get a V-8, Nappa leather upholstery, and 19-inch wheels as standard for $105,445 in rear-wheel drive and $108,445 in all-wheel drive.

The AMG-boosted S63 4Matic+ will set you back $152,595. The AMG model gets performance wheels and suspension, a dynamic select system, performance exhaust, big compound brakes, unique interior details like a sport steering wheel, and all-wheel drive with fully-variable torque distribution.

Finally, the lavish Maybach is available in two forms, all-wheel-drive S560 4Matic and rear-wheel-drive S650 V-12 form. Though the V-8 lacks the grunt of the S63 model and the effortless, earth-shattering torque of the V-12, it would be our pick at $173,995 versus $203,545 for the S650. Maybach models dial up the luxury rather than performance like the AMGs, featuring 20-inch wheels, executive rear seats with 43 degrees of recline, power leg rests, extended ambient lighting, standard wood and leather in more places than other S-Classes, active air suspension, and the excellent Magic Body Control system. Lavish options like the champagne chiller with silver flutes between the rear seats and an executive rear seat package are available at a significant cost, as are several $12,000 two-tone paint options.

Mercedes-Benz offers a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty for the S-Class, but rivals match that and include at least two years of maintenance, while that option is extra for the Benz.

Fuel Economy
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz S-Class doesn’t manage great fuel economy.

As you might expect, fuel economy is not a priority for the 2020 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but it fares well considering the amount of power and the size of its engines. We give it 4 out of 10. 

At the low end of the range, S450 models manage 19 mpg city, 28 highway, 22 combined (18/28/22 mpg for the all-wheel-drive version), while opting for the V-8 S560 drops those numbers only slightly to 17/27/21 mpg for both rear- and all-wheel drive. The S63 AMG sedan and its standard all-wheel-drive system gets 17/26/20 mpg.

Coupe models get 17/26/20 mpg in S560 4Matic form and 17/27/20 mpg in S63 AMG form, in one of the few instances we can recall where more power means slightly better economy. Finally, convertible models get 17/26/20 mpg in S560 form and 15/24/18 mpg in S63 4Matic guise. Naturally, premium fuel is required for every model.


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