Mercedes-Benz S580

Despite weighing 4,775 pounds, the new Mercedes-Benz S580 can go 0-60 mph in just 4.4 seconds.

My dad, the late Jack Hagerty, had a hard-and-fast rule about buying a car: Never buy one 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 a.m. tomorrow?

OK, I know you’re not reading this until November, but I’m writing this about a month earlier 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 ...

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, and 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 – that lends an extra 21 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. That gives the S580 a total of 496 horsepower and 516 pounds per foot of torque.

Yeah, that’s a chunk. And it shows up right when you put your right foot to the floor. Zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. Think about that for a second. This is a huge sedan, weighing in at 4,775 pounds, and it just freaking flies.

The transmission is a nine-speed 9G-TRONIC automatic. The Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy average is 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway. In a vacuum, those aren’t special numbers. But again, it’s a 4,775-pound sedan capable of 0-60 mph in 4.4. With that context, it’s pretty remarkable. I put 259 miles of city street, urban freeway and backroad driving on it and averaged 22.7 mpg. I’m handing it back with a bit more than half a tank left.

The AIRMATIC air suspension provides a cloudlike ride, but not at the expense of control. Even leaving the drive mode in “Comfort,” the handling capability is remarkable.

In the new S-Class, Mercedes also has 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 optional.

Price and options

The base price is $116,300. 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); panoramic roof; wireless charging; Air Balance cabin fragrance system; and Burmester audio system with online music streaming.

Our tester came with $26,070 in extra-cost options – too many to detail here, so let’s talk about some highlights, starting with the 30-speaker Burmester High-End 4D Surround Sound system. The price of $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 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 10-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 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 new S580, Mercedes has done what it made its name doing – building the absolute finest motorcar. To a standard, not a price.