When I worked at a coffee shop years ago, the company liked to think of its cafes as a “third place” in which people spend their time, with home and the workplace being spaces one and two. It wasn’t just about the coffee — it was part of a lifestyle, a place where you could settle in and spend part of your life there in comfort and happiness. I hated the idea. I’d much rather spend that time driving a car I loved rather than sitting on milk-stained furniture listening to a corporate-dictated playlist. Mercedes-Benz understands this, and is continuing the evolution of its S-Class sedan into its own version of a “third place,” with a focus not just on comfort and luxury, but on the occupants’ well-being, and has detailed how the next-gen’s interior achieves this. Of course, it’s backed up with ample corporate parlance along the way.
It starts with the senses, of course. The new S-Class interior uses design and materials to evoke sensations of pleasure. There’s the usual leather (quilted, perforated), wood (with an open-pore option) and metal playing together in a way that looks and presumably feels familiar for top-of-the-line Mercedes-Benz vehicles. In something that seems ever more obligatory in luxury sedans, there’s a bit of a nautical theme, with Mercedes using yachts as design inspiration. The seats have been redesigned for better comfort and support, and can even adapt the seating, steering wheel and mirror positions to your height. The “Energizing Seat Kinetics” system can make minute adjustments for better support during short, medium or long drives. Not only is this meant to provide comfort, it’s intended to promote a healthy spine.
Lighting plays a leading role, with all passengers bathed in it via 250 LEDs in fiber optics, with brightness now 10 times greater than before to make it more visible in daylight (with day and night modes). In addition to setting the mood, the lighting can also help to reinforce alerts from the driving systems like lane and braking assists, or it can respond appropriately to warm/cool climate control commands in individual zones of the cabin. The “Hey Mercedes” voice assistant is accompanied by light animation based on the seating position of the user.
Even scent is catered to by the new S-Class. A filtering system uses an ionizer to provide the best air quality, and certain markets will even have an air quality indicator. There’s also the active fragrance we’ve seen Mercedes use before, if you’re into that sort of thing, or you really just can’t stand the smell of your passengers.
That brings us to the Energizing Comfort system, which Mercedes intends to cater to your well-being. Included in the optional Warmth & Comfort package, this system, which targets numerous senses at once, is supposed to help you feel more alert and refreshed or, on the hand, help to provide a calm atmosphere if you’re stressed. It’s an evolution of the current system, leveraging the interior improvements to be more effective. The predetermined programs are called Refresh, Vitality, Warmth, Joy and Comfort, and they use the ambient lighting and animations, displays, specially designed soundscapes and, in the case of the Vitality program, the seat massager to engineer you into a better mood. You can simply tell the car how you’re feeling — “Hey Mercedes, I’m stressed,” for example — and the car will do the rest.
Additionally, the new S-Class offers an Energizing Coach system as part of its Warmth & Comfort package, which will “suggest an appropriate fitness or wellness program based on vehicle and trip data.” If the user has a compatible phone app or wearable device, Energizing Coach can also include sleep and stress level data into this program.
We’re hoping this doesn’t all add up to be overwhelming for customers. Sure, you can opt not to tick certain options boxes or simply not use certain features. You can’t go wrong with comfortable seats, and we’ve loved what Mercedes has done so far with ambient lighting, but it also seems like there’s a lot going in in this third place it envisions. If mood-based programs and a built-in wellness coach can help you, that’s great. Really though, what’s more therapeutic than the drive itself?