Mercedes-Benz has revealed its all-new flagship S-Class, a car it wants to become known as the best car in the world. To help achieve this lofty ambition, nothing has been left to chance. Mercedes says this new version of the world’s best-selling luxury car "extends the boundaries of technology on so many levels" this is probably not an exaggeration.
Mercedes-Benz boss Dr Dieter Zetsche says that the new S-Class is something special. 'Our aspirations were ‘the best or nothing’ in every respect,' he said. 'No other car stands for the Mercedes-Benz brand promise more than the S-Class.' list of innovations fully justifies this.
As Mercedes-Benz’ top-line motor, the S-Class is probably its most iconic model of all. This latest one is more important than it’s ever been, there is huge and still-growing demand in new markets for luxury cars such as the S-Class, it now also has an extra role. Because Mercedes-Benz has pulled the slow-selling ultra-luxury Maybach range, the new S-Class must take its place and appeal to the world’s richest customers. This is why so much time, effort and money has been spent on the new car.
The design is unmistakably S-Class, but there’s now much more elegance, form and sculpture to the lines, taking it back to some of the elegant early S-Class designs of the 1970s. The design has to look luxurious and display plenty of grandeur, says design chief Gorden Wagener, but the flowing silhouette means 'it is a modern embodiment of sensual clarity'.
Despite being sleeker overall, Mercedes-Benz has actually made the radiator grille both bigger and more upright. It has a more 3D design and faces the traditional long bonnet. To ensure it still looks modern despite the massive grille, Mercedes has carefully shaped the bonnet and fitted a very sculptural front bumper with plenty of form. The headlights are also complex designs that carry some headturning LED running light graphics.
The big difference to S-Class, from the side, the new Mercedes-Benz flagship is a much more elegant and graceful car, thanks to flowing side feature lines and some very carefully formed shoulders. The car looks much lighter on the road than before, and less of a heavyweight monster. Mercedes-Benz says the roofline has an almost coupe-like shape and, while we’d draw the line at this, it’s certainly a far more athletic car than before.
The pretty rear end is more rounded and muscular than previous square-edged designs and, with the rounded and blended-in rear screen, perhaps does deserve comparison with coupes after all. It certainly doesn’t lack presence for all this meaty elegance though, feature lines purposefully accentuate its width, while the rear lights are a spectacle in themselves.
The interior design of the new S-Class is notably different to before. The firm has purposefully gone for a paired back, clearer and more elegant look, with far fewer panels, shapes and buttons. Instead the main dash is dominated by two huge colour screens, a row of four real metal air vents, a traditional analogue clock and a sweeping top dash architecture with wood neatly inlaid. The effect is striking, modern and recognisably different to anything else on the market, Mercedes-Benz likens it to being 'cast from a single mould'.
The people in the back of an S-Class are the most important people in the car. As such, Mercedes-Benz has ensured they’re treated in a first class way, with a ‘First Class Rear’. Everything in the rear is built to exactly the same standard as the front. Indeed, Mercedes-Benz actually designed the new S-Class around the more plush long-wheelbase variant for the first time, shortening this design to create the standard car: traditionally, it’s done it the other way around.
Mercedes-Benz has developed some fascinating new features to give occupants the premium-line travel experience. This stretches to not only ensuring the seats are fully heated and cooled, but also fitting electrically heated arm rests too. There’s even an ‘active perfuming system’, which gently fragrances the air without, stresses the firm, either changing the interior smell permanently or depositing perfume molecules on clothing.
This is an extraordinarily safe car. It naturally has PRE-SAFE functionality that can detect both pedestrians and other cars about to drive into you, and take autonomous action accordingly. The new S-Class also has a PRE-SAFE Impulse feature: it can tension the seatbelts to actually pull driver and front seat passenger AWAY from the point of impact before any deceleration sets in, effectively yanking away from any hard points and thus 'substantially' reducing the risk and severity of injuries in a front-end crash.
Mercedes-Benz is introducing new safety-focused terminology for the latest S-Class, ‘Intelligent Drive’. This holistic system encompasses both passive and active safety systems, linking them all up together into one single 'all-seeing' package. It basically monitors the full 360-degree area around the car and ensures everything within it is kept as safe as possible.
The new S-Class has Mercedes-Benz’ third generation aluminium hybrid bodyshell, which contains more than 50% aluminium to ensure the S-Class has remained the same weight for two decades despite getting so much bigger and more complex. It’s an incredibly stiff structure, stiffer than the outgoing model by half, it sets a new torsional stiffness record in the luxury car sector.
Even the slowest Mercedes-Benz S-Class can do 148mph and reach 62mph from rest in 7.6 seconds, this S 350 BlueTEC HYBRID model’s 204hp diesel engine and 20kW electric motor also offers electric drive and exceptional fuel economy. The 258hp S 350 BlueTEC diesel can do up 155mph, and hits 62mph from rest in 6.8 seconds. The S 500 is a full two seconds faster still to 62mph, and is again capped to 155mph.
This is the first S-Class, says Mercedes-Benz, to offer petrol, diesel, hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants. As many of the engines are familiar from today’s S-Class, expect to see further improvements in power and performance for mainstream variants through the lifetime of the new S-Class.
The two high-res TFT screens are in 8:3 format and both have a 12.3-inch display. Mercedes-Benz has also overhauled the operating logic, making sure it’s easier and more logical to use despite the huge amount of additional technology and functionality built in.
The regular new S-Class is 5.1 metres long and 1.9 metres wide, the long wheelbase one is 5.24 metres long. These are 'moderate' increases, which Mercedes-Benz says bring big improvements in interior space. In the rear, there’s 14mm more kneeroom and 9mm more shoulder room, while the driver has 12mm more headroom and 10mm more elbow room.
Mercedes has traditionally separated new engine and gearbox introductions from its new model line debuts. This means the new S-Class uses the same seven-speed automatic as the old model. When the firm introduces future gearboxes with more ratios and functionality, expect to see another notable improvement in fuel economy, not to mention driving engagement.
The old Mercedes-Benz S-Class had Night View. This one takes it a step further with Night View Assist Plus thermal imaging camera. This now carries a spotlight function that is able to ‘flash’ any pedestrians it may detect up ahead, warning both the driver and also the person on the side of the road.
The S-Class will launch in following four variants:-
S 400 HYBRID
S 350 BlueTEC
S 300 BlueTEC HYBRID
A later S 500 Plug-In HYBRID model will follow, which will become the first S-Class boasting fuel economy better than 70.6mpg.
The new Mercedes-Benz S-Class will be launched in the UK in winter 2013. Expect first drives to commence in the autumn, when MSN Cars will be able to bring first details of what Mercedes-Benz’s new luxury flagship is like to drive. Expect it also to dominate the brand’s stand at the Frankfurt Motor Show this September.
UK prices are still to be confirmed, but given how it may well be the best car in the world, it doesn’t cost the earth. Indicative prices in Germany show the S 350 BlueTEC diesel starts from just under €80,000, in the UK, it may cost from around £60,000. So, there you have it, a potential game-changing new car that will almost certainly earn the coveted 'best car in the world' title when it goes on sale later this year.