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New Mercedes-Benz S Class Front

MERCEDES-BENZ: New S-Class land yacht arrives in port

Such is the magnitude of investment required in the design and development of a new Mercedes-Benz S-Class, that new ones don’t come along too often. Indeed, the outgoing iteration arrived in 2014. 

The seventh generation of the brand’s flagship luxury saloon was announced last week and features an all-new design, a vast array of new technology and a revised engine range.

The new Mercedes land yacht goes on sale in Europe this December, with full pricing and specification details to follow later this year. It’ll be the first model to be built at ‘Factory 56’ – Mercedes’ new production facility in Sindelfingen, Germany and will renew the model’s rivalry with the latest Audi A8 and BMW 7 Series saloons.

Exterior design

The design of the seventh-generation S-Class has been entirely reworked using the firm’s latest design language, as already applied to the new E-Class and CLS models. The front end features a slimmer LED headlight design and a prominent front grille with three horizontal slats gives the car a flatter and more imposing look.

According to Mercedes-Benz, the optional digital light system adds powerful LEDs to the headlights that are capable of projecting warning symbols and lane markings onto the road ahead.

The side profile of this 2020 (W223) model is broadly similar to that of the previous S-Class, but with a slightly smoother roofline, with flush-fitting door handles available as an option. The rear features a new triangular light design, linked by a contrasting chrome strip.

In standard form, the S-Class has grown by 54mm in length and now measures 5,179mm. Opt for the long-wheelbase model and the length increases to 5,289mm. Now, both versions offer more rear legroom and headroom over the old car and boot space has also increased by 20 litres to a total of 550 litres.

Interior lifestyle and technology

Information accompanying the reveal of the new S-Class details the high level of comfort buyers can expect, as the new car takes inspiration from upmarket home interior design and luxury yachts.

It provides a ‘lounge-type ambience’, with vast swathes of wooden trim and an upgraded ‘energising’ system with six modes. This is capable of adjusting the lighting, seating, air conditioning and even the smell of the air in the cabin. It’s compatible with some smartwatches and phones, and the two can combine to measure your stress levels and adjust settings accordingly.

There’s a new digital instrument cluster with 3D graphics and augmented reality navigation directions (they appear to be on the road in front of you). It also features Interior Assist, which can recognise physical movements and enable selected vehicle functions – such as the passenger seat light illuminating if the driver reaches over to pick something up from the seat. A new steering wheel is shared with the facelifted Mercedes E-Class.

Mercedes’ flagship saloon introduces the next-generation MBUX infotainment system, which is powerful enough to operate up to five screens. The main one is a 12.8-inch portrait screen on the centre console, with haptic touch feedback and changeable OLED technology. It’s where you’ll access the majority of controls and functions (27 buttons have been removed as a result) and adds over-the-air update functionality to the S-Class for the first time.

A total of five rear seating layouts can be specified, with up to three displays for rear passengers consisting of a pair of 11.6-inch touchscreens, and a centrally mounted removable tablet. Mercedes says rear passengers get all the same features as those sitting in the front, including heating, ventilation and seating controls.

Chassis and ride-tech

The new car rides on the firm’s second-generation MRA platform, which features the latest version of the prestige German marque’s ‘E-Active’ body control system. It includes adaptive dampers that work in tandem with processors and sensors located around the car. The system can monitor the road surface 1,000 times a second and continually adapt the Airmatic air suspension to maintain a smooth ride. It can even lean the car into corners to help minimise body roll.

As part of Mercedes’ ‘Pre-Safe’ safety suite, the ‘E-Active’ body control system can also monitor for potential side collisions. If it detects an impending side collision, it can raise the body of the car by up to 80mm to help absorb the impact lower down via the car’s frame, rather than the doors, thereby offering extra protection to occupants. There’s also a new central airbag that deploys to reduce the risk of a clash of heads in an accident.

Rear-wheel steering is also offered for increased agility and stability. The system allows the rear wheels to swivel between 4.5 and 10 degrees (depending on the chosen configuration) and makes the S-Class more manoeuvrable on tighter roads. It also makes it easier to park, with the long-wheelbase model boasting a turning circle of under 11 metres.

Other driver-assistance tech includes the usual blind-spot monitoring, steering assistance and an improved active parking assist with a 360-degree view camera. Owners will also be able to use remote parking functionality, meaning the car can park itself or be summoned from a short distance via a smartphone.

In the second half of 2021, Mercedes-Benz says the new S-Class will get ‘level 3’ semi-autonomous driving capability, meaning it will be capable of ‘hands-off’ autonomous driving on motorways and in traffic where legally permitted.

Engines and transmissions

At launch, the new S-Class will be powered by a range of turbocharged straight-six 3.0-litre engines, with two 48-volt mild-hybrid petrols and three diesel variants. All S-Class models receive a nine-speed automatic gearbox.

The range-entry S350d diesel is available in both rear-wheel drive or with Mercedes’ 4MATIC four-wheel-drive system. It produces 282bhp and is capable of 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds in rear-wheel-drive form, with the 4MATIC version taking 6.2 seconds. Claimed fuel economy is 44.1mpg. The more powerful S400d diesel produces 325bhp and manages 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds.

The petrol engine range starts with the S450 4MATIC, which produces 362bhp and manages 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds. The flagship model at launch is the S500 4MATIC, which gets 429bhp and sprints from 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds.

Mercedes has already confirmed that a V8 engine will return to the S-Class line-up during 2021 and will boast mild-hybrid assistance. It will be followed by a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version that will be capable of pure-electric running for over 60 miles. While flagship AMG performance versions have yet to be announced, it is likely that they will join the range in late 2021.

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By Wayne Gorrett

Wayne has been covering developments in the UK's automotive sector for over 10 years, providing news, reviews, first-drive impressions and opinion pieces for a number of print and web outlets in the UK and South Africa. A former marketing director, Wayne is based in a rural village near Winchester, Hampshire. You can follow him on Twitter: @WaynesWorldAuto Facebook: WaynesWorldAuto Instagram: WaynesWorldAuto