The new Mercedes-Benz flagship is scheduled to go on sale here in the second quarter of next year. Will the new S-class change the luxury game when it gets here?
Stuttgart, Germany — Here it is, the new Mercedes S-Class, the one car more than any other that towkays in Singapore buy to signal their success.
Mercedes-Benz Singapore sold close to 3,000 of the previous model here, a significant number in the context of the 500,000 cars sold worldwide during its seven-year run.
As for the new flagship, Mercedes chose to unveil it with a virtual press conference today — apart from the obvious reasons behind the decision, the digital launch was an apt move for a car that leans heavily on digital tech to deliver the comfort and sense of well-being that S-Class occupants expect.
It’s clear that computing power is just as important as horsepower in this new car’s ability to secure the S-Class’ position as the world’s best-selling big luxury saloon. For instance, new control units adjust the active suspension 1,000 times per second to create the Mercedes’ signature magic carpet ride.
In fact, the new S-Class is almost mind-boggling in terms of what it brings to the luxury game, with a wide range of improvements and new features. Here are 13 things you need to know about the new Mercedes S-Class.
All dimensions are up. The standard version (codenamed W223) is 5,179mm long, 1,954mm wide and 1,503mm tall. Respectively, that’s up 54mm, 55mm and 10mm on the outgoing W222. Meanwhile, the wheelbase has grown a whopping 71mm to 3,106mm.
The long wheelbase V223 is an enormous 5,289mm long (up 34mm from before), with a 3,165mm wheelbase (up 51mm).
If you thought the S-Class was big before, it qualifies as huge now.
It still looks like an S-Class
The S-Class has shed some of its overt voluptuousness, but classic visual cues are still there: the upright grille, long bonnet with short front overhang and wide track. Mercedes says it has an “excellent” prestige measurement — that’s the distance from the front axle to the windscreen.
As before, the headlights have a three-point daytime running signature, but the lamps themselves are slightly smaller than before.
Character lines on the sides have given way to smoother surfaces that are contoured to catch the light a certain way, and the wheels (between 18 and 21 inches in size) sit flush with the body to accentuate the car’s wide stance.
The rear has an interesting new bootlid shape, and the two-section taillights — horizontal items for the first time in three generations — are linked by a chrome strip to emphasise the width.
“The rear of the car leans forward and gives a dynamic push to the entire body,” said Gorden Wagener, the styling boss at Mercedes.
The fancy new headlights have millions of mirrors
LED headlights are standard in the new S-Class, but if you choose the optional Digital Light system you’ll have something to brag about. It uses three bright LEDs as a light source, but bounces their beams off a tiny array of 1.3 million micro mirrors to direct the light accurately.
That’s 2.6m mirrors in all per S-Class. Apparently it can project marking aids or warning symbols onto the road ahead, or aim a spotlight at pedestrians to alert you to them.
Note the flush door handles
Optional in the new S-Class are a flush door handle design. They give the flanks a smooth look, and cars with this feature are actually 33mm narrower than the ones with regular, protruding door handles.
If you approach the car with the key on you, they extend out for you to grab them. They also pop out automatically in special situations, like after a crash.
There are up to five screens inside
The new S-Class is a screen queen. The one for the driver is a 12.3-inch unit with an optional 3D display that works without special glasses somehow.
As for the central screen, that measures 11.9 inches standard, growing to 12.8 inches if you specify the bright, high-res OLED one. That’s a good 63 percent larger than in the old S-Class.
Also optional are two 11.6-inch rear infotainment displays, and an optional rear tablet (7 inches) for the MBUX system. That stands for Mercedes-Benz User eXperience, in case you don’t know your Mercs.
It watches you
With the optional 3D driver displays, the Mercedes has cameras overhead to watch the driver’s eyes and body, which helps the system create the appropriate 3D effects. But that enables some fascinating features.
MBUX Interior Assist uses the camera info and learning algorithms to recognise and anticipate your intentions. If you look over your shoulder at the rear window, for example, the Interior Assist will automatically lower the sunblind if it’s up. The launch presentation showed the CEO of Nvidia (which provides the powerful GPUs for the car) closing the sunroof with a wave of his hand.
Watch this short vid of the new S-Class and its cool new features in action
The voice activation “Hey, Mercedes” function is now available to all occupants in all seats, and over-the-air updates means it will get smarter over time. Mercedes already sent 3.7 million such updates for free to customers last year alone.
Its head up display system uses Augmented Reality
Not sure where the car’s satnav wants you to turn? You’ll find the augmented reality-enabled head up display system a boon.
It overlays animated turn-off arrows onto the relevant road lane, so if you still miss your exit you’ll only have yourself to blame.
Optional rear seats recline — a lot
As before you can have your S-Class in various seating configurations (including a four-seat layout that nobody in Singapore wanted). The optional Executive chair lets the seat behind the front passenger tilt back up to 43.5 degrees — far back enough for a nice nap, if you ask us.
You should probably tick the “massage seats” options on your order form. As part of the Energizing Comfort suite of wellness settings there are 10 different massage programmes.
It leans like a motorcycle
Slightly, anyway. The smart new E-Active Body Control suspension system uses active dampers, air springs and hydraulics to pull all kinds of clever tricks.
There’s a Curve function that tilts the S-Class so it leans by up to 3 degrees into a corner, like a bike. That apparently makes cornering more comfortable for passengers.
It’s safer than ever
Mercedes has always prided itself on making the S-Class stupidly safe, and W223 is no exception. It has rear airbags that reduce the forces acting on the back seat occupants’ bodies in a severe frontal crash. (Fun fact: Mercedes claims this as a first but the Nissan President had airbags for the bosses in the back in 1993.)
Cars with the E-Active Body Control system can also pull an ingenious trick. If the radar sensors detect that you’re about to be T-boned, the S-class tiptoes immediately to lift the cabin by 80mm (like below).
That puts the door sills in harm’s way, and they can take a lot more of a wallop than the doors themselves.
It’s damn fast
At launch, the S-Class has 2 petrol engines and 3 diesels available. All are six cylinder engines, but V8s are set to follow eventually.
For now, the relevant variants for Singapore are the petrol S 450 4Matic and S 500 4Matic; both have a 3.0-litre in-line six driving all four wheels, and enhanced by the EQ Boost hybrid system that uses a starter-generator that can give brief boosts to the engine worth 22 horsepower and 250 Newton-metres of torque.
The S 450 has 367hp and 500Nm, and here’s the fast part: it hits 100km/h in just 5.1 seconds. As for the S 500, that gets 435hp and 520Nm, enough to launch the beast to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds.
It can shrink itself
Rear wheel steering (optional, of course) isn’t new in luxury cars, but the S-Class takes the idea to something of an extreme — its system can turn the rear wheels by as much as 10 degrees. Check out the pic below:
For comparison a Rolls-Royce Phantom’s rear steer system works at up to 3 degrees.
That means the S-Class is likely to be uncannily agile in tight situations, like your favourite carpark. Cars with rear axle steering can actually tighten up the S-Class’ turning circle by a huge distance — the long-wheelbase model has a 12.5m turning circle, but with four wheel steering that drops to 10.8m, tighter than the space a Volkswagen Golf needs.
It’ll be here within a year
Mercedes-Benz Singapore is planning to have the new S-Class here by the second quarter of 2021, which means you could see it here as early as April 2021.
Going by the last model, it will only be offered here in the long-wheelbase version. Most buyers like their S-Class lengthy, anyway — nine out of 10 people chose the longer version of the previous model.
Hopefully the ongoing pandemic will be over by then and economic activity will have picked up, but by our reckoning sales of the new Mercedes S-Class won’t get properly underway until there’s a more entry-level version.
Mercedes hasn’t announced it, but an S 300L with a 2.0-litre, 245hp engine might be just the version for Singapore, where the big-car-small-engine formula still rules. The S-Class itself has changed, but some buying habits seem immutable.
BONUS FACTOID: Mercedes is developing a plug-in hybrid with 100km of range
By the middle of 2021 Mercedes will launch a plug-in hybrid electric version of the S-Class. Charge it from an external charger (like an electric car) and it can drive silently without petrol.
The aim is for a pure electric range of 100km. With access to daily charging, the average Singapore driver wouldn’t actually need to use petrol at all, but the plug-in S-Class will have an engine for long distances or maximum power.
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