The all-new Mercedes-Benz S-class has been launched from the inside out. The increasing importance of the Asian market for traditional luxury saloons, as the West shifts towards luxury SUVs, means that the new S-class — codenamed W222 — has been designed with an emphasis on rear-seat passengers and what Mercedes bosses call the “essence of luxury”.
The first information released about W222 has centred entirely on the interior, but our spy photographer has still managed to capture its exterior undisguised. Goetz Renner, Mercedes’ head of customer research, says the S-class has been conceived around the vision of “energising comfort”.
Mercedes researchers say they are reacting to the global “mega-trend” for “health and fitness and the need for work/life balance” where people “need to relax to preserve their resources”.
The upshot is innovations such as an on-board scent diffuser and ‘energising’ massage seats, as our detailed look below explains.
The instrument binnacle is made up of two 12.3-inch TFT screens. The left display shows — in digital form — conventional speedo and revcounter dials, and on the right is the control screen/multimedia/sat-nav display. Ambient lighting makes the instruments appear free-standing.
The unusual two-spoke wheel design will be unique to the S-class, says Mercedes. As in most luxury cars, the wheel can be heated, but the S-class will also have the option of heated armrests.
A new individual climate control system called Thermotronic seems optimised for polluted Chinese cities. Two combined filters feature, one for fine dust and one made from activated charcoal filters. An ionising system can filter out various viruses and spores while freshening the air.
This interior design theme was developed by Mercedes’ design studio in Como, northern Italy. It was based around the theory of an ‘appreciation model’ where, instead of upgrading a functional interior to become more luxurious, manufacturing restraints were removed and designers tried to make creative ideas into reality.
The only plastic used in the interior is the lining of the aperture for the door release. All other materials are either wood, leather or aluminium. The shutlines between the components and trim are unusually tight, seemingly achieved by pushing the controls and trim parts through the leather facing.
The close-up view of the seat controls shows how switchgear is tightly fitted to the leather trim. The laser-etched aluminium speaker trim is fitted with the range-topping Burmester hi-fi.
Long-wheelbase models come with the option of ‘Executive’ reclining individual seats. The backrest on the nearside rear seat can tilt to 43.5deg, the most of any car, and the 'Chauffeur' package allows the front seat to be pushed forward. The Executive package includes a ‘Business’ centre console that can house two bottles in the central chiller and has cupholders that can both chill and heat.
Interior space is slightly improved over the current S-class’s. Features include seatbelt holsters that rise electrically when passengers get in to aid seatbelt fastening. Rear seatbelts also have integrated airbags. Reclining seats get an airbag under the seat cushion, designed to stop a reclining passenger from sliding out under the seatbelt in an accident.
The front seats are said to be 20kg lighter, mainly thanks to a new steel and plastic construction method. They can be specified with a ‘Comfort’ package that mimics a hot-stone massage. Mercedes builds the E-class and S-class seats in-house. The current E-class has 300,000 possible seat specifications. The new S-class will have “considerably more”.
The range-topping sound system has been designed with top-end hi-fi manufacturer Burmester. It has 24 speakers and 1540 watts of power and uses a new design of bass bin. The 3D setting is said to provide an extraordinary sound stage that makes passengers think they’re surrounded by instruments playing the music.
Mercedes engineers have gone to extreme lengths to reduce the amount of interior noise that is transmitted into the S-class cabin. To that end, torsional stiffness has been increased by 14 per cent, lateral bending by 11 per cent and vertical bending by 17 per cent.
To help damp out noise, vibration and harshness from the drivetrain, the car’s front chassis legs are made of extruded aluminium and cast aluminium is used as mounting points for the front structure on to the bulkhead and for the strut mounts.
A mix of sound-deadening materials, insulation and damping materials have been attached to the car’s body structure. Damping foil is used on the floorpan and liners made of absorbing materials are used in the rear wheel arches to reduce noise. The sealing systems around the windows and door handles have been upgraded and the A-pillars and door mirrors redesigned to cut wind noise.
The S-class includes a built-in atomiser, which diffuses scents into the cabin. It’s a £3000 option and Mercedes has worked with perfume specialist Marc vom Ende, who has developed five scents specifically for the car. The refills cost approximately £45, but they should last about 7000 miles.