Mercedes is going back to basics with its next S-Class, due in mid-2005. Stung by criticism of falling quality standards, the new model is being engineered to put it right back on top.
Originally billed as a hi-tech showcase – featuring a device that would allow it to creep forward and automatically brake in traffic – bosses recently reviewed the S-Class following the brand’s disastrous showing in recent JD Power quality reports in the US.
Sources say the car maker is having serious doubts about its ‘first at all costs’ approach to technology. The emphasis next time will be on raising quality.
Development is gathering pace, and prototypes are now a regular sight around Stuttgart. Under the disguise lies a bolder design with hints of the Maybach, particularly at the rear.
Mercedes will preview the new look at next month’s Tokyo show, where it plans to unveil the F500 – a dramatic-looking concept car which will give clues to the exterior and technical make-up of the new S-Class.
Snapped here during testing, Mercedes is under huge pressure to emulate the success of today’s model.
Combined with more efficient four-valve-per-cylinder V6 and V8 petrol and diesel engines, the new car will be faster and cleaner than today’s S-Class, which is planned to receive one minor facelift prior to the arrival of its successor – codenamed W221.
Special emphasis is being placed on the new car’s cabin following criticism of the existing model’s rather nondescript interior, overly complicated controls and below-par quality.
A more logical dashboard will appear, as well as a combined internet, telephone and MP3 player integrated in a reworked Comand system. This is first due to appear on the new CLS four-door coupé late next year.
As well as higher-grade materials, Mercedes will fit its new S-Class with a rotary dashboard controller similar to that pioneered by the 7-series and now also used in the A8. ‘There’s no other solution,’ said Merc boss Jurgen Hubbert. ‘The increasing number of controls in cars is going to require the integration of switchgear in the future.’