Luxury saloon is still almost two years off, but incremental changes in self-driving technology, drivetrains and interior tech are all expected

Mercedes-Benz is working on Level 3 autonomous technology to be fitted to the next S-Class that will enable it to handle complicated road scenarios without human input.

The Audi A8 and BMW 7 Series rival, set for reveal at the Frankfurt motor show before arriving in showrooms in 2020, will evolve Mercedes' Distronic Active Proximity Control and Active Steer Assist systems to achieve its most advanced autonomous mode yet.

The current S-Class can achieve Level 2 autonomy but is expected to eventually be upgraded again with Drive Pilot capabilities, which link to GPS satellites and are featured on the new E-Class. The new 2020 model is therefore expected to introduce near-fully autonomous capabilities.

Mercedes driver assistance systems boss Christoph von Hugo told Autocar earlier this year that 2020 would see some Mercedes cars able to handle “critical situations”, such as urban streets and junctions. The S-Class’s role as the brand’s most luxurious model makes it the top candidate to get this tech first.

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Mercedes-Benz S-Class

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The upcoming S-Class will benefit from the new MBUX infotainment system first installed on the latest A-Class, alongside a host of other technological updates to give the car a digitalised cabin able to fight against similarly advanced systems from Audi and BMW.

Voice control technology will enable commands to be spoken in conversational form rather than via pre-determined phrases. The car will also feature gesture control to enable contactless adjustments to ancillary operations.

The next S-Class will also increase its use of electrification, boosting the performance and range offered with the current top hybrid model, the S560e. That car combines a turbocharged V6 engine and electric motor to offer up to 31 miles of electric range that is vital to ensuring the car can be driven in cities that may soon enforce zero emissions.

Trends suggest an all-electric version of the S-Class is inevitable at some stage, although sources do not think battery technology will be at an advanced enough stage to make it viable at the 2020 launch. Autocar understands that the space required for batteries presents a major challenge for an electric vehicle (EV) variant, with Mercedes not wanting to hamper cabin space and luxury as a result. It's highly plausible that the next-gen car will feature an EV variant later in its production life, however.

There will also be some design changes, although the recently spotted camouflaged car hides the details at this stage. However, an earlier mule, spotted last year, was based on the current S-Class and featured obviously enlarged wheel arches to hide wider tracks, suggesting the next model will be larger and therefore more spacious inside.

The S-Class is a pivotal car in Mercedes' line-up, being regularly the first model to introduce new technologies that then trickle down to the rest of the range. In 2017, the Maybach variant alone sold 25,000 units, with two-thirds of these going to China. Mercedes was the biggest-selling premium brand in 2017, beating BMW and Audi to the title, thanks to 2,289,344 sales during the year. Mercedes' 7.04% market share in the UK also bettered those of Audi and BMW, which reached 6.88 and 6.77% respectively last year.

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Comments
11

TS7

28 September 2017

...the sort of person driving/buying one of these has access to a named parking place where they work. Otherwise I'm sure they'll have a comforting time driving round looking for somewhere huge enough to park. Or maybe in autonomous mode one just gets out and leaves the car to drive around for a bit while doing one's bzznzz?

28 September 2017

The conservative foot-dragging by manufacturers of large German execu-barges explains why so many people are migrating to Tesla.

With used diesels now hitting double-figure depreciation, it boggles the mind that German manufacturers aren't changing their business model faster. 

28 September 2017
HiPo 289 wrote:

The conservative foot-dragging by manufacturers of large German execu-barges explains why so many people are migrating to Tesla.

With used diesels now hitting double-figure depreciation, it boggles the mind that German manufacturers aren't changing their business model faster. 

The chant goes: 'We're German: we do what we like'.

28 September 2017
HiPo 289 wrote:

The conservative foot-dragging by manufacturers of large German execu-barges explains why so many people are migrating to Tesla.

With used diesels now hitting double-figure depreciation, it boggles the mind that German manufacturers aren't changing their business model faster. 

Tesla appeals to people who just want the latest thing and crave the performance. However the fit and finish and build quality of a Tesla is something you would expect to find in a Ford, not a car sold as very expensive luxury car. The Germans are in a different league with regard to cabin quality.

28 September 2017

Just be done with this, skip five generations and make it 9 feet wide?

They could also fit metal grinders to the side to it takes other cars off the road as it drives - that way they'll be able to claim it does 10,000mpg rather than the 300mpg or whatever nonsense figure they pick out of the air for the hybrid version.

28 September 2017
An article that beautifully sums up the shitness of the direction of travel of car development.

There is nothing whatsoever appealing about any of this.

Obviously it is going to be wider and bigger - that much is a given.

But exactly who is craving this autonomous crap? Who uses the clever but emasculating self-parking shenanigans that has been around for a while now? I mean what sort of fool can't park a car? And wants to advertise the fact?

As always, I wait in hope that Autocar might express an opinion on this...

28 September 2017
eseaton wrote:

An article that beautifully sums up the shitness of the direction of travel of car development.

There is nothing whatsoever appealing about any of this.

Obviously it is going to be wider and bigger - that much is a given.

But exactly who is craving this autonomous crap? Who uses the clever but emasculating self-parking shenanigans that has been around for a while now? I mean what sort of fool can't park a car? And wants to advertise the fact?

As always, I wait in hope that Autocar might express an opinion on this...

Er, someone must be, otherwise all the manufacturers wouldn't be spending billions on it. Me? Nothing's as emasculating as power-steering and synchromesh.

28 September 2017

Smart motorways that are crushingly tedious tests of not losing your licence accidentally (ahh, 50mph, oh, not its 40 now, oh 60, no 40) and average speed cameras make autonomous cars quite appealing to me. 

Sadly a fridge white S class is not interesting to me. And teslas look crap, actually they look a bit like fridges come to think of it. Sod the admirable tech. 

Spanner

15 February 2018

... because it is the local taxi driver car of choice.

18 March 2018

 Autonomous driving cars? Other people can commandeer and drive your car via lap top computer now! A master computer could provide “control” for all traffic. Oh wait, I Robot movie already showed us that outcome. Auto drive and selective elimination of undesirables. Utopia.

 The driving experience is quintessential to the overall enjoyment of any car. Sense of independence and being in control is inextricably intwined in this experience. The interaction of man and machine is like unto man and horse. MAN is in charge.

 What a joy kill.

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