Up front is a traditional grille with added chrome, increased width and greater prominence than on any recent Mercedes. Other features of note include larger headlights with more internal detail, an intricate front bumper, more contoured bonnet, less prominent wheel arch flares and a signature dropping flank line that runs from the headlights to just above the rear wheels.
The W222’s underpinnings have also evolved from the W221’s, albeit with numerous revisions. These are most notable in the area of electronics, where the new car adopts some interesting new safety features. These include an illuminated belt buckle extender and airbags within the rear-seat belt straps. Models equipped with the optional reclining rear seat also get an airbag within the seat cushion to prevent the occupant sliding forwards during an accident.
In LWB guise, the new S-class employs the same 3165mm wheelbase as its predecessor. Dimensionally, the new car is 20mm longer and 28mm wider but 2mm lower than before at 5246mm, 1899mm and 1483mm respectively.
The inclusion of the rear seats’ optional reclining function has lead to a 30-litre reduction in boot space to 530-litres.
With a kerb weight of 1900kg, the S350 Bluetec tips the scales 20kg below its predecessor. At the same time, it is claimed to have the most rigid body structure in its class.
Petrol, petrol-electric, diesel and diesel-electric drivetrains will all be offered. All will come with a seven-speed automatic gearbox from the outgoing model carrying revisions that, Mercedes claims, provide smoother, faster and more intuitive shifting.
Included among the drivetrains planned for UK sale is a carried-over 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine with 254bhp in the S350 Bluetec and a 2.1-litre four-cylinder diesel with 201bhp in combination with a 27bhp electric motor in the S300 Bluetec Hybrid.
Also planned is an upgraded version of the existing twin-turbo 4.7-litre V8 petrol engine, giving 14bhp more than its predecessor at 449bhp in the S500, plus the yet-to-be-revealed S63 AMG. Like the current S63, it will be powered by a twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8 and is likely to offer 536bhp, or 563bhp in combination with an optional performance package. UK S63 AMGs will be rear-driven, while selected countries will get a four-wheel-drive S63 AMG 4Matic.
The S400 Hybrid (not UK-bound) will increase in power with its naturally aspirated 3.5-litre petrol V6 giving 302bhp aided by a 27bhp electric motor.
Next year, an S600 model will join the line-up. It will receive a revised version of the outgoing model’s twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V12 developing around 530bhp. In 612bhp 6.0-litre guise, this engine will also power a range-topping S65 AMG.
Also planned for next year is the new S500 Plug-in Hybrid which, according to Mercedes’ head of research and development Thomas Weber, achieves combined economy of more than 70.6mpg.
Mercedes says that Crosswind Assist is designed to help the driver by substantially reducing the effect of strong sidewinds on straight-line stability. If the S-class is not equipped with Active Body Control (ABC), crosswinds are counteracted using the Electronic Stability Control by applying the brakes on just one side of the vehicle. If the car has ABC, it works by adjusting individual dampers to keep the vehicle running as straight as possible.
Mercedes calls the W222’s structure ìa third-generation aluminium hybrid bodyshell. Despite huge advances in safety and refinement, Merc says the shell weighs less than that of 1991’s W140. Aluminium castings, extrusions and press sheets make up 50 per cent of the shell, including the outer skin, roof and front crash structure. The passenger cell is made from high-strength steel. There’s also structural foam in some of the box sections to increase rigidity for virtually no extra weight. The shell’s torsional stiffness is up by 50 per cent.
The S-class is claimed as the first production car without any lightbulbs. There are up to 56 LEDs in the headlights, 35 in the rear clusters, four in the fog lights and 300 to illuminate the interior. Using LEDs is claimed to make significant energy savings: the LED headlights use 34W on dipped beam compared to 84W for xenons and 120W for conventional halogen lights. Mercedes claims that the LED lamps save 2.1g/km of CO2 compared to halogens.
The two main LED units in the headlights automatically adjust their aim and beam-spread during night-time driving. The variable-intensity rear light clusters are dimmed at night.
The S-class is impressively slippery, with a Cd rating of 0.24, and the upcoming S300 Bluetec Hybrid will have a rating of just 0.23. Engineers say they have achieved this through myriad detailed aero improvements.The car also drops by 20mm when travelling above 60mph to cut drag.
The front end of the car is ìcompletely sealedî around the headlights, bumpers and radiator, encouraging airflow to go through the radiator. Behind the radiator is an adjustable flap which, when closed, directs air under the car. This flow is used as a boundary layer to reduce drag around the rear axle and differential. The whole underbody has aerodynamic cladding, including the rear suspension arms.
Road Surface Scan
Using the stereo camera mounted in the windscreen, Mercedes has developed a new, predictive, active suspension system called Magic Body Control. It’s optional on eight-cylinder versions of the S-class, and is combined with Active Body Control. The stereo camera scans the road surface up to 15m in front of the car (in daylight and at speeds of up to 81mph), creating a 3D image of the road contours ahead. This allows the S-class to calculate the best strategy for reducing overall body movement.
The car adjusts its suspension by way of active dampers plus hydraulic plungers located in each suspension strut that can adjust the stiffness of the springs. Each strut’s calculations and adjustments take just fractions of a second, meaning the system can ìalmost completely compensate for lifting, rolling and pitching of the bodyî, according to Mercedes.
New Thermotronic system allows air temperature, volume and direction to be set individually. Optional ‘Air Balance’ package features an ‘active perfuming system’.
Range-topping ‘3D’ Burmeister system uses a bass bin in the front bulkhead. This, in turn, uses the 40 litres of airspace in the sills as resonance chambers.
Aside from plastic inside the door handle aperture, all interior surfaces are either wood, leather or aluminium. ‘Super tight’ tolerances have been applied to all switchgear.
LWB S-classes get optional ‘Executive’ individual rear seats that recline to 43.5deg — more than any other car. A ‘Chauffeur Package’ allows the front seat to slide forward, too.
A step closer to the self-driving car
The new S-class was launched at the giant Airbus factory in Hamburg, the association being that the giant A380 double-decker and the new Mercedes are the best airliner and the best car in the world respectively.
There’s quite a lot in that comparison. The A380 is, by all accounts, impressively refined and comfortable over long distances and marks a big leap for long-haul jets. The substance of the new Merc is rear passenger comfort and the claimed interior refinement.
But there’s a more important parallel between the Airbus and the S-class. Both are well on the way to being autonomous. The Airbus can already fly and, to a great extent, land, using pure computer control. But Mercedes boss Dieter Zetsche also promised at the unveil that the uncool part of driving is going to be automated.
The new S-class could use its raft of all-round sensors to drive automatically in flowing motorway traffic, even allowing the driver to take his hands off the wheel. That it doesn’t is a result of legal restrictions, so after 15 seconds of hands-free travel, the automatic cruise control cuts out.
But a Merc engineer assured me the company had a vision of a car that could take the ‘driver’ to work and shuttle him through heavy city traffic. The industry has fallen in with the EU vision of using hyper-technology to avoid accidents. It’s not just the part-time autopilot that worries me, it’s the cost and complexity of these future cars.
A new approach to cabin comfort
Mercedes says the W222 S-class was developed as a long-wheelbase car from the outset and that the standard version was a spin-off model — the reverse of previous Mercedes practice. After researching the lifestyles of typical S-class owners and users, Mercedes says it has designed the interior, probably the most important part of the new model, around a vision of ìenergising comfortî.
Mercedes has employed researchers who 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 interior theme was developed at Mercedes’ design studio in Como, northern Italy. The designers approached the project as if unrestrained by manufacturing issues and the usual approach of ‘upgrading’ a functional interior to become more luxurious. Instead, Mercedes says, they simply tried to translate their most creative ideas into reality.