The next-generation Mercedes-Benz S-class will strengthen its position as the world’s best-selling luxury saloon with unparalleled levels of safety, driveline, chassis and telematics technology when it goes on sale next year.
With up to five cutting-edge new safety systems, including a ‘Braking Bag’ that bursts under the front axle to add an extra dimension of last-second emergency stopping power, the S-class is likely to rate as the world’s safest car when it launches late in 2012.
A computer-controlled suspension system, with redesigned multi-link front and rear axles, more efficient engines and a nine-speed automatic gearbox promise to make the latest S-class a better drive, a more relaxed ride and a more sparing consumer of the planet’s resources.
The platform structure for the new family is Mercedes’ steel, modular rear-wheel drive architecture — which already underpins both the E-class and the M-class and will soon form the basis of the next-generation C-class.
However, in an effort to keep weight under control, some exterior panels of the S-class, such as the doors, will be fashioned in aluminium.
There are also strong indications that the four-wheel-drive 4Matic model will at last become available in the UK following extensive lobbying by Mercedes-Benz UK.
There will be five models in the range: a four-door saloon, two extended-wheelbase cars, a short-wheelbase coupé and, for the first time, a soft-top convertible.
The standard and long-wheelbase saloons are due for launch next year, the extra-long- wheelbase Pullman and coupé in 2013 and the convertible in 2014. The Pullman will satisfy demand in China for an even roomier car than today’s LWB S-class.
The coupé will replace the current CL. It will form the basis of an all-new S-class cabriolet, with an advanced fabric hood previewed on the Ocean Drive 2006 concept car, and targeted at the Bentley Continental GTC.
The new S-class will have a more contemporary style than its predecessor. “We’ve moved away from the Gothic-inspired look towards a more technically orientated appearance,” says Mercedes design boss Gorden Wagener.
Wagener talks about the new model “adopting a certain visual lightness” through “new sculptural forms”, while “retaining visual substance” through “a more cohesive lineage, front to rear”.
Key styling cues include a more upright and wider grille, LED headlamps, a strongly contoured bonnet, heavily sculpted flanks, a more upright windscreen, a rounded roofline, a heavily angled rear screen and drooping rear end.
Insiders privy to the S-class’s final styling link the design to the CLS and the F800 Style and F125 concepts.
Dimensionally, the new car remains close to today’s fifth-generation model; the standard wheelbase runs to just over 5010mm in length, with the long-wheelbase model set to measure around 5230mm. The Pullman will mirror the dimensions of today’s Maybach 57 at around 5680mm.
Inside is where Mercedes is touting big advances, with officials suggesting the S-class will set “new standards in interior design and quality”.
The basic theme was previewed on the F800 Style concept, and is said to be much cleaner looking than today’s S-class, with a less prominent fascia, soft-touch switches and a free-standing monitor to display the next-gen Comand multimedia system.