What is it?
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has always been something of a repository for the firm’s very latest powertrain, suspension and safety technologies. On the face of it, that would seem to be the case with the box-fresh new W223-generation version, which has just arrived on UK roads. But chauffeurs be warned: this time around, only really well-heeled owners may get the benefit of everything that the car can do.
Having had its model platform and suspension widely overhauled, the new ‘S’ will ultimately have camera-based predictive E-Active Body Control suspension, four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering: a combination never seen on any of its predecessors. There will be 48V mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains on offer, as well as world-first frontal airbags for those oh-so-important people travelling in the back seats. Some quite limited fully autonomous driving functionality should also be possible in time – even if the S-Class will only ever be able to ‘drive itself’ entirely legally in slow-moving traffic jams and on very particular road networks, and during ‘driverless’ parking.
For now, though, UK buyers are being asked to wait for much of the technology mentioned above. If you want all of it, you’ll likely have to spend a tidy six-figure sum on a Maybach-branded S-Class.
Mercedes is opening up the UK range with the car’s bottom-end models. There’s currently a choice of one mild-hybrid six-cylinder petrol and two diesel engines, and either standard- or long-wheelbase bodies. The lesser S350d diesel is the only version of the car that can be had with one driven axle rather than two.
For now, all UK models roll on adaptively damped air suspension and all have conventional steering. If you want the upper-level, 326bhp S400d diesel that provided our first right-hand-drive test drive impressions, you have to pick the longer body.