The New Mercedes-Benz S Class
Eat Sleep Drive Repeat
07 September 2020
Less clutter, more innovation
When Mercedes-Benz releases a new S Class, the motoring world seems to pause for a moment longer than it usually might when a manufacturer announces a new model. That’s because a new S Class is generally expected to be a showcase of new possibilities for the automobile - from tech to driving, and from safety to comfort. And judging by the need for Mercedes-Benz to take 15 full pages of its press release to outline the new model’s “main points”, the company is introducing a lot of new possibilities…
Mercedes-Benz describes the design of the new S Class as “a classical saloon with perfect proportions”, with a wider track and flush mounted wheels giving it a more muscular look. The sheet metal has been simplified, with contoured surfaces replacing the character lines of the previous model. Helping clean up the lines are optional flush-mounted door handles, which pop out when the car senses the car key nearby. The new S Class is one of the slipperiest cars on the road, with a drag coefficient of Cd 0.22 - which doesn’t mean much visually, but can make a difference for passengers: lower drag generally means a quieter ride, which in turn mean a more relaxing experience.
But being Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes-Benz has ensured there are a lot of additions on the interior to help with the ride experience.
The dashboard has a new design, and incorporates a new display arrangement, fewer switches, with a look inspired by interior architecture and yacht design. The air vents also have a new design: the four central rectangular units replace the round outlets found in the outgoing model, with vertical units on either end.
Fully specced, the front seats pack 19 motors to help perfectly adjust the seat, and then deliver a choice of ten different massage functions - including one based on acoustic resonances from the 31-speaker Burmester sound system. Basically, it uses bass frequencies to deliver a bit of in-car therapy. The rear seats are available in five different variants, allowing you to use the rear of your S Class as, say, a simple passenger transport, or a mobile office.
The S Class debuts MBUX 2.0, the latest version of Merc’s voice directed, machine learning infotainment system. It uses up to 5 screens, and offers a 3D driver display, as well as two options for the head-up displays. The bigger version delivers information via augmented reality, meaning you get your turn-by-turn nav instructions (and other info) projected onto the road surface ahead of you.
Not everything in the S Class is is new and novel, though. Taking inspiration from Mini interiors, interactive interior lighting is available as an option. It creates visual feedback from from the car’s comfort system (think blue lighting when you cool the climate control), but also reinforces vehicle alerts.
Being an S Class, safety isn’t just a priority in the new model, it’s highlight. New innovations include optional rear airbags, as well as a centrally located airbag between front passengers. That particular unit is packed into the side of the driver’s seat, and is designed to prevent front occupants from bashing heads in an accident. Mercedes-Benz has introduced the new DIGITAL LIGHT system, which can help point out things like stop streets and traffic lights by projecting onto the road surface; it can also assist when recognising road works by making similar road surface projections with an excavator symbol and guidelines for the driver. Another trick up its sleeve is the ability to spotlight pedestrians on the road side.
The S Class’ PRE-SAFE system has been boosted with the addition of E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL suspension, which can raise the car by 80mm in fractions of a second when sensing a side impact - the idea being that the impact point is then less likely be on the car door, and instead on the stronger door sill. The system uses radar for impact collision and works in combination with the car’s standard air suspension.
Powering the new S Class is a range of in-line six-cylinder petrol and diesel models, with a V8 mild-hybrid and a plug-in hybrid to follow. It's available with either rear- or 4MATIC all-wheel drive, depending on model. Curiously, nowhere in the 94-page press release was there a mention of gearbox choices, but it’s safe to assume they will be 9-speed automatic units, similar to the current lineup.
S450 4MATIC petrol 270kW / 500Nm
S500 4MATIC petrol 320kW / 530Nm
S350 d diesel 210kW / 600Nm
S350 d 4MATIC diesel 210kW / 600Nm
S400 d 4MATIC diesel 243kW / 700Nm
No word yet on price or availability in SA.