WHAT IS IT?
As you approach the seventh generation of the Mercedes S-Class, it’s impossible not to reflect on the previous six iterations. It’s easy to look back on such minor technological breakthroughs as anti-lock brakes (introduced in 1978 on the W116) or airbags (featured in 1981’s W126) and feel pity. Remember the wonder you experienced when you first saw a car with double-glazed windows (1991’s W140 behemoth)?
It’s tempting to skip ahead four decades and imagine what innovations the future holds for those at the top of the pyramid. The all-new S-Class – W223 for those interested – may well be the most significant overhaul since the Sonderklasse was first introduced in 1972. It’s a car that appears to be looking further ahead than ever, and it takes modern preoccupations like digitisation, connectivity, electrification, and autonomy, giving them a unique Mercedes twist.
However, progress moves quickly, and even a year after launch, the S-Class’s technical marvels, such as mood lighting that pulses when you speak to the car, now seem ordinary. The journey to high-tech Nirvana is filled with potential pitfalls, as anyone who has tried to operate the steering wheel touchpads on an E-Class can attest. Mercedes has, at times, tested the theory that too much of a good thing is possible.
There is a lot of technology available. Where should we start?
In the realm of autonomous driving, the Mercedes S-Class’s Drive Pilot technology is making strides. With the ability to access level four autonomy, the car can locate a suitable parking space and park itself, provided the garage is equipped to handle such capabilities. Furthermore, Germany has authorized sections of the autobahn for the S-Class to operate its level three autonomous features during congested traffic, up to 37mph. This is referred to as conditionally automated driving, and is likely to be implemented only in traffic jams.
This refers to driving without using your hands and being able to check your emails while driving. However, some may argue that this kind of driving has already been autonomous for a long time, and whoever is in the backseat will probably be the one checking emails. Chinese customers, who make up a third of the 500,000 S-Class cars sold, reportedly prefer to drive their own cars on weekends, but soon they will be able to sit in the driver’s seat without having to drive.
Is it not powered by electricity?
The new S-Class car does not use electricity to power its engine, unlike the EQS model. The car’s name doesn’t indicate what kind of engine it has, which is common for modern German cars. The S500 model has a 3.0-liter six-cylinder turbocharged engine that produces 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. It also has a mild hybrid system that provides an additional 22 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque to improve its efficiency and performance. There are also other engine options available, such as a 2.9-liter turbodiesel engine, an S400d 4Matic with a powerful engine, and a new mild hybrid 4.0-liter V8 petrol engine that will be released in the future.
The S580e plug-in hybrid is the best choice right now and is expected to remain so. It has a 3.0-liter straight-six engine and a 28.6 kWh battery, which gives it an electric range of 62 miles and a combined fuel efficiency rating of 403 miles per gallon, emitting 16g/km of CO2. It can also deliver 517 horsepower, allowing it to accelerate from 0 to 62 miles per hour in just 5.2 seconds. It’s a smooth and comfortable car with excellent hybrid capabilities.
And what about the exterior?
The grille on the S-Class has grown and the body-sides and flanks are simpler but still look good. The head- and tail-lights are simpler too, but they contain very complex illumination technology. Multi-beam LEDs are standard, and Digital Light is available as an option. It uses three very powerful LEDs whose light is refracted and directed by 1.3 million micro mirrors. If the car detects roadworks ahead, it will project a warning sign onto the road, or shine a light on a pedestrian if needed.
This car has lots of attention to detail, even down to two different types of door-handle. The standard ones are like the old set-up, but there are also flush-fitting handles that appear when they detect the key-fob. They make the car more aerodynamic, and the S-Class has a drag coefficient of just 0.22. The car is designed carefully, and every aspect is optimized.
How much does it cost?
The starting price for the S-Class is £86,260, which is reasonable compared to most electric SUVs. However, if you want a long wheelbase version, you will need to pay an additional £10,000, while the hybrid model, which is only available in long wheelbase, starts at £111,905. Nevertheless, given the technology and engineering behind it, the car is considered to be good value for money.