Upmarket automobile patrons are exhibiting an elevated desire for SUVs just about all over the place on this planet, but the S-class stays—explicitly—the flagship mannequin for Mercedes. A brand new era of the Sonderklasse all the time serves as each a range-topping luxurious sedan and a tech showcase for options that can quickly trickle all the way down to lesser Benzes. Mercedes is rightly happy with the numerous improvements that earlier S-classes launched, together with anti-lock brakes (1981), stability management (1995), radar cruise management (1998), and all-LED exterior lighting (2013). There have been a number of that did not trickle a lot, too. Keep in mind the “parking wands” that rose from the rear corners of the 1991 W140 era to make it barely simpler to again that behemoth trunk towards a parking spot?
Whereas there may be certainly an abundance of latest options within the new S-class, the primary impression is of what is lacking—particularly, bravado. This era (W223 in Benz code) is much less ostentatious than its predecessor, missing the outdated automobile’s baroque detailing and incorporating smaller, extra modest headlights and taillights. The dearth of flashiness disguises an insubstantial improve in dimension over the outgoing model, with the W223 gaining 1.3 inches in size and sitting on a wheelbase stretched by simply 2.0 inches. Mercedes is especially happy with the ultra-low drag coefficient—as little as 0.22—boosting effectivity and enhancing refinement. Tesla-like door handles sit flush inside the physique, coming out when the automobile is unlocked or they sense the presence of an approaching sensible key.
There’s extra Tesla-fication inside the cabin, with an enormous 12.8-inch touch-sensitive OLED display screen dominating the dashboard. At first look it truly appears to be like like an open laptop computer has been left on the middle console, and this display screen is the first interface for nearly all capabilities past primary driving. Even the local weather controls at the moment are rendered digitally. Which means Mercedes’s cabin designers have surrendered a lot of the prime actual property the place they beforehand demonstrated their craft so properly. The last S-class had 4 machined air vents and a mechanical clock within the area now taken over by the glass interface. However the remainder of the cabin showcases loads of the outdated craftsmanship, with wall-to-wall disguise and a few stunning wood trim, plus color-configurable LED lighting round all inside panels. There may be additionally a fingerprint sensor to permit for fast altering of driver profiles and even authentication for purchases made by onboard apps.
Two variations will initially be provided in the USA market. The S500 will get a 429-hp supercharged and turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six, and the S580 upgrades to a 496-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8, with each engines incorporating 48-volt hybrid help. We drove the S580 first, on a route from Stuttgart to Mercedes’s proving floor at Immendingen by way of a stretch of unrestricted autobahn. Within the atypical course of car testing, this might result in a direct try to search out the velocity limiter and keep on it for so long as doable, however with the S-class the possibility for higher-than-normal velocities was extra helpful in demonstrating the automobile’s distinctive noise insulation. At 80 mph, extra noise was coming from different site visitors—muted by the home windows’ twin panes—than the automobile itself. Solely above 140 mph did the graduation of wind noise from the tops of the doorways disturb the serenity. And sure, we did verify the presence of a 155-mph governor. U.S variations will likely be restricted to a extra leisurely 130 mph, says.
The V-8 not often raises its voice, even because it creates forceful acceleration. In probably the most aggressive Sport Plus dynamic setting (a mode that feels at odds with the S-class’s character and function), the engine stayed hushed below all however stamped-throttle progress. And even then, the V-8 sounded distant and muted. Suspension settings are equally comfort-orientated, with each adaptive dampers and air suspension normal. The massive Benz sits 0.7 inch decrease in Sport Plus mode, but the trip stays impressively pliant, if missing the firmness usually related to sports activities sedans.
We additionally obtained to pattern the non-obligatory E-Active Body Control system, which provides each a road-scanning digital camera and an lively anti-roll system. The latter employs a hydraulic system pressurized by a 48-volt pump. This may neutralize physique roll—which it does successfully—and also will supply Curve mode, leaning into turns like an outsized bike. Grip ranges are excessive, and on dry tarmac, the usual 4Matic all-wheel drive delivered unbreakable traction.
At decrease speeds, the S580 additionally confirmed off one other of its improvements: a brand new rear-axle steer system that may flip the rear wheels as much as 10 levels. Mercedes says this reduces the turning circle of the common wheelbase S-class to simply 35.1 toes, which is one foot smaller than the turning circle of an A-class sedan. The feeling of the system working is initially odd, because the rear axle may be felt transferring out because the entrance turns in. However the improve in maneuverability is clear and spectacular. The ten-degree rear-axle system will solely be provided on the S580 with the Govt Line pack. The AMG Line trim (out there with each engines) brings a much less aggressive 4.5-degree model that delivers a 38.1-foot turning circle. Above 40 mph, each methods supply a lot smaller levels of in-phase steering to spice up stability.
This S-class is designed to ultimately ship hands-off autonomy. We obtained to expertise a Degree 3 demonstrator—though on a take a look at monitor and solely from the passenger seat—however Mercedes’s present Drive Pilot sensible cruise management continues to be capable of regulate distance and observe lanes. One of many show choices on the reconfigurable digital dashboard now relays what this method can “see” when it comes to lane markings and different street customers—distinguishing between vehicles, vehicles, and bikes. Drive Pilot dealt with freeway speeds properly, but it surely struggled to ship easy stops when coping with heavy site visitors. It additionally consists of automated velocity regulation primarily based on posted limits, though we discovered that the automobile missed restrict modifications a number of instances.
Whereas vastly spectacular as a automobile, a lot of the mission for the S-class is as a showcase for brand new know-how. Debuts embrace an enhanced model of the augmented-reality navigation that we’ve got already seen on the GLE and revised E-class, now able to projecting directional arrows onto the windscreen’s head-up show. The cloud-based “Hey, Mercedes” voice assistant has extra functionality right here than in another Benzes, just because there are extra toys for it to manage. Saying “I am pressured” will set off the automobile to give you a therapeutic massage program. The massive central touchscreen is operating a brand new model of Mercedes’s MBUX infotainment system, which appears to be like nicer and is backed by a claimed 50-percent improve in processing energy, however some lesser capabilities are nonetheless buried beneath a number of layers of menus.
The 12.3-inch dashboard instrument display screen additionally will get a pioneering characteristic. It has 3D display functionality, which presents barely totally different pictures to every eye to provide a way of depth. The impact is putting, particularly when the sprint is switched to navigation and you end up taking a look at what appears to be a aid map. However past decoration, it would not add something to the driving expertise, and Mercedes admits it might make some drivers really feel queasy. Fortuitously, it could possibly simply be switched to traditional 2D.
A drive within the entry-level S500 confirmed that U.S. patrons will not be giving up a lot when it comes to both efficiency or expertise by choosing the smaller engine. Low-down responses really feel very practically as eager as these of the V-8 because of the immediacy of the electrically pushed supercharger and the built-in electrical motor-generator, which might contribute as much as 22 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The six’s high-rev rasp, though subdued, is a minimum of as aurally attention-grabbing because the V-8’s muted roar. A quiet stretch of autobahn revealed that solely above 120 mph does the S500 begin to really feel noticeably slower than the S580, taking significantly longer to come across its 155-mph governor.
Each S500 and S580 will attain the U.S. through the first half of subsequent yr. One of the best toys will likely be reserved for the varied possibility packages, however the usual specification will embrace the OLED dashboard interface, Burmeister audio, and the complete suite of driver-assistance methods. Past that, different variations will embrace an AMG with a brawnier V-8, a plug-in hybrid that ought to supply class-leading electrical vary, and in the end a Maybach model, which we imagine will proceed to supply V-12 energy. However even in its most elementary kind, the S-class continues to characterize Mercedes at its greatest.
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