The height of executive luxury is set to evolve even further.
The designation S-Class is shortened from the German term "Sonderklasse" and was first officially used by Mercedes in 1972. The literal translation of Sonderklasse is Special Class. In German automotive terms, it indicates a specially outfitted car, and the S-Class is now six generations deep with a seventh-generation on the horizon. Across those generations, not only has the Mercedes-Benz S-Class become the benchmark for executive luxury sedans and limousines, it's where a lot of Mercedes innovations start their public life. Whether that's the drivetrain, safety, or interior features, the S-Class is usually the first car to see the brand's latest technology before filtering down to other models. That's why we get particularly excited when a new S-Class starts to approach the market.
Here are seven things about the new S-Class you should know:
As the Mercedes S-Class is a dignified flagship model, its aesthetic evolution tends to be on the conservative side. However, we can see from our spy shots of the test vehicles that Mercedes is joining the big grille game. It's a styling fashion in luxury cars that we're having trouble getting on board with, particularly in a time where design and technology have lessened the need for more airflow through a gaping hole in the front of a car. However, if there's a company and model that can pull it off, it's Mercedes and its flagship model. Along with the new grille are slimmer headlights, believed to be full matrix LED units as well as new taillights. Pop-out door handles were also spotted on the recent camouflaged prototypes to go with the cleaner design throughout the S-Class.
Recent spy shots have also shown that the S-Class will feature a sizeable Tesla-style portrait screen in the center of the console. It looks enormous, and word has it that the new display will also feature haptic feedback. The new digital instrument cluster is also a lot wider, and there's a lot of talk about the lack of buttons on the dash. That's a good sign that Mercedes is looking to introduce new ways for its occupants to interact with the car, and guaranteed to include voice commands. Rumor has it that Mercedes also plans to use gesture controls similar to the BMW's 7-Series system. Hopefully, the Mercedes take on that technology will work a lot better, though.
The S-Class is a big car in every dimension. Mercedes is taking the stress out of the long-wheelbase by implementing a new all-wheel-steering system. Depending on how effective that is, it could give the new S-Class the turning circle of a mid-size or even a compact sedan. Either way that will make the executive car a lot easier for owners and chauffeurs to negotiate city streets and parking lots with. We expect the S-Class to continue having a standard adaptive air suspension system, while the system that reads the road ahead and prepares the body so that the car remains flat and level around bends should become even more advanced and arrive as a standard feature.
Mercedesrecently revealed it had to take a reality check on autonomous vehicles, but that doesn't mean the German automaker isn't going to implement new and advanced driver assistance tech. Don't expect SAE Level 4 or 5 autonomous driving as there is a steering wheel present, but there will be highly advanced Level 3 capabilities. The problem is that the legislation process for autonomy is still in its embryonic stage, so it's wildly variable from country to country and state to state. That means it will be dependent on geography whether people will be able to simply give the next S-Class a destination and let it take care of a chunk of the journey on its own.
We're expecting a big shakeup in the S-Class model's drivetrains. Mercedes has said before that it doesn't plan to pursue the development of its hand-built twelve-cylinder engine, which led to reports it won't be used on the new generation of S-Class at all. However, Daimler CEO Ola Kallenius said publicly that a V12 engine would be available, but that could mean it will only be in the Maybach model. If so, the top non-Maybach models will be packed with a mild-hybrid 4.0-liter V8. The rest of the lineup will use hybrid 3.0-liter and 2.9-liter straight-six gasoline engines. Reports indicate that S-Class models will have zero-emission ranges of up to 62 miles. Twin-turbocharged models are also reported for later in the next generation's lifecycle as well as a plug-in hybrid.
The big news is that the 2021 Mercedes S-Class will come out of the gate without a coupe or a convertible variant. Rumors have also been abounding that the short-wheelbase version won't be on the menu, at least to start with, meaning there will only be the long-wheelbase version and then the Maybach edition. If that's the case, things could change further down the line. The coupe and convertible will be represented in the all-new SL-Class lineup, and that's probably where the AMG versions will live as well. We're not entirely sure that we believe Mercedes wouldn't make a regular and long-wheelbase model, though.
S-Class models have been spotted out on the roads with less and less camouflage hiding its features in the past few months. We've also seen a spy shot from inside the factory, so it can't be far off. Mercedes has kept its cards close to its chest on the 2021 S-Class, and, in reality, we don't know much yet. For all we know at the moment, it could be set in stone to debut in the next few months or at the 2020 Paris Motor Show in September. The Maybach S-Class will likely follow as a 2022 model once standard production is underway.
The price will likely follow in the same vein. Currently, the S-Class starts at $94,250, while the Maybach S starts at $173,000.