The new S-Class – an autonomous spa on wheels
Mercedes is missing a facelift for its flagship. The most successful luxury limousine in the world offers various “well-being programs” and some of them are autonomous. However, in a field disappointed the sedan.
You have to take a closer look at the new version of the S-Class from the old one. On the outside, little has been done: the radiator grille is now decorated with silver double slats, enlarged air inlets at the sides of the front apron, making the car wider and more aggressive. And on the inside of the headlights are now three narrow LED strips along which the highlighted position of the S-Class is marked against the E-Class (two strips) and the C-Class (a strip).
The most striking change is in the cockpit: the virtual instrument panel behind the steering wheel is fused with the central display panel in the center console to form a horizontal display in widescreen format, which extends from the left-hand exterior mirror to the glove compartment.
But this is just a cosmetic procedure. Behind a continuous glass screen are two separate screens. The actual innovations on the new Mercedes S-Class are under the surface. They are particularly noticeable in the consistent linking of existing components and functions.
Although it is only a facelift, Mercedes has not let itself take the presentation of its optimized flagship with a huge brimborium to celebrate. After all, the S-Class is the most successful luxury limousine in the world.
Since its launch in 2013, the latest generation has sold more than 300,000 copies. With a profit margin that starts at around € 82,000 and goes well beyond € 200,000, it is easy to figure out the outstanding importance of the top model for the Group. After half of the product cycle, the customer’s interest is usually reduced, and model care is therefore expected to create new buying incentives.
The world premiere was placed on the eve of the official opening of the Auto Shanghai, the largest and most important branch meeting in the entire Asian region. As a backdrop, a hall is being built on the grounds of the Shanghai Expo, which has been turned into a discreetly lit mix of hipster restaurant, concert hall and large-capacity disco for the evening.
At the reception of more than 1000 invited guests, fusion jazz will take place at the far end of the world, accompanied by snacks with 24 different superfoods. The welcome is given by a presenter in a glittering evening gown, which is known to the Chinese audience from television and which often uses the word “inspiration”.
Dieter Zetsche has brought back reinforcements
Before the performance of the stars of the evening, a string orchestra plays a stormy overture, while two dancers deliver a dramatic duel with luminous bars whose movements echo light from a huge screen. The whole effort is clearly to point out that Mercedes has very precisely understood the preferences and needs of his Chinese customers.
Then the three variants of the new S-Class are advanced: a particularly long (the Mercedes-Benz S 350 L), a particularly luxurious one (the Mercedes-Maybach S 680) and a particularly sporty one (the Mercedes-AMG S63 4MATIC +).
Four members of the Board of Executive Directors have already come to this staging. In addition to Dieter Zetsche and Hubertus Troska, who is responsible for the Chinese market, Ola Källenius and sales manager Britta Seeger are also on the scene.
Troska has learned a few Chinese phrases and proverbs with which he greets the local audience before moving into English: “This generation has surpassed the previous” – this generation has surpassed the previous one.
Mercedes has good reasons to introduce the optimized S-Class in Shanghai. The company accounts for a quarter of its sales in China, where the vehicle market is still recording annual double-digit growth rates.
Almost every third S-Class and six of ten copies of the high-end brand Maybach are sold here. China’s entrepreneurs love the big appearance and are happy to go around and if they have to spend most of their time in the traffic jam, they want to have it at least comfortably.
So what will it be? “Comfort” or “joy”?
When you are tormented by the traffic of Shanghai by centimeters for centimeters, you are always confronted with chauffeurs with white gloves trying to push themselves. They sit at the wheel of sedans with extended wheelbase, which are often manufactured exclusively for the Chinese market.
The prestige-conscious clientele on the rear seats, which stretches their legs behind darkened windows, should be pleased that Mercedes extends the comfort zone and equips the S-Class with a wellness package called “Energizing”.
Ambient lighting, music, air-conditioning and scenting, as well as seat settings, can be combined to create a range of wellbeing programs that bear distinctive names such as “comfort”, “joy” or “vitality”.
The new S-Class also includes the model variant with the highest nomenclature of the company’s history: the Mercedes-Maybach S 680 will be available exclusively in China. The combination of numbers stands for happiness and harmony.
Outside China, the car was given the designation S 560. For the rest of the world, it might be more interesting that the assistance functions of the S-Class were significantly expanded with the facelift.
The automatic spacer also ensures that the speed is automatically adjusted in curves, before intersections or when entering closed villages. Thus, the new S-Class can largely reduce the braking and acceleration of the driver. The fact that the car can also change the lane alone, if you only briefly turn the blinker, is almost self-evident.
The S-Class can drive autonomously
In order to make this possible, the borde electronics system incorporates map material and navigation data into the calculation of the driving behavior for the first time. At the same time, cameras and sensors scan the streets even more precisely for unevenness, the settings of the landing gear adapt to the situation.
The S-Class thus takes another step towards autonomous car. “I do not know how you are doing,” says Dieter Zetsche, “but at least in the case of motorway travels, I can now do well to intervene actively in traffic.”
For the time being, however, the driver has to leave his hands on the steering wheel. It is equipped with touch-sensitive touchpads, so that all driver settings and assistance functions can now be controlled with the thumb.
Stuttgart is particularly proud of the new generation of engines. Never before had a comparable effort been spent on a model maintenance, says Hermann-Joseph Storp, who has been managing the development of the S-Class for 17 years. “Basically it’s a completely new car.”
Daimler has spent three billion euros to make the combustion engines even more efficient. The V8 biturbo, for example, is to consume ten percent less than its predecessor, which is achieved, among other things, by switching off four cylinders without the driver noticing the difference when the load is low. For the sake of efficiency, the developers were also prepared to dispense with displacement. In the case of the V8-Biturbos it was reduced from around 4.7 to four liters.
In addition to the combustion engines, which range from a six-cylinder six-stroke V-6 engine to a 6-horsepower V6 engine, the Mercedes has a plug-in hybrid with a 13.3-kWh battery , Which is to be able to drive 50 kilometers purely electrically.
Mercedes has great plans for e-mobility
This is a bit thin for a company that has declared electrification one of the four pillars of its strategy. Dieter Zetsche therefore underlines the fact that Mercedes wants to bring ten electric cars onto the market by the year 2020, which should be so attractive as to make any state quotas for alternative drive forms superfluous. “We are on the whole width,” he says.
The fact that his company has not slept on the topic of electric mobility is evident on the day after the world champion of the S-Class at the Auto Shanghai. Just a few steps from the monumental stand in Hall 4, where hundreds of Schaulustigen surround the new variants of the S-Class and more than two dozen other Mercedes vehicles, the company Denza presents a family-friendly compact car with electric drive, which is a much more modest setting Remotely reminiscent of a B-Class.
The vehicle is being built in the southern Chinese Techmetropole Shenzhen – in the joint venture of Daimler and the battery manufacturer BYD. While most other manufacturers on the Shanghai auto show are still showing studies of where the journey could go, Denza is already entering the second generation with its electric car. The new model is to have a range of over 400 kilometers.