New Mercedes-Benz S-Class revealed

  • First all-new version of Mercedes’ flagship luxury car in eight years
  • More of an emphasis than ever on rear passenger comfort
  • Packed with innovative technology, including an autopilot function

The latest iteration of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the German firm’s flagship luxury car, has been unveiled at an event in Hamburg.

A new S-Class is an event that doesn’t come around all that often. The outgoing model has been on sale in the UK for over seven years, and the new 2013 version is lighter, more efficient and even more comfortable than before.

It goes on sale in June 2013, with deliveries scheduled to start in the UK in October. There will initially be two versions available, a saloon and a long wheelbase version with extra legroom for rear passengers.

Further variants, including a coupé and a high-performance AMG version (powered by a V12 engine with as much as 680bhp) are scheduled for release further down the line.

Highly advanced technology has always been the S-Class’s calling card and the 2013 car doesn’t disappoint.

Highlights include the use of over 500 LEDs throughout the car, both for interior lighting and the front and rear headlamps. No conventional lightbulbs are used anywhere on the car – something Mercedes says is a world-first. The tail-lights and brake lights are programmed to become dimmer according to light conditions, thus saving fuel and reducing CO2 emissions.

It also features the nearest system yet to an autonomous autopilot function on a series production car – in certain conditions, the S-Class can effectively drive itself.

Taking information from six ‘eyes’ (3D cameras) and six ‘ears’ (radar sensors), the car is able to accelerate, brake and even change lanes and overtake other vehicles completely independently.

Mercedes says the system is especially suited to slow-speed, stop-start traffic situations. The company says it does not wish to take control away from the driver completely, but to reduce stress when negotiating traffic jams, for example.

A further highlight is the so-called ‘Magic Ride Control’, where the car’s suspension continually adjusts itself for the most comfortable ride possible by taking information from cameras scanning the surface of the road ahead.

There will be four engine options from launch: the S 350 BluTEC V6 diesel, the S 500 V8 petrol and two hybrids (the S 400, a petrol-electric hybrid, and the S 300 BlueTEC, a diesel-electric).

The new car is larger than the outgoing model, with greater head and shoulder room in both the front and rear of the car, yet 100kg lighter than before with the S 300 Hybrid capable of a claimed average fuel consumption of 64mpg.

The exterior styling is undramatic but elegant, with an extremely large grille at the front and a falling line along the car’s sides reminiscent of the smaller CLA coupé.

Inside, the S-Class is more luxurious than ever before, with swathes of leather and plenty of heavily lacquered wood trim.

Mercedes says they have shifted more attention than ever to the comfort of rear-seat passengers. In many markets, the majority of S-Class owners are expected to travel in the rear and rarely, if ever, occupy either of the front two seats.

The rear seats are packed with electric motors and offer a huge range of adjustability: the front passenger seat has a separate set of controls from the rear passengers, allowing them to move it forwards and recline their seat to angles similar to a dentist’s chair.

Those owners that do venture into the front will find a new two-spoke steering wheel, behind which sits a digital instrument panel and an enormous infotainment screen more than a foot wide. It’s controlled via a new rotary control setup on the centre console.

There’s even a perfuming system for the air-conditioning system, with a range of renewable fragrances.

A raft of safety systems includes pedestrian and cyclist recognition, a system similar to that available for many Volvo road cars. Mercedes has bold claims for the S-Class’s safety levels, describing it as “the safest car in the world.”

More than half of the sales of the outgoing S-Class were made up of business and fleet buyers, and that’s unlikely to change for the latest generation car. It goes on sale in June, with UK prices and specification yet to be confirmed although European prices start from around £67,000 and range to more than £90,000.

To read more details and for a full range of pictures see the Mercedes-Benz S-Class review here.