Powered by technology, the new Mercedes Benz S-class is set to redefine luxury, writes Akbar Merchant

Mercedes-Benz’s S-class has always been a trendsetter when it comes to passenger cars. The technology used in an S has been an indication of what can be expected in future Mercedes models and also in other mainstream cars.

This time around, the S-class is not only replacing its very successful predecessor, the W221, but also Mercedes’ now-defunct Maybach brand of ultra-luxury saloons. As a result, the new car will be available in no less than five body styles — the standard-wheelbase saloon, a long-wheelbase version (likely the one that will come to India), an extra-long wheelbase ‘Pullman’ version, a two-door coupé and a convertible.

Mercedes design boss Gorden Wagener describes the car as having “more noble visual character” than its predecessor. Traditional S-class elements remain. At the front, the big grille dominates proceedings and is not only larger than before, but also has a much thicker chrome surround. The bumper is heavily sculpted and the bonnet is more contoured, but the wheel arch flares have been toned down from the previous car. The new headlamps have a softer, more organic look and each of them contains upto 56 individual LEDs. It’s a similar story at the rear, where the styling is more subdued compared to the W221, and the LED-infused brake lights dim at night or while waiting at traffic lights so as to be kinder on the eyes of drivers behind.

The new LWB S-class uses the same 3165mm wheelbase as the model it replaces. Dimensionally, the new car is 21mm longer, 29mm wider and 11mm higher than before at 5246mm, 1899mm and 1491mm, respectively. Despite this increase in size, some models are 20kg lighter than the old car. This is because the entire outer skin, including the roof, is made out of aluminium, while the internal structure uses a higher percentage of hot-formed multi-gauge steel. Merc also claims it boasts the most rigid body structure in its class.

For starters, interior space is greater than in the current car, the rear doors are visibly larger and the roofline is more steeply raked. The interior consists of as many as 300 LEDs that offer seven hues, five dimming levels and four dimming zones.

The instrument cluster of the new S-class consists of two 12.3-inch TFT screens. The left display shows — in digital form — conventional speedometer and tachometer dials, while the right screen is basically a control screen for the multimedia and sat-nav. There’s a new climate control system called Thermotronic that uses two combined filters — one for fine dust and one made from activated charcoal filters. There is also an ionising system can filter out various viruses and spores while freshening the air.

Structural and suspension components have been specifically designed and manufactured to reduce noise, vibration and harshness.

As expected, Mercedes’ flagship saloon comes loaded with an array of new tech bits that simply point at how much thought goes into the little details. This includes a long list of next-generation electronic and safety features like the illuminated seatbelt buckle that extends automatically and airbags within the belt straps for the rear passengers.

The new S-class comes with five different rear seat package options, and the top-of-the-line package offers a backrest that reclines nearly 45 degrees independently of the bolster and has calf support and a heel rest. This option comes with an airbag within the seat cushion; it’s designed to prevent the occupant sliding forward in the case of an accident. The inclusion of new rear seats that come with an optional reclining function has led to a 30-litre reduction in boot space to 530 litres.

The new S also gets an optional ‘First Class rear package’, which comes with its own centre console that allows control of the front infotainment system from the rear. This package also comes with thermally-controlled cup holders.

Globally, the new S-class will be offered with a choice of powertrians that includes petrol, petrol-electric, diesel and diesel-electric options. All four will come with the seven-speed automatic gearbox from the outgoing model, but with subtle revisions for faster and smoother shifts.

Engine choices include a carryover 3.0-litre V6 diesel with 254bhp in the S 350 BlueTEC (S 350 CDI for India) and a 2.1-litre four-cylinder diesel with 201bhp in combination with a 20kW (27bhp) electric motor for a total output of 228bhp in the S 300 BlueTEC Hybrid. The 4.7 twin-turbo V8 that does duty in the S 500 now comes with 20bhp more, and this engine will also be coupled with a plug-in hybrid system at a later stage.

Additional novelty tech bits in the new S-class include Mercedes-Benz’s optional Magic Body Control (MBC) system. Available as an option, this system comes with cameras mounted within the windscreen that scan the road and detect surface irregularities before automatically adjusting the car’s dampers to reduce body movements, better control roll and pitch, and generally improve overall ride comfort.

The new S-class is also available with an Intelligent Drive package which includes the next generation of features like Active Parking Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Night View Assist Plus, Distronic Plus with Steering Assist, Brake Assist Plus with Cross-Traffic Assist and Pre-Safe Brake with pedestrian recognition.

Optional equipment includes a Comfort package that allows the seats to mimic a hot-stone massage, and also a Warmth and Comfort package that gives you a heated steering wheel and armrests, seats with active ventilation, and power-heated rear seats with memory. Then there’s the range-topping 24-speaker, 1540-watt Burmester 3D sourround sound system, and an Air Balance Package that ionises and filters the air and emits five choices in fragrance throughout the car.

Mercedes-Benz has always aimed to make the best car in the world with the S-class, and with the new car, they have improved upon even that. Expect to see the car in Indian showrooms by 2014.

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