Review: Mercedes-Benz S-Class
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Review: Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Review: Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Mercedes-Benz has launched the seventh generation of its flagship S-Class, demonstrating its worldview of a car that merges the concepts of uber luxury and next-generation technology

It’s not incorrect to say that Mercedes-Benz is a brand built around the S-Class. Recently, it unveiled a EUR730m Factory 56 in Sindelfingen to begin production of its seventh-generation S-Class model which has been its flagship offering since the seventies. When you’re ready to invest nearly three-quarters of a billion euros, future intent becomes crystal clear.

The new S-Class features an aluminium hybrid bodyshell. As a stately saloon, it has considerable road presence. The long-wheelbase model is now 34mm longer than the outgoing model, 55mm wider and 12mm taller.

As Britta Seeger, a board member at Daimler AG and head of marketing and sales at Mercedes-Benz recently told Gulf Business, Asian markets prefer the long-wheelbase version as nine out of 10 of its customers there are chauffeured. In the Western and American markets, however, customers prefer to drive themselves and hence opt for a shorter wheelbase variant.

For those in the driver’s seat, there’s much to be had with the six-cylinder 2.9-litre in-line engine that is being offered at launch with the S450 and S500.

With a power output of 367hp and 435hp respectively, they also produce 500Nm and 520Nm of torque, which result in an average 0-100kph time of 5.1 seconds and 4.9 seconds – helped of course, by the nine-speed automatic gearbox.

Both models get a 22hp boost under acceleration due to the EQ Boost thanks to an integrated starter generator. Another upcoming hybrid version of the S-Class will also be able to deliver 100km of electric range. Mercedes added that a V8 version of the car with a 48V mild-hybrid version will follow shortly. Seeger confirmed that plans are afoot, expectedly, to launch an AMG version of the S-Class, and an eagerly anticipated top-drawer Maybach variant too.

Mercedes-Benz S-Klasse, V223, 2020
A six-cylinder 2.9-litre in-line engine is being offered at launch with the S450 and S500

“Since we launched in 2015, the S-Class Maybach has been a huge success with more than 50,000 units sold since then. We will launch the Maybach this year, with additional distinctive features that will be available on the to-be-launched S-Class Maybach,” says Seeger.

While the Maybach version of the S-Class will make its appearance later in the year, the existing S-Class we now have doesn’t skimp on luxury. For example, it features a new 4D 30-speaker 1,750 watt Burmester high-end audio system. The fourth-dimension effect comes by way of the bass, which apart from the 400 watt subwoofer, is also fed through the pores of the seat through built-in vibrators.

Each of those seats, by the way, are controlled by 18 individual motors and have 10 different massage options – it beats business class seats in an aircraft by a long way.

But for a passenger within the car, one of the biggest highlights will be the revamped user interface – the MBUX. Mercedes says that it has increased the computing power of MBUX by 50 per cent compared to the outgoing model. There were reportedly over 30 million lines of code written by hundreds of engineers as they fine-tuned the processes of the car that go far beyond changing the cabin’s ambient lighting or turning down the AC.

Mercedes has eliminated 27 analogue controls from the car and replaced them with gesture controls and swipes – a gesture can be used to open the sunroof, or with only a swipe, the driver can transfer the entire infotainment display from the front console to the rear-seat passenger’s screen.

Mercedes-Benz S-Klasse, V223, 2020
The long-wheelbase model is now 34mm longer than the outgoing model, 55mm wider and 12mm taller

One of Mercedes’ biggest strengths with the MBUX was to make the system compatible with 27 languages – Arabic included – activated with a straightforward “Hey Mercedes”. It has a natural language understanding feature that allows it to be properly conversational and pick up dialects and pronunciations. No more bloopers of the infotainment displaying the nearest public washroom on the screen, when all you asked was to turn up the music volume.

The MBUX goes further too. By way of an MBUX Smart Home function which uses WLAN and sensors, you can ask Mercedes to check the temperature of your home and whether you left the electric kettle at home on, all while seated in your car.

In China, the MBUX is also being made compatible with payment gateways to allow customers to, for example, order food or groceries, buy movie tickets and even make restaurant reservations from their MBUX itself. The decision to offer unique features to the Chinese market is a conscious one – considering that China is S-Class’ biggest market. “The strongest market for the S-Class are, in order, China, US, South Korea and Germany. In China, we find the youngest customer segment [with an average age of] around 40. Many of them are first-car buyers, and are into new technology,” explains Seeger.

She adds that in South Korea, the S-Class is particularly strong with women, with every fourth S-Class customer in the country being a woman.

The other top markets for the S-Class – the US and Western Europe, especially Germany – show steadfast customer loyalty, with between 70-80 per cent of the car’s buyers there previously owning a Mercedes.

As noteworthy as Factory 56 is, so is Daimler’s Immendingen test track facility that was built in 2018 with an investment of EUR200m.

Spread across 520 hectares, it is here that Mercedes has tested not only some of its most significant safety features (the body of the S-Class automatically rises by 8cm when it detects an imminent side crash, besides deploying rear seat passenger airbags), but is also where it has been testing its autonomous driving capabilities.

Seeger confirmed that they have received regulatory approvals to activate the new S-Class’ Level 3 autonomous driving capabilities on German roads starting next year. This will allow autonomous driving on public roads at speeds of up to 60kph.

The car is equipped with the technology of up to Level 4 autonomous driving, which allows it to self-park in public garages. However, she cautioned that getting necessary regulatory approvals from governments around the world can be a tedious task and might delay the rollout of Level 3 or Level 4 technologies in several markets.

But Seeger says that for highest Level 5 of complete autonomous driving, Mercedes has plans beyond its passenger car fleet. “We have a very clear strategy and logic for the use cases [of Level 5]. One use of Level 5 is less on the passenger car side in crowded city traffic, but a higher use case in our trucks for hub-to-hub delivery.”

A fully autonomous S-Class isn’t a near-term priority, but a fully-electric flagship sibling for the S-Class definitely is. The new EQS with a promised range of around 700km will make an appearance in 2021.

Will the S-Class then finally meet its ultimate competition, and that too from a sibling? “We’ll give a lot of S-Class DNA to the EQS, but in addition we will also show a new interpretation on the interiors and exteriors and include additional features exclusive to the EQS,” Seeger notes, quickly adding, “the S-Class and EQS will not cannibalise each other”.

“The S-Class stands for the core of Mercedes-Benz – it is the tradition and heart of Mercedes-Benz.” The new-generation model makes that abundantly clear.

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