If it wasn't enough of an opulent and technological tour-de-force before, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class leaves no question now. The automaker's flagship sedan gets a makeover for the new model year, with more athletic-looking styling, a host of over-the-top new comfort and convenience features, and updated safety systems.
The sedan is longer, lower and wider than the previous version, but rides on the same wheelbase. The new version makes extensive use of aluminum and weighs in at 4,442 pounds, about 300 pounds less than last year's version.
Mercedes calls the car's styling "a modern embodiment of sensual clarity" but it looks to us like the S-Class borrows heavily from the brand's lineup, with the E-Class' new head- and taillight designs as well as some of the CLS's curves. The sedan also wears a larger, more upright grille and more pronounced wheel arches. Mercedes claims it's also the first vehicle in the world that doesn't use a single traditional light bulb; almost 500 LEDs are used inside and out.
Power comes from a 455-horsepower, twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V-8; it's rated at a potent 516 pounds-feet of torque. It's paired with an eight-speed automatic. Mercedes says it's capable of zero to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and has a top speed limited to 130 mph. No word yet on fuel-economy figures, but expect U.S. versions to include a stop/start system to increase efficiency. The previous S550 used a 429-hp, 4.6-liter direct-injection V-8 and a seven-speed automatic; it's EPA rated at 15/25 mpg city/highway. Mercedes hasn't released information about diesel and hybrid variants for 2014.
New this year is the Magic Body Control option. It uses cameras to scan the road ahead and adjust the suspension damping in anticipation of bumps.
Inside, certain aspects of the cabin should look familiar — circular air vents and plenty of wood and metal accents line the interior. New are two 12.3-inch widescreen displays, one in front of the driver and one on top of the center stack, split by a touch-sensitive keypad with memory functions; the climate controls are also touch-sensitive. Mercedes says its Linguatronic speech recognition system accepts "one shot input" spoken commands and features new text message and email reading capabilities.
New interior features include LED ambient lighting with seven colors, five dimming levels and four different dimming zones; an updated multimedia system, mbrace2; an optional Burmester upgraded sound system; new heated and massaging seats with 14 separately actuated air cushions in the backrest; electrically heated armrests and four-zone climate control. There's also a new Air Balance Package that adds fragrance to the car and adjusts air filtration and ionization levels through the climate-control system.
Safety upgrades for 2014 include rear seat belt airbags and an updated version of the Pre-Safe collision detection system. It detects pedestrians and vehicles and can provide autonomous braking at speeds up to around 30 mph. The 2014 S-Class also features the new generation of the Active Parking Assist system, which provides semiautomatic parallel parking.
Rear-wheel-drive S550 sedans will launch first in September, followed by S550 4Matic all-wheel-drive models in November, followed by S63 AMG versions. Only long-wheelbase versions will be offered in the U.S. No word yet on pricing; base model-year 2013 S550s start at $95,905, including a $905 destination fee.