Competes with: Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS, Maserati Quattroporte
Looks like: The current S-Class with new bumpers, lights, and grilles
Drivetrains: 362-horsepower, twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 (S450); 463-hp, twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 (S560); 603-hp, twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 (AMG S63); or 621-hp, twin-turbo 6.0-liter V-12 (AMG S65); nine-speed automatic (seven-speed in the S65); rear- or all-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Fall 2017
The top dog of the Mercedes-Benz lineup in terms of technology and opulence is the S-Class, and a freshened model has just been unveiled ahead of the Shanghai auto show. The new model gets a minor facelift and updated interior, with some new powertrains, additional safety features and more self-driving technology. Mercedes-Benz has also thrown in a few interesting extras aimed at improving your health, too.
There are four different models of S-Class — the V-6 powered S450, the V-8 S560, the super-luxurious Mercedes-Maybach S560 and S650, and the performance oriented Mercedes-AMG S63 and S65 models. You'll have to look closely to spot the differences from old models to new, differences that include new headlights and taillights, a new grille and updated bumpers for all models. Some have a bit more chrome, but most just have different designs than the previous generations.
Inside, some minor design updates have led to a smoother look for the instrument panel. What was previously two separate pieces of glass covering the two 12.3-inch display screens is now one long, solid, bonded piece that creates a wide, sweeping look to the dash. It ties the reconfigurable gauge cluster display screen into the multimedia screen next to it, and both screens get high-resolution upgrades for better visuals. There are some updated upholstery options as well, including some new trim and color choices.
The big news inside is the new Energizing Comfort option. It ties a number of comfort systems together to supposedly help with passenger wellness, according to Mercedes-Benz. Occupants can choose from one of six preprogrammed settings: Freshness, Warmth, Vitality, Joy, Comfort and Training (of which there are three options — muscle relaxation, muscle activation and balance, all of which apparently involve you exercising in your seat). The system combines the climate control system (including the fragrance delivery system), active seats (with heat, ventilation and massage functions), console heating, LED ambient lighting and special musical themes to adjust the mood of the cabin while driving and during breaks in motion.
Each of the programs runs for 10 minutes and combines preselected music that's already loaded into the multimedia system or can be set to run with the driver's choice of music, evaluated by the system based on beats per minute for suitability to any given program. The central display screen shows a special graphic, while the internal ambient lighting is adjusted along with the internal temperature depending on the lighting selected.
Ten "color worlds" can set the mood, while 64 other colors can be combined in five levels and four zones, using the interior ambient lighting as a design element.
Under the Hood
There are four new or updated powertrains this year, starting with a base twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 making 362 horsepower for the S450. Up from there is a new twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 in the S560, pumping out 463 hp but coming in 10 percent more fuel efficient than the previous V-8 thanks to partial cylinder deactivation that can cut fuel to four of the cylinders.
If you're looking for something more luxurious and smooth, step up to the Mercedes-Maybach model, which can be had with either the 4.0-liter V-8 or a revised twin-turbo 6.0-liter V-12 engine kicking out 621 hp. The V-6 and V-8-powered cars all mate to a nine-speed automatic transmission, with rear- or all-wheel drive (AWD is standard on the Maybach S560). The V-12 gets a seven-speed automatic and is RWD only.
If you like a bit more oomph, opt for the AMG versions. The Mercedes-AMG S63 uses a hand-built version of the 4.0-liter V-8, kicking out 603 hp and enabling a zero-to-60-mph sprint of 3.4 seconds, according to Mercedes-Benz. It has standard AWD and uses the nine-speed automatic transmission. The AMG S65 retains the V-12 found in the Maybach S650 and its 621 hp, mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission, with RWD only.
The S-Class's suspension gets some upgrades as well, with the introduction of a more advanced Magic Body Control. It uses more aggressive, higher resolution cameras to detect the road ahead and adjust the adaptive suspension in milliseconds to maintain a smooth, comfortable ride. It also helps control nosedive on braking and squat on acceleration, aiming for a level vehicle for maximum comfort.
Also new for 2018 is the addition of the Curve feature, previously only found on the S-Class coupe. It tilts the entire body up to 2.65 degrees in the direction of a turn, minimizing centrifugal force on passengers in a curve.
The already significantly autonomous features of the S-Class get a little more advanced with the 2018 model, with the introduction of a more refined Intelligent Drive suite of technologies. The updates are meant to provide a more comfortable level of support for the driver, with smoother operation of the distance-keeping cruise control and active steering assist features, as well as speed adjustments in advance of curves and improved lane change and active emergency stop assist features. It does so by employing navigation system map data to predict upcoming road features, such as a tight bend, allowing the car to slow automatically on the highway before negotiating the turn.
Other updated safety items include a new Ultra Wide Beam feature for the advanced adaptive LED headlights, allowing for greater illumination of the road ahead.
The new S-Class lineup will appear in U.S. dealers by the fall of 2017, with pricing to be announced closer to the on-sale date.