The S-Class is, in fact, the heart of Mercedes, the epitome of brand strength and market success, with the luxury sedan being the world’s best-selling sedan. With the arrival of the new generation W223, the Germans once again claim to have created the “best car in the world.”
The history of the S-class in the company itself goes back to the model type 220 (W187), which appeared about 70 years ago and is available in three different bodies. But the term “S-class” itself was officially introduced in 1972 with the release of the W116 series sedan.
Over the past decade, the S-Class has enjoyed particular popularity in China, the United States, South Korea, and Germany. Since the launch of the W222 sedan, that is, the now outgoing generation, more than 500 thousand copies of the model have been sold. Most of them went to China, where the S-class has the youngest audience of buyers (their average age is about 40 years). Curiously, on a global scale, the long-wheelbase version is sold more actively than the standard sedan – about 9 out of 10 customers decide to buy the S-class with an extended wheelbase.
Like its predecessor, the new S-Class (internal index W223) appears as a classic sedan with carefully calculated proportions. External metamorphoses, since it comes to the change of generations, are very modest and tend to be more like a planned restyling of the previous model – the easiest way to distinguish 223 from 222 is by the shape of the rear lights.
As an option for the S-Class, recessed door handles are now available – they are extended using an electric drive. In itself, such a decision is not new – remember the same Tesla Model S, Porsche Taycan, Jaguar I-Pace or Range Rover Velar. At the same time, the new S-Class is one of the most aerodynamically efficient cars in principle – it has a declared Cx coefficient of 0.22.
The standard S-class version is 5179 mm long, which is 54 mm longer than its predecessor. The wheelbase is extended by 71 mm – up to 3106 mm. In the version with an extended base, the indicators are as follows – 5289 mm in length (+34 mm) and 3216 mm between the axles (+51 mm). Compared to the previous model, the interior width at the driver’s elbow has increased by 38 mm and for the rear passengers by 23 mm. In the rear, headroom has been increased by 16 mm. The trunk volume has grown by 20 liters and is now 550 liters.
The interior is where the developers of the new S-class, as they say, “came off in full”. The former W222 sedan seven years ago shocked many with a pair of 12.3-inch screens that unusually occupied the lion’s share of the front panel – in the S-class of the 2020 model, everything was revised. Instead of the center console, there is a second-generation MBUX vertical 12.8-inch OLED display of the MBUX multimedia system, the computing power of which has increased by 50% compared to the previous version presented in 2018.
By the way, Mercedes has already talked about the features of the new MBUX version, which can have up to five displays. Recall that in addition to the central touchscreen, this is a virtual dashboard display with a 3D effect (which does not require special glasses), as well as two screens available to rear passengers on the backs of the front seats and a tablet in the center armrest, which can function autonomously.
In addition, there are two head-up displays to choose from. The larger version of the display works with augmented reality elements. So, for example, when navigating, virtual animated turning arrows are superimposed on the lane. In this case, the image is perceived to be pushed 10 m forward, and its area, according to the developers, corresponds to a monitor with a diagonal of 77 inches.
New design elements in the S-Class include four flat center air vents with horizontally positioned controls and two narrow vertical air vents along the edges of the dash. The temperature and air distribution in the Thermotronic climate control system is controlled by 17 stepper motors, and the four-zone climate control system has 20 more electric motors in the rear that control the air flaps.
The new S-Class will have five rear seat options. New here is the optional heated headrest cushion available for both rear seats. Up to 19 electric motors contribute to comfort in the front seats – 8 for seat adjustment, 4 for massage and 5 for ventilation, 1 for lumbar support, and another for moving the monitor on the back of the seatback. There are ten different massage programs in total.
New options include active interior lighting, which can flexibly change the color of the LED elements depending, for example, on the air temperature in the passenger compartment or the situation on the road, visually supporting a warning signal when the automatic braking system or lane control is activated. There is also a Burmester surround sound system with 30 speakers and eight exciters (two in the back of each seat, while the sound intensity can be adjusted individually for each seat in the cabin) and new decorative options – for example, natural porous wood veneer, laced with inserts aluminum.
The new S-class is based on an upgraded version of the modular MRA platform (MRA II). The body is of a new aluminum-hybrid design (with more than 50% aluminum). Mercedes also talks about the use of components made from resource-saving materials – their total weight is almost 100 kg. For example, the new Econyl fiber made from reclaimed nylon is used in the manufacture of flooring.
An important innovation in the S-Class chassis is the steering mechanism on the rear axle, which, incidentally, is already on the Audi A8. But for the flagship Mercedes sedan, there will be two options available – with a rear-axle steering angle of up to 4.5 and 10 degrees. In the latter case, the turning circle of the S-Class with an extended wheelbase is reduced by 1.9 m to 10.9 m.
Driver support in the S-Class is provided by a variety of new and improved driver assistance systems. In the second half of 2021, the Drive Pilot road autopilot will be offered for the sedan, which meets the third level of autonomy. And the optionally available E-Active Body Control active suspension now works as part of the Pre-Safe Impulse Side preventive safety complex – when the radar system detects a side collision threat, the body rises up to 80 mm in a few tenths of a second. Mercedes says that this measure reduces the stress on the driver and passengers because the main impact energy will be on much more resistant structural elements in the lower part of the car, including the sill and floor panels.
The new S-Class was the first production car to receive frontal airbags for rear passengers (available as an option for the extended version). They are integrated into the backrests of the front seats and are designed to reduce the stress on the head and neck of passengers in the rear seats in the cabin. In addition to these “airbags” – the central airbag, which is deployed between the front seats in a side collision and prevents the driver and passenger from banging their heads.
At first, the new S-class will be offered with in-line “six” under the hood. These are diesel engines of the OM 656 series with a volume of 2.9 liters on the S 350 d (286 hp and 600 Nm of torque) and S 400 d (330 hp and 700 Nm) versions and M 256 petrol engines in the S 450 modifications (367 hp and 500 Nm) and the S 500 (435 hp and 520 Nm). At the same time, the petrol versions have a 48-volt EQ Boost hybrid system with an integrated starter-generator. All variants have a 9-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive, but the basic diesel version can also be rear-wheel drive. The maximum speed of all versions is limited to 250 km / h, and the fastest in the sprint to the first “hundred” according to the passport is the S 500 (4.9 seconds).
Next year, the range will be expanded – there will be versions with a V8 engine and a plug-in hybrid with an electric range of about 100 km.
Simultaneously with the premiere of the new S-Class in Sindelfingen, the opening ceremony of the new Factory 56 was held, where the new product will be produced. In total, investments in the production site, which took 2.5 years to build, amounted to about 2.1 billion euros. More than 1500 people will work on it in two shifts. A plot of 220 thousand m2 (30 football fields) was allocated for the new plant.
Instead of a classic conveyor belt, the company uses autonomous platforms – in Mercedes they are called automatically guided vehicles (ATS), and more than 400 units are involved in all. The plant is completely digitalized – machines and production equipment are integrated into a common network. In addition, Factory 56 has a completely paperless workflow, which will save about 10 tons of paper annually.
A key feature of the new plant is maximum production flexibility – all stages of the assembly of vehicles with different body types and different types of power plant can be carried out here. Depending on the demand at the enterprise, the production of any model from the Mercedes line can be mastered as soon as possible – from compact cars to full-size crossovers. For integration into the production of a new product and the associated new production and technological equipment, it will only be necessary to change the route of the automatic control system.
In the meantime, the company has confirmed that, following the S-Class, the Factory 56 will begin production of the new Mercedes-Maybach sedan and the luxury EQS electric car.