After the spying of test mules nearly two years ago, spotting of heavily camouflaged prototypes, leaks detailing the interior and exterior in full and official teasers, Mercedes-Benz has officially unveiled the all-new W223 generation S-Class billed as the smartest and most technologically advanced three-pointed star ever made.
Newly designed from the ground up with very little to nothing in common with its W222 predecessor, the W223 is the also the first generation to be built at Benz’s new factory 56 within the Sindelfingen production facility and, as has been the case of its forbearers, the initiator of a range of new technologies never before offered on any production vehicle.
Styling & Dimensions
Styled as per Mercedes-Benz’s latest Sensual Purity ethos, the S-Class, as seen in the most recent uncovered spy shots three months ago, sports an evolutionary design at the front in the shape of a wider but flatter grille that hides a plethora of sensors and cameras, an expansive lower air dam, tapering bonnet, pop-out door handles and new headlights with optional “digital light” adaptive LEDs that uses three basic diodes and 1.3-million micro mirrors to project warning signs directly onto the road.
Sporting a look similar to the CLA, E-Class, CLS and the now discontinued S-Class Coupe at the rear, the new S switches to Mercedes-Benz’s second generation MRA platform with its dimensions being as follows; an overall length of 5 179 mm, wheelbase of 3 106 mm, height of 1 503 mm and width of 2 109 mm.
Compared to the W222, the W223 is 54 mm longer overall, 10 mm higher, 70 mm longer in the wheelbase department and 21 mm slimmer. In the case of the long wheelbase L model, the overall length is up by 34 mm to 5 255 mm, the wheelbase by 51 mm to 3 165 mm and width down by the same 21 mm to remain unchanged from the ‘standard’ S-Class. Overall height has been improved by 12 mm to 1 491 mm.
As well as a 36 mm front track gain and 51 mm uptake at the rear, the W223 boasts more interior headroom at the front and rear (one and eight millimetres respectively), 41 mm more legroom in the case of the ‘short wheelbase’ and 24 mm in the L , and 20-litres more boot space with a rated capacity of 550-litre regardless of the wheelbase or length.
Tech and features
Unsurprisingly, the tech in the S-Class takes centre stage with the W223 being the first to rely solely on a pair of display screens with only a few buttons present being for so-called critical functions. According to Benz, the cabin has 27 less buttons and dials than the W222.
Pride of place is the second generation MBUX infotainment system encased in a new 11.9-inch or optional 12.8-inch tablet-like OLED display, which has been relocated from the dashboard to the transmission tunnel; its traditional position now occupied by four air vents.
As well as over-the-air-updates, the system boasts an improved Hey Mercedes voice recognition system, which can be used to adjust all four seats individually. Located behind the new steering wheel, which comes with a track pad that senses when the driver’s hands are off or on, the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster can be optionally fitted with two cameras, which monitors the driver’s eye position that results in the creation of a 3D effect.
Even more impressive is the option of two Heads-Up Display systems, with the latter boasting an augmented reality navigation setup and a diagonal display equal to 77-inches at up to 10 metres away. Not as impressive but still noteworthy, the ambient lighting system boasts fibre optics every 15 mm which Mercedes-Benz claims ultimately results in a single line of lights throughout the cabin.
The tech fest doesn’t stop there though with four display settings for the instrument cluster; Classic, Discreet, Exclusive and Sporty, 19 electric motors for the front seats alone and up to ten massage settings as well as five levels of heating, plus an optional 30-speaker, 1 750-watt Burmester 4D surround sound system.
Aside from the selection of material options and colours that range from leather to Alcantara and from wood to aluminium and carbon fibre inlays, those seated in the rear are privy to two 11.6-inch displays with the option of having the centre seat replaced by a console which amongst others, contains a removable seven-inch MBUX tablet that controls the various functions of the main system.
Safety and Driver Assistance
Keeping its mantra of introducing industry firsts, the biggest safety highlight of the W223 is a new forward facing airbag system for those seated in the rear. Mounted in the rear of the front seats, the bags are said to deploy less violent than conventional airbags, while in another first, an inflatable belt strap can be selected as an option with its inclusion, according to Mercedes-Benz, resulting in the even distribution of load “on the upper body over a wider area”.
Further equipped with Adaptive Cruise Control, Active Blind Spot Assist, Autonomous Emergency Braking with Cyclist and Pedestrian Detection, Lane Keep Assist, Active Steering Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition, Front and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Active Blind Spot Monitoring and the new Pre-Safe Impulse Control system, the W223, where permitted, comes with Mercedes-Benz’s new Drive Pilot system that results in it being capable of Level 3 Autonomous driving, in other words, complete hands-off of the wheel driving, initially at speeds up to 60 km/h. However, drivers still have to take control where needed.
Not just wearing a technologically advanced suit
Its shift towards a new platform has also culminated in a series of changes underneath the W223’s skin when compared to the W222. With the body being made largely out of aluminium, rear-wheel-steering comes optionally fitted along with the new E-Active Body Control system that debuted on the GLS, which uses a 48-volt electrical system in conjunction with the standard Airmatic air suspension to improve not only the ride, but using sensors, to scan the road ahead in order to adjust the dampers depending on the surface.
Utilising a four-link front suspension setup and a multi-link independent at the rear, the W223’s use of aluminium extends to the rear axle and cross bar, while the steering has been recalibrated and the Airmatic system itself revised to include three modes; Comfort that lowers the ride height by 10 mm at speeds above 120 km/h and by another 10 mm at 160 km/h, Sport that drops the height by 10 mm and Sport+ that does the same but by 17 mm.
Along with the rear-wheel steering and the E-Active Body Control that replaces the W222’s Magic Carpet Ride setup, the W223 is claimed to be as agile as an A-Class in a tight space with a steering angle of 10 degrees.
Underneath its bonnet, the W223 will initially be powered only by the EQ Boost mild-hybrid M256 3.0-litre straight-six turbocharged petrol engine and the 2.9-litre OM 656 straight-six turbodiesel with a full hybrid and electrified V8 joining at a later stage. Regardless though, all are paired to the 9G tronic automatic gearbox with the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system being standard on all bar the entry level oil-burner.
Replacing famous monikers such as S350 and S400, the S450 serves as the entry-level S-Class with its inline-six pumping out 270kW/500Nm, while that of the S500 delivers 320kW/520Nm. As per the EQ Boost designation, an additional 16kW/250Nm is offered for short burst. On the diesel side, the heavily revised OM 656 is offered in two states of tune; 210kW/600Nm in the S350 and S350d 4Matic and 243kW/700Nm in the S400d.
In terms of performance, all models are limited to 250 km/h with the S450 taking 5.1 seconds to reach 100 km/h from standstill and the S500 4.9 seconds. Acceleration times for the diesels are 6.4 seconds for the S350d, 6.2 seconds for the S350d 4Matic and 5.4 seconds for the S400d.
Set to go on sale in early 2021 with the AMG and V12-powered Maybach following soon after, the S-Class is likely to arrive on local shores either during the second of third quarter of next year with pricing and spec to be confirmed. Based on the current W222 line-up though, expect a starting price of R2.2-million or R2.5-million for the S350d which currently retails from R1 952 080.