With its new S-Class generation, Mercedes-Benz is pushing hard to up the ante in the long-battled luxury field. A radically new BMW 7 Series couldn’t come any sooner to live to the major challenge set by the all-time Stuttgart enemy. In terms of exterior, the new S-Class is exactly what most of the traditional buyers of the luxobarge expects: classic evolution, not revolution.

Compared to initial, grainy leaked photos, the official pics revealing the Stuttgart flagship do it justice. The W 223 generation, as the new S-Class is internally dubbed, exudes an understated elegance and some pretty refined design features. The classic, chrome radiator grille with thin, horizontal louvres has grown in size and looks tridimensional in comparison to the outgoing W 222 model generation.

An Evolutionary Design

The fresh appearance is further completed by the revised headlights equipped with the intelligent DIGITAL LIGHT technology and the overall clean surfacing of the front end.

The silhouette of the new S-Class follows the general rules of Mercedes-Benz styling: an overall sober and slender attitude, with a curved roofline. To further suggest the sheer size of the car, a new, straight character line running along the waist part of the side profile has been added. Other than these, the design is plain simple and puristic, without many cues to make it more attractive.

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The integrated door handles, with electrical operation, are a nice addition. But the new exterior mirrors are awkwardly small compared to the current model and don’t inspire too much power and prominence as they should.

Things get more complicated at the back end, where the styling philosophy is really not doing the car a whole lot of justice. Of course, some cues and details are sharper, but in my opinion, the design should have been better sorted out. The triangular lamps don’t look and feel as exquisite and upscale as they should have. The chrome line running across the tailgate is, however, adding a note of balance and premium.

Overall, at least in terms of exterior styling, the new S-Class looks as expected: sovereign, clean, pure, in typical Mercedes-Benz fashion, but to my taste, a bit soft and too bland. It will certainly give some headaches at Munich, even though the G70/G71 7 Series expected to launch in 2022 is shaping up to be a revolutionary product.

A Digital Revolution Inside The Cabin

Going inside, a digital revolution awaits the clients of the new W 223 S-Class. Personally, I am not fond of the rough integration of the large dashboard screens, as it feels a bit like an afterthought. We get a big slab of wood and some attractive interior lighting, that helps counteract the shortcomings of the new MBUX control display. But, the central air vents look a bit sub-par and cheap, not in line with the S-Class luxury claims.

The tilt angle and the positioning of the central screen below the eyesight are as well pretty problematic and it remains to be seen IRL if they are as useful as they are marketed by Mercedes-Benz. Of course, the new S-Class also brings in a new telematics concept, based on a revamped MBUX infotainment interface. The graphics are a bit outdated, to my taste, even though the employed technology is easily the best-in-business today.

Other than these minor negatives, the S-Class should feel on purpose inside, thanks to the enhanced feel-good atmosphere delivered by the ENERGIZING COMFORT dedicated program and the overall exquisite build quality, ensuring a smooth and serene travel experience.

The S-Class also brings an extensive development in autonomous driving systems with the new DRIVE PILOT and further improving the active and passive safety through the upgraded PRE-SAFE. It is said that, when needed regulations go into force in Germany, the new S-Class will be capable of SAE Level 3 autonomous driving. The luxury flagship also premieres the innovative airbag for the rear seats and the front center airbag placed between the seats.

A Wide Range Of Motors

Other technological breakthroughs consists in further enhancement in the PRE-SAFE anticipatory system, the E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL suspension and the real-axle steering (well known from BMW). The new Mercedes-Benz S-Class will also pack a host of new and more efficient 6-cylinder powerplants, running on both petrol and diesel, available from the start of sales.

The 4MATIC all-wheel drive chassis is standard on three versions:

  • the S 450 4MATIC with 367 PS + 22 PS (MHEV)
  • the S 500 4MATIC with 435 PS + 22 PS (MHEV)
  • the S 400 d 4MATIC with 330 PS

The S 350 d version, which develops 286 PS, comes standard with RWD, whereas 4MATIC is available as an option. Of course, a new variant with V8 power and 48-volt mild hybrid technology and a new plug-in hybrid EQ Performance version with a predicted range of 100 kilometers will also be available from 2021. An all-electric EQS is due for next year as well.

All in all, the new S-Class redefines the luxury segment with the ground-breaking technology it brings into series production. As always, there’ll be a hard time for the other two major competitors: the BMW 7 Series and Audi A8.

But, BMW fans should cheer up, as time is known to fly rather quickly. The current 7 Series is still a mindblowing luxury flagship, with great virtues on its side. And the new generation coming in 2022 is certain to shake up the luxury class significantly, like the E65/E66 did in 2001.

[Source: Daimler AG / GCF]