Automotive

Evolutionary styling cloaks smarter semi-autonomous S-Class

Evolutionary styling cloaks sm...
The new Mercedes S-Class, launched in Shanghai
The new Mercedes S-Class, launched in Shanghai
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The new S-Class will launch with four engine options
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The new S-Class will launch with four engine options
Mercedes has reworked the taillights on the S-Class, but the changes are minimal 
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Mercedes has reworked the taillights on the S-Class, but the changes are minimal 
The headlamps on the new S-Class can light further up the road
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The headlamps on the new S-Class can light further up the road
Mercedes says the new S-Class has a reworked tail end, but the changes are hard to spot
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Mercedes says the new S-Class has a reworked tail end, but the changes are hard to spot
Things haven't changed much behind the wheel of the S-Class
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Things haven't changed much behind the wheel of the S-Class
Backseat drivers are well looked after in the S-Class 
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Backseat drivers are well looked after in the S-Class 
The S63 AMG is a turbocharged monster of a limousine 
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The S63 AMG is a turbocharged monster of a limousine 
The beating heart of the S63 AMG 
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The beating heart of the S63 AMG 
The S-Class launched in Shanghai 
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The S-Class launched in Shanghai 
Mercedes has tried to move the game on with the semi-autonomous systems in the S-Class 
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Mercedes has tried to move the game on with the semi-autonomous systems in the S-Class 
A closer look at the redesigned tail lights on the S-Class 
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A closer look at the redesigned tail lights on the S-Class 
The Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is all about quilted leather and beautiful wood 
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The Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is all about quilted leather and beautiful wood 
The backseat of the S-Class Maybach wouldn't look out of place in a business jet
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The backseat of the S-Class Maybach wouldn't look out of place in a business jet
The S-Class is still big and mean, but the design has been refined for 2017
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The S-Class is still big and mean, but the design has been refined for 2017
The new Mercedes S-Class, launched in Shanghai
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The new Mercedes S-Class, launched in Shanghai
The new S-Class will be available with four different engines when it launches
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The new S-Class will be available with four different engines when it launches
The S-Class is offered with two different diesel options 
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The S-Class is offered with two different diesel options 
The rear end of the S-Class has been mildly redesigned
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The rear end of the S-Class has been mildly redesigned
Mercedes has redesigned the headlamps on the S-Class 
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Mercedes has redesigned the headlamps on the S-Class 
Behind the wheel of the new S-Class 
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Behind the wheel of the new S-Class 
Mercedes has expanded the range of trim options on the S-Class 
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Mercedes has expanded the range of trim options on the S-Class 
The cruise controls on the S-Class have been moved to the steering wheel 
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The cruise controls on the S-Class have been moved to the steering wheel 
Mercedes has refined the steering wheel design from the E-Class for the new S-Class  
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Mercedes has refined the steering wheel design from the E-Class for the new S-Class  
Rear seat passengers are well looked after in the S-Class 
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Rear seat passengers are well looked after in the S-Class 
The controller in the S-Class is standard across the Mercedes range 
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The controller in the S-Class is standard across the Mercedes range 
The S-Class is still the king of the limousines 
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The S-Class is still the king of the limousines 
Mercedes will be pitting the S-Class against the BMW 7 Series and Audi A8
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Mercedes will be pitting the S-Class against the BMW 7 Series and Audi A8
The wheels on the S-Class are similar to those on the E-Class 
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The wheels on the S-Class are similar to those on the E-Class 
The lines of the S-Class have inspired the current generation of Mercedes designs 
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The lines of the S-Class have inspired the current generation of Mercedes designs 
The S-Class does its best work in black, with a chauffeur behind the wheel
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The S-Class does its best work in black, with a chauffeur behind the wheel
The rear of the S-Class has been mildly redesigned 
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The rear of the S-Class has been mildly redesigned 
The rear bumper and exhaust pipes of the S-Class have been redesigned 
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The rear bumper and exhaust pipes of the S-Class have been redesigned 
The S-Class does its best work in black, with a chauffeur behind the wheel
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The S-Class does its best work in black, with a chauffeur behind the wheel
The long-wheelbase Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is all about rear-seat passengers
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The long-wheelbase Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is all about rear-seat passengers
Just in case you weren't sure, there is a Maybach version of the S-Class 
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Just in case you weren't sure, there is a Maybach version of the S-Class 
The new headlamps for the S-Class 
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The new headlamps for the S-Class 

The Mercedes S-Class has always been a technology leader. Since the nameplate debuted in 1972, each generation has served as a launchpad for the features that, eventually, filter down to cars mere mortals can afford. Anti-lock brakes debuted in the S-Class, as did stability control. The latest iteration is evolutionary on the outside, but the real progress lies in semi-autonomous technology lurking under the skin.

In normal driving, the improvements made to the S-Class aren't instantly apparent. But Mercedes has worked on refining the (already impressive) semi-autonomous suite from the E-Class, broadening its operating window to work at much higher speeds. Adaptive cruise control and its self-steering function will now operate up to 210 km/h (130 mph) on the autobahn, jumping up from 200 km/h (124 mph) on the E-Class, and comfortably usurping the 140 km/h (80 mph) limit on Tesla Autopilot.

The system will automatically slow for junctions, roundabouts, toll booths and, if the driver has programmed a destination into the nav, the correct motorway exit. When the system detects a hill, the car will automatically lift off the throttle to save fuel, and anyone with points on their license will be pleased to know the cruise control automatically adapts to changing speed signs.

Mercedes says the new S-Class has a reworked tail end, but the changes are hard to spot
Mercedes says the new S-Class has a reworked tail end, but the changes are hard to spot

Four engines will be available at launch, starting with the S350d. Powered by an inline six, the entry-level diesel makes 210 kW (286 hp) and 600 Nm, and sips just 5.5 l/100 km (43 mpg) on the combined cycle. Jumping to the S400d brings another 40 kW (54 hp) and 100 Nm to the table, and adds just 0.1 l/100 km (0.76 mpg) to that fuel use figure.

Forget diesel though, true high-rollers are likely to want a big V8 gasoline engine. Two will be available initially, starting with the all-wheel drive S560. It makes 345 kW (469 hp) of power and 700 Nm of torque, but the fuel figure balloons to 8.5 l/100 km (27.7 mpg) on the combined cycle. The daddy of the range is the S63 AMG, though, with its hulking 450 kW (612 hp) and 900 Nm of torque from its turbocharged V8 that ups fuel consumption to 8.9 l/100 km (26.4 mpg). If past AMG flagships are anything to go by the engine could potentially make even more torque, but it's been held back to protect the driveline. Still, 900 Nm should be sufficient for most people.

Given the changes are so significant under the skin, Mercedes has been remarkably restrained on the styling front. The basic shape of the car is the same, although the headlamps have been completely redesigned with a new three-line look. An optional LED Ultra Range headlight system creates a beam more than 650 m (2,133 ft) up the road. It's combined with high-beam assist, which can black out individual elements in the headlights to make sure oncoming cars aren't dazzled.

The taillights have been given a makeover as well, but you'd have to be a trainspotter to notice them. There's also a new rear bumper design with integrated tailpipes, but saying the tweak is subtle would be an understatement. Then again, there wasn't really anything wrong with the existing design, so it makes sense for Mercedes to stick with the formula.

The Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is all about quilted leather and beautiful wood 
The Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is all about quilted leather and beautiful wood 

An evolutionary approach has also been taken inside, where designers have limited their changes to a new steering wheel and some new material finishes. The new wheel is similar to that of the E-Class, but further refines the dual-touchpad design. It also includes cruise control buttons, a change from the traditional column-stalk controls used in other Mercedes cars.

Just like the current car, the amount of cabin customization options is almost endless. Drivers can choose from no less than 64 different colors for the interior ambient lighting, and the digital instrument binnacle can be set up in three different ways depending on the type of driving. All the materials look to be top-quality, and if they don't meet your standards the team at Mercedes is ready and waiting to make your every wish come true... for a price.

None of this is strictly necessary, but luxury limousines like this have always been about excess, and the S-Class certainly delivers in that department. The upcoming Audi A8 would want to be seriously good if it's to come anywhere close.

The latest S-Class is on show at Auto Shanghai. No pricing information has been announced, but expect it to remain largely the same as the current model, which kicks off around US$98,000.

Source: Daimler

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