The minor facelift sees a reshaped radiator grille and multibeam LED headlamps with three light bars as a prominent design feature. Optional ultra range high beams illuminate the road up to 650 metres ahead. The front and rear bumpers are redesigned too, and though the facelift seems mild there’s been a lot of under-the-skin work with a total of 6500 new components.
The new S-Class range, including the top-of-the-range Maybach models, adopts a world-first new feature called Energizing Comfort which links various onboard comfort systems together. It means that, instead of separately setting the climate control, ambience lighting, massage and fragrancing functions, customers can quicky configure a specific ‘wellness set-up’ to suit their mood.
Also new is the Ask Mercedes app, an augmented reality overlay that, when you hover your smartphone camera over the dashboard or steering wheel, tells you what the car’s various buttons do - basically a simplified owner’s manual. It’s currenly available for iPhones and will be available for Android users from next month.
Two new high-resolution displays under one shared glass cover blend into a fully-digital cockpit, which allows the driver to set three different display styles for the instrument panel: Classic, Sporty and Progressive.
New touch-sensitive buttons in the steering wheel respond to swiping motions like the screen of a Blackberry phone (remember those?), and enable the driver to control the infotainment system without having to take their hands off the steering wheel.
The infotainment system can also be operated via the touchpad controller in the centre console and by voice commands. This updated Linguatronic voice control now recognises 450 different commands, leading us ever closer to a buttons-bereft day where we can interact with our cars by simply chatting to them.
The semi-autonomous driving functions have been updated, and the active cruise control now uses more map and navigation data to adjust the vehicle speed automatically ahead of bends or junctions.
A new Concierge Service gives participating customers a wealth of personalised assistance: from making restaurant reservations and obtaining tips about tourist routes, to gathering information on sporting events and sending navigation destinations directly to the vehicle. It’s activated simply by pressing a button in the overhead control panel.
The navigation system includes Live Traffic Information but the nav in the test cars we drove at the launch was abominable, and seemingly intent on getting us lost.
There’s been a shakeup in the power department, starting with a new three-litre inline six-cylinder turbo slotting in as the new baseline petrol engine, and badged the S450. Replacing the old 3-litre V6 turbo that powered the outgoing S400, power and torque have been hiked to 270kW and 500Nm (from 245kW and 480Nm).
The new S560 replaces the old S500, and though the V8 turbo’s cubic capacity has dropped from 4.7 to 4.0 litres, power has increased from 335kW to 345kW, with torque output staying the same at 700Nm. Fuel consumption’s dropped by around ten percent due to a system that deactivates four of the eight cylinders under partial load.
The S600 model retains its silky but powerful 390kW/830Nm turbocharged six-litre V12, but if that’s still not enough to rock your world, there’s the Maybach 650 version which pumps 463kW and 1000Nm.
There are also two AMG derivatives, the S63 and S65. The V8 turbo engine in the S63 has shrunk from 5.5 to 4.0 litres but power’s grown to 450kW (from 430kW) while torque remains at 900Nm. The S65 retains its 463kW/1000Nm turbocharged six-litre V12.
A new inline six-cylinder diesel replaces the old V6, and this three-litre engine’s available in two flavours: it’s rated for 210kW/600Nm version in the S350d, and 250kW/700Nm in the S400d - the latter is the most powerful series production car diesel engine ever offered by Mercedes-Benz. Fuel consumption in these two heavies is claimed to respectively be just 5.5 and 5.6 litres per 100km.
All variants of the new S-Class (with the exception of the twelve-cylinder models which get the 7G-Tronic) have their power transferred by the 9G-Tronic automatic transmission.
All S-Class models sold in South Africa are long-wheelbase versions with a length of 5255mm. But it’s the even longer 5462mm Maybach models that most local customers opt for, and these are available in S560 and S650 derivatives. The ultimate indulgence for politicians and plutocrats, the Maybach lays on mega rear legroom in lazyboy-style chairs that can be reclined like business class seats on an airplane. With the Chauffeur package the front passenger seat can be moved forward electrically by up to 77 mm. All while scorching silently from 0-100km/* in just 4.7 seconds.
Standard-fit air suspension continuously adapts the ride to suit road and driving conditions. The Magic Body Control suspension optionally available for the eight-cylinder models features a camera that scans the road ahead and pre-emptively sets the suspension before it even hits the bump. It’s a remarkable system that has a marked improvement on ride comfort.
Available in the S-Class for the first time is a Curve Tilting function where the vehicle leans into bends like a motorcyclist or skier. It reduces the lateral acceleration acting upon occupants much like driving on a banked curve.
|S350 d||R1 620 000|
|S400 d||R1 690 000|
|S450 L||R1 620 000|
|S560 L||R2 040 000|
|S600 L||R2 760 000|
|Maybach S560||R2 450 000|
|Maybach S650||R3 210 000|
|S63 AMG||R2 760 000|
|S65 AMG||R3 410 000|
These prices include a six-year or 100 000 maintenance plan.