The new engines really are new, as Mercedes retires its long-serving V6s in favour of classic straight-six prime movers in both petrol and diesel featuring a new 48-volt integrated starter/alternator and an electric booster compressor to obviate turbo lag, along with a new twin-turbo four-litre petrol V8 and an updated S500e plug-in hybrid, its battery and electronics updated to give it a pure electric range of up to 50km.
Market launch in Europe is scheduled for July, release in South Africa for the first quarter of 2018.
Flight-deck layout has been simplified with a new steering wheel and one wide virtual dashboard display, rather than two separate screens as well as touchpad updates and new trim options.
But it’s what happens on the screens (and the head-up display), rather than the hardware, that’s been more significantly updated.
Mercedes calls it “another step towards autonomous driving”, and it’s not really an overstatement. Active proximity control and active steering assistance provide more comfortable, less intrusive support to help you stay in lane and keep a safe following distance, while also using GPS navigation to look further than you can see and adjust your speed ahead of corners and intersections.
Just one tap on the indicator stalk will initiate an autonomous lane change – but only after the car has checked all the blind spots and ascertained that there are no vehicles in the way; if it can’t do that within 10 seconds, the move will be cancelled.
The new S-Class does insist that you help drive, however; if you engage the active steering assist function and sit there without making any inputs for long enough, the car will brake to a stop. It will also stop dead in heavy traffic for up to 30 seconds at a time, and then smoothly pick up again when the traffic ahead starts moving.
Beep on request
The system will also warn you about posted speed limits, no-overtaking signs and no-entry signs; it will warn you if there’s a pedestrian near an upcoming zebra crossing, and it can even beep to warn you whenever you’re exceeding the speed limit (but only on request!).
The new S-Class will also steer itself into and out of parallel or end-on parking or garages, forwards or backwards, either with you in it or remotely via your phone – as in when somebody else has parked too close and you can’t get in.
And in Explore mode it can manoeuvre forward and back for up to 15 metres, avoiding obstacles with small steering corrections.