Taking an example from the idioms book, Mercedes-Benz is still keeping most of the exterior design of the car in the “for me to know and for you to find out” folder, but that doesn’t mean a keen eye won’t see through some of the camouflage.
Compared to the current model, or any other S-Class before it for that matter, the seventh generation of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class will feature one of the largest grilles Mercedes has ever put on a production car.
An S-Class W223 prototype was recently spotted wearing a tad less camouflage than our spy photographers were accustomed to from Mercedes-Benz until now, suggesting that the all-new Sonderklasse is near the end of its development stage.
Most of the important design bits are obviously still heavily covered, but the front-end is now showing the entire contour of its massive grille for the first time.
Luxury cars have really started out-grilling each other lately while their headlights have become slimmer so Mercedes-Benz, as the actual inventor of the engine grille, couldn’t stay behind. The usual suspects comprise cars like the latest Audi A8’s (D5) grille, which is technically its entire front-end, the facelifted BMW 7 Series G11 and the latest Lexus LS with its ever-increasing “Spindle Grille.”
So it happens that the S-Class W223 will join the bandwagon in a similar way, with headlights that are much slimmer than on the current model and an engine grille that takes up a heck of a lot more real estate from its front-end.
We already know that the interior will also be revolutionary (especially for a Mercedes) thanks to spy photos featuring an enormous touch screen on the center console, while most of the exterior is still under wraps.
Using a revamped version of its acclaimed MBUX infotainment system, the giant touch screen is expected to feature haptic feedback and it won’t be the only way for users to interact with the car’s options. That said, there will be very few analog buttons inside, most of the commands being done by voice or by touch. An “air guitar” gesturing system like in the latest 7 Series or some Volkswagen models was also in the works but recent leaks suggest that it’s been dropped.
While the current W222 was known to be the first car to not feature bulbs for its lighting, exterior or interior, the W223 could be the first S-Class with true self-driving capabilities. We’re not talking about SAE Level 4 or 5 autonomous driving since there will still be a steering wheel inside, but highly-advanced Level 3 capabilities. In countries where legislation and infrastructure permit it, you will be able to put down a location in the navigation and most of the inter-city driving will be done without driver input, especially on highways.
In-city handling will be a lot less cumbersome on some versions thanks to an all-wheel-steering system that can virtually reduce the car’s wheelbase by almost a meter, thus offering the turning radius of a compact car in a luxo-barge body.
On the technical side it’s where the party’s at, because the next super-sedan from Stuttgart will lose some cylinders while gaining a lot of power and fuel economy across the range. The traditional V12 will sadly be dropped from the S 600, being replaced by the same 4.0-liter V8 with mild-hybrid capabilities that was recently shown on the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600.
That being said, the hand-built twelve-cylinder is not entirely dead since it will live on powering a Maybach version of the S-Class/ albeit not on all markets. The carmaker has already announced that it will no longer pursue this type of powerplant in the future, so you can rest assured that the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class will truly be a swan song for the twelve-cylinder.
A host of inline-sixes and even hybridized inline-fours will comprise the rest of the engine lineup, in both gasoline and diesel versions, with a plug-in hybrid version also becoming available at some point. Two versions of the V8 in mild-hybrid form will complete the higher end of the lineup. A completely electric S-Class is out of the question, though, because that part will be played by the EQS, which will be built on a dedicated EV platform called EVA (Electric Vehicle Architecture).
Sadly, most of the current S-Class lineup will disappear for various reasons, the most important ones being a lack of steady sales and a severe cost reduction that Daimler is pursuing in the short term. That means that the W223 will not spawn a coupe or a convertible variant anymore, at least for a while. All is not lost, though, as some of the development costs that would have been associated with replacements for those two models will be used for the next SL-Class, set to bring back some of the nameplate’s former glory with the help of Mercedes-AMG.
The short-wheelbase S-Class will also go the way of the Dodo, with the LWB and Mercedes-Maybach being the only two versions comprising the upcoming W223 lineup, at least until 2023 when things may change and Daimler could unlock more investment cash for the most expensive sedan it makes.