Hubert Burda Media

New Mercedes S-Class: Driver Optional (Well, Almost)

An enhanced suite of assistance systems on the latest über-Benz brings us closer than ever to full autonomy.

If Mercedes’s regal S-class has traditionally served as a showcase for the German automobile manufacturer’s most cutting-edge technologies, that role was briefly usurped by the latest E-class on its launch early last year. However, a mid-life facelift to the S-class, which was revealed to the world’s media in July, has restored the natural order, so that the big Benz now comes with a formidable suite of assistance systems that brings us one step closer to genuinely autonomous driving.

While revisions to the car’s exterior are minimal, major changes beneath the sheet metal include a new range of inline, six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines that share the basic architecture of the company’s current four-pot motors (and will thus presumably permit the manufacture of more economical three-cylinder units) and feature advanced 48-volt electronics, and the adoption of nine-speed gearboxes over the previous seven-speed torque-converter auto. The cabin sees significant improvements, too, including a single TFT screen that takes up almost two-thirds of the dashboard, a more sporting three-spoke steering wheel, an enhanced range of driving, display and cabin-comfort menus, and even more luxurious interior-trim options.

For more details of the new S-class, you’ll need to read our review in the September issue of Prestige. We will, however, simply say that this is the most impressive, refined and intelligent über-Merc we’ve ever ridden in – which is only as it should be, as both BMW’s 7-series and the incoming, all-new Audi A8 (not to forget the next-generation Lexus LS just around the corner) should pose even stiffer competition to the class-leading Benz flagship than at any time in the model’s 45-year history.