What's all this about?
The Mercedes S-Class is ready for its midlife facelift and so the German brand is showing it off for the first time in a saloon-hungry country, China, at the Auto Shanghai motor show. The broad strokes of the update covers new engines and more toys, if such a thing was even possible from the technology-laden 'Best Car in the World'.
Is this the whole S-Class family?
It's the S-Class saloon (in Benz and AMG guises) and the Maybachs for now, but expect these changes to filter into the S-Class Coupe and Cabriolet models before too long. Visually, there are new bumpers and headlights, these latter items being made up of Multibeam LED lamps and Ultra Range High Beam. The grille is also amended, featuring three 'twin-louvre' horizontal lines and some vertical spars behind. If the S-Class has a six- or eight-cylinder engine, only the louvres are chrome, while the V12 cars enjoy chromed spars as well, creating a grid effect for the Merc's nose. At the rear, we have crystal-look LED lights, a redesigned bumper and exhaust pipes framed by a car-wide piece of chrome trim. Seven new alloy wheel designs, of 17 to 20 inches in diameter, are offered.
How about within?
Not much to do with a cabin that's from the very highest echelons of quality, but the 'widescreen' cockpit of the E-Class - with two 12.3-inch high-resolution displays behind a shared glass panel - is brought into play. Now, you might be thinking the S-Class had this feature first, but its TFT screens used to be split by a bank of ancillary switchgear; the seamless display is what makes the difference in the new car.
What's going on with that steering wheel?
In what way?
Well, all those buttons! Isn't it a bit busy?
It is, but that's because Mercedes has moved Distronic adaptive cruise control onto the left-hand spoke and also brought in the twin haptic touchpads to control the widescreen displays. It does leave you with two bulging horizontal arms on the wheel, granted, but when you've got as much technology as there is packed into the S-Class at your disposal, a lot of buttons are, frankly, inevitable. What you might want to hear about is Energising Comfort Control.
This links various main functions, like climate control (including fragrance), seat heating/ventilation/massaging, lighting, music and the armrest heating together and then adjusts them in sync with each other along specific 'wellness' themes. These are Freshness, Warmth, Vitality, Joy, Comfort and, er, Training.
Right, enough of this. Get onto the engines, can you?
The 630hp V12 6.0-litre continues in the Mercedes-AMG S 65 and Maybach variants, so we'll look at the new powerplants. Stepping down from the S 65, you'll find the new Mercedes-AMG S 63. It still has 900Nm, it still has a biturbo V8 and it still makes the S 65 look redundant, mainly because the 63 now uses the 4.0-litre 'hot inside-V' engine of the C 63/E 63/AMG GT, rather than the old 5.5-litre unit. That sees power leap from 585- to 612hp, which is just 18hp shy of the V12. And as '63' AMGs usually drive better than 65s, then having a smaller, more potent V8 in the nose of the S-Class can only be A Very Good Thing.
What about those of us who aren't made of money?
Then you can opt for the evocative badging of the new 4.0-litre V8 biturbo that isn't an AMG. The S 560 (Oh yes! We still go weak in the knees at the sight of a C126 560 SEC...) makes 469hp and 700Nm and, thanks to cylinder deactivation, it can run on four cylinders where required, giving back 33.2mpg and 195g/km of CO2 emissions. The S 63, by the way, can pull the same four-pot trick, with 31.7mpg and 203g/km supposed to be possible.
How about the diesels?
One engine split into two outputs does the work here and the more potent S 400 d is Mercedes' most powerful production diesel yet, churning out 340hp and 700Nm from its 2.9 litres. The same motor produces 286hp and 600Nm in the S 350 d, although fuel economy and emissions are very similar between the two: 50.4mpg and 147g/km for the S 400 d, versus 51.4mpg and 145g/km on the S 350 d.
Is that everything?
Well, we should point out that all the models mentioned come with 4Matic all-wheel drive and, presumably, the 9G-Tronic nine-speed auto on the regular S-Class cars or the 7G-MCT Speedshift for the AMGs. Further semi-autonomous technologies are added to the armoury, in the form of Distronic Active Proximity Control and Active Steer Assist, while the Curve Tilt Function seen on the S-Class Coupe and Cabrio models makes its debut on the saloon for the first time. And these new engines outlined above aren't all - an inline six-cylinder petrol option and a plug-in hybrid with 31 miles of fully electric range are also on the way.
Matt Robinson - 18 Apr 2017