Spy shots

New Mercedes S-class spied – flagship saloon to foreshow Merc’s tech future

Merc’s next-gen flagship saloon spotted with a production body – this is what to expect

Large saloons like the Mercedes S-class might seem to be falling out of favour against the onslaught of large SUVs, but big saloons still have one very important job to do for the big German three – to be technical flagships, a job of particular importance to any all-new S-class. And so, with body-on prototypes now completing on-road testing, the next generation of Mercedes S-class is coming into focus, and so too Merc’s future tech.

What’s immediately clear is that the S-class appears to be holding on to the slatted grille that has been slowly disappearing from other Mercedes models in favour of the sportier single-bar grille. So too the shape appears to resemble the classic upright tapered look, rather than the downturned, or ‘Panamerica’ grille – all signs that the new S-class will maintain its more stately stature. Flanking the grille are slimmer LED headlights that look to include a stronger lighting signature than the current model’s triple stripe.

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The overall shape is familiar though, with an upright cabin, free of sharp creases or aggressive shapes. The windowline actually looks even more upright than the current generation’s, pointing towards an emphasis on rear-seat headroom. The odd box-like extensions where the door handles might otherwise indicate the likely application of retractable door handles, much like those fitted to the all-new Porsche 911, reducing drag and cleaning up the side profile.

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The rear end will more closely follow those of other Mercs in the current range, with a move to horizontal lighting units that flow into the bootlid for the first time in the model’s near 50-year history. But considering that this change in lighting orientation is probably going to be the biggest aesthetic difference for this all-new model, the overall design will doubtless be more of a gentle evolution.

However, expect the interior to be completely new, with an emphasis on digitalisation and connectivity. Insiders have revealed that Mercedes will ditch the current widescreen layout that first debuted on the current S-class in favour of a vast portrait touchscreen flowing up from the centre console and on to the dash. As a result, the S-class will introduce not only a new digital interface, but also a new dash architecture and aesthetic, which should, much like it did before, spread into lesser future models such as the next-generation E-class and all of its derivatives.

The digital dial pack will now sit separately to the main screen behind the steering wheel, where it will complement a new head-up display. Tech derived from the A-class’s new MBUX infotainment system will also apply, including the natty augmented reality feature that could be extended even further in this new generation S-class.

The S-class’s powertrain options remain unknown, but expect a heavy emphasis on electrification in all forms split between mild-hybrid, plug-in hybrid and an all-electric EQ model too, although the latter is unlikely to be available straight away. AMG models will also doubtlessly be offered in V8 form, but it’s very unlikely another V12-powered S65 will return thanks to the low take-up of the previous model, not to mention the constant pressure to reduce the company’s overall fleet CO2 average post-2021.

We’re expecting the all-new S-class to be revealed next year, with sales to start sometime later in 2020. As is usually the case, expect core diesel and plug-in models to be released first, with more derivatives arriving throughout 2020.

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