Although still the blue chip choice for luxury saloon buyers, the s-Benz S-class is now the oldest car in the segment. BMW, Audi, Jaguar and even VW have all launched high-tech, high quality rivals within the past three years, and in Britain it faces tough competition from Range Rover.
An all new S-class is on the way, however. Codenamed W221 and due for release in 2006, the new S-class will be bigger – about the same size as the 1991-98 W140 model – more luxurious and boast cutting edge technology, including radar cruise control that works in stop-start traffic, headlights that turn with the front wheels, and electronically monitored crumple zones linked t intelligent airbags. The car may even feature steer-by-wire, if EU regulations requiring a mechanical link between the steering wheel and front wheels are amended.
Under the disguise is an all-steel body with aluminium bonnet, bootlid and doors to reduce weight. The W221 will pick up a number of Maybach styling cues, including the clamshell bootlid and the multi-lens headlights under a single cover. The new car is also said to feature a dramatic swage line along the bodyside, and semi-circular wheelarch extensions.
##spyclass2--right## Inside the new S-class will feature high-tech audio systems, including an MP3 player, and the Comand III control system, which will use a large knob mounted on the centre console to control a host of vehicle functions, much like BMW's much-maligned iDrive. To make room for the Comand III controller, the shift lever for the seven speed automatic transmission will be moved to the steering column, as in the current BMW 7-series.
The new S-class will be powered by a range of new and upgraded V6 and V8 petrol and diesel engines. Top seller – in Europe at least – will be the new S300, which will be powered by a new 231bhp V6 diesel. The 4.0-litre V8 diesel will be boosted to 300bhp. Petrol engines will range from 3.0 to 5.4-litres and 258 to 306bhp. The high performance AMG version will boast a 6.3-litre V8 with more than 600bhp.
All-new W221 body is made of steel, but aluminium used for bonnet, bootlid and doors to reduce weight.
Larger size means more room for occupants. Car will feature iDrive-like controller for third generation Comand system.
Engine line up includes 3.0 V6 and 4.0-litre V8 diesels. Petrol engines will range from 3.0-litre V6 to 5.4-litre V8.
Seventh generation S-class picks up Maybach styling cues, including bootlid and headlight treatment.
High tech chassis includes standard air suspension, brake by wire and possibly steer by wire if European regulations allow.