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Spyshot: Bigger and bolder high-tech S-class

The world’s best-selling limousine – the Mercedes-Benz S-class – bows out next year, to be replaced by this bigger, bolder-looking saloon, bristling with new technology.

Codenamed W221, the new generation S-class hits showrooms in late 2005. Its mighty proportions – and pronounced clamshell boot, rear pillar design and contoured bonnet – hint at a mini-Maybach. Both offer space galore, as the S grows in all directions.

Mercedes continues to pursue its more aggressive design direction. Out go the peanut headlamps for edgier, more geometric shaped units, while the pronounced accent line along the body is shared with the new CLS and A-class. The S won’t want for power. The flagship V12s are the Maybach’s turbocharged 5.5-litre units, producing 543bhp, and the more ballistic S65 AMG model at 612bhp.

New powerplants include a 5.5-litre V8 400bhp petrol and a 231bhp 3.0-litre V6 common-rail diesel. The 4.0-litre V8 oilburner offered on the mainland is uprated to 300bhp, while the entry-level petrol unit is the 272bhp 3.5-litre V6, introduced in the SLK Mk II.

The torquey V12s get a six-speed auto ‘box, while the 7G-Tronic seven-speed shifter can handle the lesser grunt of the six- and eight-pots.

The new rear-wheel drive chassis is packed with gadgets. New tech includes Mercedes’ answer to BMW’s Active Steering system, and cruise control with an autopilot function, where the S-class inches along automatically in a jam. Meanwhile, cameras in the rear bumper, grille and wing mirrors give 360-degree coverage, to avoid those parking dings. All the gizmos will be controlled by an iDrive-style uber-controller.

Airmatic air suspension will be standard, while the latest version of Active Body Control is an option. Sources hint there could be one high profile casualty, amid all the trickery. The SBC brake-by-wire system, affected by glitches in the SL and E-class, could be replaced by conventional hydraulic brakes.

TECHNOLOGY

Expect acronym hell, as gadgets include 360 degree cameras, BMW-style active steering and cruise control with autopilot.

Air springs will be standard.

ENGINES

Range kicks off with 272bhp 3.5 V6 petrol, and includes new 400bhp V8 and two V12s. Diesel power comes from new 231bhp V6 and 400bhp V8.

DESIGN

Imposing new look mixes edgy headlamps with deep grille, while Merc’s signature swage line adorns the bodywork. Vast rump resembles Maybach’s.

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