With BMW having launched an all-new 7 Series last year and Audi set to renew its A8 flagship for a new model generation, Mercedes-Benz battens its hatches and rolls out a new facelift of its hugely successful W222 S-Class flagship at the ongoing Shanghai Motor Show.
Set to enter European markets in July, the new S-Class receives extensive updates as Mercedes-Benz attempts to ensure that its class-leading flagship continues to stay ahead of its aggressively-chasing rivals. To date, Mercedes has sold 300,000 units of the W222 since its global launch in 2013 – a significant number in its market segment.
On top of significant enhancements of its autonomous driving packages, the S-Class also serves as the platform for Mercedes-Benz to usher in a whole new family of engines that includes, for the first time nearly two decades from the brand, inline-6 engines.
For starters, a 2.9-litre inline-6 diesel is available in two states of tune – 286hp/600Nm powering the S350d and 340hp/700Nm powering the S400d. Built on an aluminium block but running on steel pistons, the engine incorporates two-stage turbocharging and variable valve-lift control.
A petrol-powered 3.0-litre inline-6, codenamed M256, is slated for later introduction. Outputs have yet to be disclosed, although Mercedes has confirmed that two states of tune will be offered. An electric supercharger ensures lag-free boosting, whilst an Integrated Starter Alternator helps recoup energy and deliver sporadic boosts of energy in similar vein to a mild hybrid setup. Its water pump and air-con compressor are electrically-powered too, eliminating the need for belts, but necessitating the use of a 48V electrical architecture.
Higher up the range comes the Mercedes-AMG-developed 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 in two configurations. A ‘detuned’ variant, codenamed M176, goes into the S560 producing 469hp and 700Nm. At the other end of the scale, the same engine is pushed all the way to 612hp/900Nm – eclipsing even the AMG GT’s outputs – to power the AMG S63 variant.
Both V8 engines have cylinder deactivation capability to effectively reduce overall fuel consumption. At low loads, the engine effectively operates as a four-cylinder.
You wouldn’t believe it, but there actually is still a variant of the S-Class with port fuel injection, namely the 6.0-litre V12 AMG S65 producing 630hp and 1,000Nm to tear the rear wheels through Merc’s previous-generation but proven 7G-Tronic 7-speed automatic transmission.
Interestingly, aside from the S65, all other variants of the S-Class revealed at Shanghai are all-wheel driven, from the S350d right up to the AMG S63. The S63’s 4Matic+ system is an AMG-enhanced setup with fully-variable torque split. Right-hand drive markets, however, will eventually receive the S63 exclusively in RWD configuration.
All functions of the S-Class’ autonomous driving assistance systems receive significantly improved calibration. The Distronic active cruise control system now blends in with the vehicle’s in-board satellite data to further refine the smoothness of its speed adjustment. Active steer assist, lane change assist, and autonomous emergency braking have all been tweaked for even smoother operation.