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First Sight: Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Wed, 22 Jun 2005 00:00:00 -0700The new S-Class is replacing a model series which is the world number 1 in the luxury class, and of which around 485,000 have been produced since its introduction in 1998. The previous W220 series was much admired on introduction and still seems competitive to many eyes but will be replaced by the latest model at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.



The new flagship model by Mercedes-Benz is larger than its predecessor in every respect. As before, two versions will be offered: the standard car and a long version with 130mm extended wheelbase.

At launch, four engines will be available - the S 350 with a 3.5-litre V6 (272hp), the S500, with a new V8 unit (388hp), the S 320 CDI with a new V6 diesel (231hp) and the top-of-the-range S 600 V12 (517hp).


Standard transmission for the S-Class will be the 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic.

New technology is a big feature of every new S-Class and this one is no exception. A raft of collision avoidance systems using radar and infra-red is the big story on the latest car, including new Brake Assist PLUS which ensures emergency braking if there's a risk of hitting the vehicle in front, Distronic PLUS cruise control which now also works down to city speeds, night vision using infra red headlamps, and latest PRE-SAFE airbag deployment. The parking sensors also now use radar control.

Dimensions are length 5076mm (+33mm) or 5206mm LWB, width 1871mm (+16mm), height 1473mm (+29mm) and wheelbase 3035mm (+70mm).


The previous W220 S-Class represented a change in design direction for Mercedes, with a more expressive and elegant style compared to the slab-sided W140 of 1991. The new look S-Class sees a return to simpler body surfaces, with the emphasis on an imposing road presence to distance it from its lesser siblings. Confident and powerful, the design is characterised by bulging wheelarches, as on the new M-Class and a more distinctive rear end that's closer to the Maybach in feeling rather than mainstream Mercedes sedans. In contrast the front end is relatively traditional, featuring headlamps with a simple, sharp outline that cuts back into the front wheelarch bulge and a wide four-bar grille.

The interior is thoroughly modern with an IP that uses two display screens for all information, rather than conventional instruments. Gear selection is now shifted from a column stalk, freeing up console space for a controller similar to BMW's iDrive on the transmission tunnel, which is used to select the main and sub-menus displayed on the center screen. The standard multifunction steering wheel uses circular, illuminated five-way buttons operated by light thumb pressure.


As in the preceding series, the new S-Class introduces technical innovations that make the flagship Mercedes model an example for others to follow. Pioneering safety features and exemplary comfort continue to be the outstanding attributes of the car, while a more imposing, less sporty style signal a slight change of design direction for the S-Class.