Images of a thinly-disguised Mercedes-Benz S-Class has popped up on the Internet, but don’t be fooled by the understated, evolutionary exterior styling of the upcoming W223 – its interior is revolutionary, replete with a gigantic infotainment system tablet that sprouts from the first-class sedan's centre console.
These images were posted on the Spanish blogsite Cochespias, which, you may remember, also gave us the first glimpse of the upcoming Volkswagen Golf 8 R. Apparently, this black pre-production unit of the next S-Class was covertly photographed in the vicinity of one of Benz’ manufacturing plants.
Expected to be unveiled internationally late in 2021, the W223 is based on a substantially updated version of the brand’s MRA (Modular Rear-wheel drive Architecture) platform, which should yield weight-savings over its predecessor and it is rumoured that the newcomer will be offered exclusively in long-wheelbase guise, which should give it a stately overall length of about 5.3 metres.
The S-Class remains a symbol of restrained luxury and upper-crust motoring; its understated styling reflects that.
Compared with the bold new nose treatment of facelifted BMW 7 Series, the Benz’s styling is largely evolutionary; its front end looks more flat-faced (bluff-nosed) than the W222, with smaller LED headlamps flanking a new-look grille. At the back, meanwhile, the most obvious change is a pair of CLS-inspired tail lamps and recent spy shots suggest the car may feature pop-out door handles.
But the biggest revelation, however, is the new S-Class’ revolutionary – and minimalist – cockpit, replete with smooth touch-capacitive surfaces. Benz has introduced a sweeping tiered dashboard; the top plane features a quartet of square vents top and centre, while the lower pane has chunky vertical vents at either end.
We're astonished by the minimalist layout of the S-Class' cabin, even the ventilation outlets seem to have been made smaller.
An imposing portrait-aspect infotainment display (ostensibly underpinned by the next iteration of the MBUX operating system) sweeps up from the centre console and an all-digital instrument cluster sits behind the steering wheel. If you look closely, you will notice a large well behind the instrument display, which suggests the W223 will feature an advanced, highly-detailed head-up display system.
By blending the high-grade materials with a level of fit and finish once found in significantly more expensive Mercedes-Maybach derivatives, the new S-Class is expected to leap back to the top of its rarefied class for luxury and quality.
Under the bonnet, expect to find a full range of electrified powertrains with even the entry-level derivative featuring the Three-pointed Star’s 48V mild-hybrid electric architecture. We expect to see a 3.0-litre inline-6 turbopetrol and a 2.9-litre inline-6 turbodiesel, while the biggest motor is unlikely to be a V12 (owing to the impact of stricter European emissions regulations), so the headlining powerplant will probably be a beefed-up AMG twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8.
This pre-production example of the new S-Class was equipped with a rear entertainment system and 4-zone climate control.
The W223 will probably be produced in RWD as well as all-wheel-drive guises and, from the global launch in late 2021, Benz will also offer full plug-in hybrid versions. Surprisingly, there is unlikely to be a battery electric vehicle (BEV) version of the next S-Class, because Benz has been developing its next first-class sedan in tandem with the EQS – a flagship “4-door coupe” that sits on the manufacturer's dedicated MEA (modular electric architecture) platform.
The W223 will introduce, inter alia, Level 3 Highway Assist autonomous driving technology, the next version of AirMatic+ active suspension (it scans the road to pre-arm the air suspension and dampers for bumps ahead), as well as new active anti-roll bars that facilitate flat cornering, even at higher speeds than the current S-Class can.
We expect the new S-Class will reach South African showrooms in the first quarter of 2021.