The new Mercedes-Benz S-Class facelift has finally made its global premiere in Shanghai, bringing with it a plethora of improvements including an updated engine range, new technologies and additional features. According to Mercedes-Benz, its flagship was the best-selling luxury sedan in the world in 2016, and it will certainly want to keep that momentum going.

As before, the S-Class is available with a short wheelbase (W222), long wheelbase (V222) and the even longer wheelbase (X222) Mercedes-Maybach. Mercedes-AMG versions are also offered in the form of the S 63 4Matic+ and S 65, both of which are long-wheelbase versions only.

On the S 63 4Matic+, a 4.0 litre biturbo V8 engine (shared with the AMG GT, C 63 and E 63) provides 612 hp at 5,500-6,000 rpm and 900 Nm of torque at 2,750-4,500 rpm. The mill replaces the previous 5.5 litre biturbo V8, and sends its power to all four wheels via a new nine-speed AMG Speedshift MCT automatic transmission and an AMG Performance 4Matic+ all-wheel drive system.

The more powerful of the two AMG S-Class models – the S 65 – comes with a much, much larger 6.0 litre biturbo V12, which is carried over. Despite its larger capacity, the mill only churns out 630 hp at 4,800-5,400 rpm and 1,000 Nm of torque at 2,300-4,300 rpm, which is just a smidge more than the V8 offering. However, the S 65 is rear-wheel drive only, and employs the older seven-speed AMG Speedshift 7G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission instead.

Both the S 63 4Matic+ and S 65 will hit an electronically-limited top speed of 250 km/h, but with the optional AMG Driver’s Package, that figure climbs to the 300 km/h mark. On its way there, the S 63 4Matic+ will find 100 km/h from a standstill quicker at just 3.5 seconds, while the S 65 makes the same sprint in 4.3 seconds.

Moving away from the high-performance AMG models, the rest of range gets a pair of diesel engines as well as a single petrol option. The latter is a new M176 4.0 litre biturbo V8 engine which provides 469 hp and 700 Nm of torque on the S 560 4Matic (a classic badge making a comeback, replacing the current S 500 and S550, as it’s called in America), while the oil burning route features the OM656 3.0 litre inline six-cylinder engine that offers 286 hp/600 Nm on the S 350 d 4Matic and 340 hp/700 Nm on the S 400 d 4Matic.

Mercedes’ Dynamic Select system is standard on all S-Class models, offering a range of selectable driving modes depending on the situation. Cylinder deactivation is also a function on V8-powered models, which deactivates cylinders two, three, five and eight during partial loads and within engine speeds of between 1,000-3,250 rpm.

In the future, more engines will be offered for the S-Class, including a brand new M256 3.0 litre turbocharged inline six-cylinder petrol engine. The mill, which was announced in October last year, uses a 48V electrical system and features an auxiliary compressor and Integrated Starter-Generator (ISG) for a mild-hybrid setup. The M256 is rated at up to 408 hp and over 500 Nm of torque, with Mercedes saying there will be two output levels offered when it makes its debut on upcoming S-Class variants (rumoured to be the S 400 and S 450).

Aside from that, a plug-in hybrid version of the new S-Class with up to 50 km of all-electric range is on the cards as well. The Earth-friendly S-Class will get an increased battery capacity of 13.3 kWh, a large increment from the current S 500 e’s 8.7 kWh battery pack. The plug-in hybrid version will also pack a 7.2 kW on-board charger to allow for faster charging of the battery.

Engines aside, AMG models also get plenty of high-performance equipment like an expanded Dynamic Select system, AMG-specific suspension, Race Start (launch control), AMG Performance exhaust system, lightweight lithium-ion starter battery and high-performance brakes (ceramic braking system optional).

Now that we’ve gotten the oily bits out of the way, let’s talk looks. As you can tell, the S-Class retains its familiar silhouette when viewed from most angles, but with a few notable differences. For starters, there’s a new three twin-louvre grille (previously a hallmark of V12 S-Classes) at the front of models that pack a six- or eight-cylinder engine. The one with the big V12 gets additional vertical chrome strips in the radiator grille for extra presence.

Below the grille, Maybach and AMG models get their own distinct bumper design, whereby the former is decked out with plenty of chrome trim to “underscore its exceptional status.” As for the high-performance S-Class models, the front apron is further enhanced by what Mercedes calls an expressive jet wing. They are joined by large intakes that help to keep the engines cool (with a mesh cover on the S 65) and a front splitter that reduce lift at the front axle.

Also new at the front are the updated Multibeam LED headlights that now sport a redesigned cluster. The previous single LED light bar has been replaced with a three-bar DRL setup, joined by a single, main lighting unit and a triple LED array beside it.

Mercedes has upgraded the headlights with what is calls Ultra Range main beams that are capable of producing the maximum light intensity permitted by law. The result is, the brightness of the main beams are capable of remaining above the reference value of one lux over a distance of more than 650 metres (beating the 600 metre range of BMW’s Laser Light). The unit can be paired with the optional Intelligent Light System (ILS), which can actively switch off LEDs within the main-beam modules so as not to glare other road users.

On the other end, the S-Class’ taillights retain their familiar cluster shape from before, albeit with new graphics within them, featuring the crystal-like look that debuted on the W213 E-Class. The three-bar layout is exclusive to the S-Class, though. There’s also a redesigned lower bumper section with integrated visible tailpipes. As with the front, AMG models get their own rear bumper design along with quad tailpipes (joined on the V12 model), the latter also found on the Maybach.

Buyers will have seven light-alloy wheels to choose from, with diameters ranging from 17 to 20 inches. The AMG range receives 19-inch forged light-alloy wheels as standard on the S 63 4Matic+, while the S 65 is fitted with 20-inch units instead.

Of course, one of the biggest appeals of the S-Class is life on the inside, and there are plenty of improvements here as well. The layout remains unchanged here, and you still get a bevy of premium leather and open-pore wood options to choose from, along with various colour combinations, including two new ones – magma grey/espresso brown or mahogany brown/silk beige. AMG models get plenty of DINAMICA microfibre to go along with all that leather as well.

New additions here include the new-design three-spoke steering wheel with touch-sensitive controls, which is making its debut on the S-Class, and the dual 12.3-inch screens behind it are encased under one glass cover (similar to the E-Class) for a seamless look compared to before – the array of buttons in between the screens have been relocated. Zoom in closer and you’ll also notice a new look for the seat controls, new push start button (now fully integrated and illuminated, like on the E-Class) and a redesigned dash-mounted clock (IWC on AMG models).

More work has been done to improve the rear of the cabin, with big changes like the new centre console that incorporates an optional wireless phone charger (also found at a front stowage compartment). As before, a comprehensive LED ambient lighting system is fitted, with 64 colours (up from just six) to choose from depending on your mood.

Rear-seat entertainment is linked to an enhanced optional Burmester High-End 3D Surround Sound system (1,520 watts), which now includes an additional speaker in the overhead control panel and two more in the sides. Should you feel famished after enjoying all the S-Class has to offer, simply ring up the new Concierge Service to access a host of individual services like making restaurant reservations.

If you prefer to do the driving or even if you’re hired to do so, the S-Class’ top-of-the-range Magic Body Control now comes with an improved version of Road Surface Scan. The system detects bumps ahead of the vehicle and adjusts the Active Body Control suspension to ensure you feel as little discomfort as possible.

It now works at speeds of up to 180 km/h (previously up to 130 km/h) and in low-light conditions thanks to a better stereo camera, which also supports the expanded autonomous driving features (more on that later). Another comfort enhancement is the Curve curve-tilting function, available in the S-Class for the first time (first introduced on the S-Class Coupe in 2014), which tilts the car’s body to the inside of the turn by up to 2.65 degrees, reducing the centrifugal forces felt by the passengers (less swaying about).

Mercedes also acknowledges that driving can sometimes be a chore, and you may feel worse upon arrival at your destination. That’s where the new Energising comfort control – a world-first – comes into action, calling upon all the systems in the vehicle to enhance physical comfort and performance while driving.

As Mercedes puts it: “it systematically uses the functions of the climate control system (including fragrancing) and the seats (heater, ventilation, massage), the wall heating as well as lighting and musical atmospheres, and enables a specific wellness set-up tailored to the mood and need of the customer.”

There are six programmes here – Freshness, Warmth, Vitality, Joy, Comfort and Training (three settings – muscle relaxation, muscle activation and balance – each with several exercises), and each will run for ten minutes.

Within said amount of minutes, the system will display colour graphics on the head unit, play appropriate music (including scanning your personal music library), adjust the ambient lighting and perform many other functions that correspond to the selected programme. The goal here is to keep your spirits and body in a good and “happy” state, so you’re energised (pun intended) by the time you reach your destination.

Moving on, we arrive at the S-Class’ expanded Intelligent Drive suite of driver assistance systems, which marks another step for the company towards autonomous driving. You’ll still need to be alert here, but with new functionality added, the driver now receives further support on his/her journey.

Under the Active Distance Assist Distronic banner, the system is now capable of adjusting its speed automatically ahead of curves or junctions, and it works at highway speeds of up to 210 km/h. It also controls the vehicle’s distance from the vehicle ahead and the S-Class is now also capable of longer stops of up to 30 seconds in stop-and-go traffic, where it automatically follows the vehicle ahead.

Next, Active Steering Assist brings with it Active Lane Changing Assist (from the E-Class) and Active Emergency Stop Assist. The first allows drivers to change lanes on multi-lane roads at speeds from 80-180 km/h by simply engaging the indicator stalk. The car will use its sensor system within the next ten seconds to see if the lane is clear before the driver is supported in changing lane. The initiated lane change is indicated in the instrument cluster and on the head-up display.

Active Emergency Stop Assist, meanwhile, brakes the vehicle to a standstill in its lane if it detects that the driver is no longer actively driving the vehicle while it is on the move. This function requires Active Steering Assist to be switched on, and will prompt the driver via numerous visual and audible warnings.

The returning Active Braking Assist gets a new cross-traffic function and congestion emergency braking function, joined by the the new Evasive Steering Assist (helps the driver to evade pedestrians in the car’s danger zone) and Car-to-X Communication that alerts other drivers on impending hazardous conditions.

The S-Class also adopts a few features found on the latest W213 E-Class, including Remote Parking Assist, where drivers can manoeuvre the vehicle into tight parking spaces or garages via a smartphone app; and Pre-Safe Sound that triggers a protective physical reflex in the milliseconds prior to a collision.

The market launch of the new S-Class starts in July for European markets. “The development of the new S-Class was extremely extensive. With a whole series of new features and functions, the S-Class remains the technological pioneer”, said Ola Kallenius, responsible on the Board of Daimler AG for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.

2018 Mercedes-AMG S 63 4Matic+

2018 Mercedes-AMG S 65
2018 Mercedes-Maybach S 560 4Matic
2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Intelligent Drive