This is the Mercedes-Benz you’re familiar with.
After spending the early part of 2013 introducing new small cars like the CLA and the all-electric B-Class to the U.S. consumer, the German automaker returned its attention on Wednesday to a car with deep ties to its image as a luxury marque: the S-Class.
Mercedes unveiled a completely redesigned version of the car, which is set to go on sale in September as a 2014 model. It’s the sixth generation of the venerable sedan that’s been on sale since 1972.
“The S-Class is not just a technological spearhead for Mercedes-Benz, but for automotive development as a whole,” the company said in a statement.
Hyperbole aside, the all-new S-Class does feature groundbreaking technologies such as a camera-based adaptive suspension, LED lighting throughout the entire vehicle, and an interior that Mercedes expects to become the industry benchmark.
The car’s dimensions change very little from its predecessor. The wheelbase and length are the same, while interior space is up marginally in all directions. The engine in the S550 remains a twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V-8. Horsepower rises by 26 to 455 total, while torque remains unchanged at 516 pound-feet.
The 2014 model also retains the earlier model’s seven-speed automatic transmission. Fuel-economy figures haven’t been released but are expected to be better than the 15/25 mpg city/highway on the current model.
The all-new S-Class is almost 300 pounds lighter thanks to a greater use of aluminum in the car’s construction. This is likely a contributing factor to its zero-60 mph time dropping by more than half a second to 4.8 seconds.
Aesthetically, the updates are more evolutionary than they are revolutionary. Squint your eyes and the car has the same shape and proportions as the earlier model. Yet a closer look at the headlights and taillights reveal Mercedes made more changes to the car than its conservative design indicates.
The exterior lighting, and indeed all lighting throughout the entire 2014 S-Class, is LED, making the car the first in the world to be built without a single light bulb. Mercedes said the car uses nearly 500 LED lights, and can even allow drivers to leave the high-beams on without blinding oncoming traffic.
Another innovative technology is Mercedes’ use of a camera-based system to continually scan the road ahead of the car, and adjust the air suspension accordingly. This feature will be available as an option on the S550 and the all-wheel-drive S550 4MATIC.
But it’s the inside of the S-Class where Mercedes has made the biggest changes.
The automaker did away with all analog gauges, instead replacing the instrument panel with a 12.3-inch digital screen. It displays the typical information you’d find on every instrument panel: speedometer, tachometer, trip computer, navigation directions, etc.
A second screen of equal size sits to the right of the first, at the center of the dashboard. It functions like many screens on modern luxury cars, displaying the vehicle’s infotainment, full navigation system and climate control.
Mercedes also turned its attention to the seats in the S-Class. An available option is designed to mimic a hot stone massage, using 14 independent air cushions within the backrest, which are controlled by six massage programs. This is available on both the front and rear seats. Even the armrests can be heated.
The automaker is also looking to clear the air inside the 2014 S-Class, quite literally. An “active perfuming system” will atomize one of four different fragrances inside the cabin, while simultaneously filtering the air that’s pumped in from the outside. Mercedes said it developed the scents in collaboration with “perfume specialist” Marc vom Ende.
Other technologies found on the previous generation have been updated and tweaked for the 2014 model. The car can be ordered with night vision that uses a thermal imaging camera to detect pedestrians and animals, a lane-keeping assist and an adaptive cruise control system that can even handle itself in stop-and-go traffic.
While the base 2014 S550 is set to go on sale in September, the all-wheel-drive 4MATIC model and the S63 AMG version are scheduled to arrive in dealerships in November. A S65 AMG version is likely, and Mercedes is also expected to introduce an S-Class coupe and convertible. The coupe would replace the current CL-Class, while the convertible would be an all-new variant for the automaker.
No pricing on any of the 2014 S-Class models has been released.