Without China, North America and the Middle East, the Mercedes S-class would towards the end of its career be almost dead in the water. In Europe, for instance, sales of the ageing S-class limo fell behind the new Audi A8 and the BMW 7-series.
A regional phenomenon or a major headache in the making? To stop the slide, Daimler is busy laying the finishing touches on the next big Benz known as W222.
When does the new W222 Mercedes S-class arrive?
In 2012. And in an attempt to cover an even wider segment of the luxury car market, the new S will be offered in four different bodystyles: standard wheelbase saloon (2012), extended wheelbase saloon (2013), coupé (2013, replaces the CL), and finally a four-seater convertible (2014).
The new S-class is based on a brand-new components set known as MRA, for Mercedes rear-wheel drive architecture. MRA is subdivided into 93 different modules which is a good indication of how flexible this matrix can be. The only two fixed points are the front and rear firewalls in relation to the axles and the drivetrain.
The next S-class boasts a brand-new four-link front suspension designed to further decouple the steering, braking and damping forces. In the rear, we should find an evolution of the faithful multilink arrangement. Air springs are standard again, but the clever ABC anti-roll system costs extra.
Toys galore for the new 2012 S-class?
You bet. ABC can also be had in combination with MBC, short for Magic Body Control. Employing two cameras to scan the road, MBC can compensate surface irregularities milliseconds before the car encounters them. Up to 80mph, this option warrants a ride comfort which is second to none.
Also new is Magic Light Control (MLC) which adds dynamic full LED headlamps complete with adaptive free-flow light patterns varying with speed, weather and steering angle.
And inside the new Merc S-class?
As far as the next-generation ergonomics are concerned, those in the know predict a much easier to use Comand system with radically fewer knobs, buttons and switches. Instead, we can allegedly look forward to a single controller which does in combination with the more elaborate steering-wheel address all key features and functions. Instead of a second screen positioned above the centre stack, MB is looking at a large multiple-imagery TFT display in the driver´s primary field of vision. What makes the new infotainment so unique are the much easier access, the vastly superior memory capacity (music, DVD, maps, internet) and the reprogrammable software.
Engines on the new 2012 Merc S-class
The line-up ranges from the 204bhp four-cylinder to the EU6-rated V12 dyno-tested at 544bhp. Not enough grunt? Then you may have to wait for the spiciest AMG menu which is good for 650bhp, sources say.
New motors include the twin-turbo 3.0litre V6 which will be available in 306 and 354bhp form. One rung up, we find two turbocharged V8s promising 435 and 517bhp. Originally, MB intended to offer hybrid options for all new S-class models, but then marketing had a rethink, and now all that´s left are a mix of 204bhp diesel and 109bhp electric motor as well as the 306bhp V6 linked to the same plug-in whisperliner.
Mild hybrid is likely to be standard, but the 20bhp e-motor is not quite strong enough to justify an e-mode button. This won´t change before 2014 when the new nine-speed autobox can accommodate a more potent 45bhp power pack.