Mercedes S-class facelift (2010) new spy photos

Published: 22 December 2008

Mercedes' S-class isn't just the best-selling saloon in the limo sector – it utterly dominates it. Merc sells around 85,000 S-classes every year globally, but it's not resting on its leather-clad laurels. In 2009, it'll roll out this facelifted model, which ushers in further refinements to the whispery quiet S-class, a squeaky-clean hybrid model and clever tech galore.

How clever? Well, the new S is said to be the first full series production hybrid to use a lithium ion battery (like the power pack in your mobile) and there's a new Splitview screen that lets a single digital display show different pictures to the driver and passenger. So one could be using the sat-nav mode while the other – preferably the passenger – can be watching television.

Facelifted Merc S-class (2009): the full details

We expect the revised S to land in showrooms later in 2009 and the main news will be the arrival of the S400 BlueHybrid, in continental markets at least. The UK won't initially take the new hybrid which would be more expensive and barely any cleaner than existing CDI models.

The petrol-electric S-class mixes a 280bhp 3.5 V6 petrol engine with a new type of hybrid system incorporated into the front of the seven-speed auto transmission; the system has been co-developed with GM and BMW. Those lithium ion batteries are more powerful and lighter than their nickel cadmium predecessors, weighing in at a feathery 27kg.

The S400 BlueHybrid averages 35.8mpg and emits 190g/km of CO2. Good, but no great shakes when you remember that the best-selling S-class – the cheaper S320 CDI – tips out 34mpg and 220g/km.

So what is new on the rest of the S-class range?

Our spy photos reveal same-again styling, pepped up by fresh details. We're talking LED lights, fresh boxed-off rectangular exhausts, different bar count in the grille, that level of anorakdom...

Expect the nipped-and-tucked S-class to cost from around £55,000 when UK sales kick off in 2009. Continental markets will get a new S250 CDI model powered by a 2.1-litre turbodiesel and a new S350 CGI V6 petrol is in the pipeline too.

Perfect timing to battle the new BMW 7-series and imminent 2010 Audi A8 that breaks cover at the 2009 Frankfurt motor show.

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet