Mercedes S-class facelift and S400 Hybrid unveiled




Some cars dominate their segments – and Mercedes’ S-class is one such car. It’s the essence of what a pampering luxury saloon should stand for, becoming the default four-door of choice for boardroom bigwigs around the globe. Now Merc hopes to cement the S-class’s credentials with this 2009 facelift.

The W221 S-class is being revised with a range of new engines – including a frugal lithium-ion battery hybrid and BlueEfficiency diesels – a slew of new tech and the gentlest of visual makeovers. Blink and you will indeed miss it.

So what’s new on the ‘new’ S-class?

Let’s cover off the engines first of all. Take your pick from five petrols, a single diesel and the new hybrid – claimed to be the world’ most economical petrol-engined luxury saloon and the first production hybrid car with a lithium-ion battery:

• S350, 268bhp 3.5-litre V6
• S500, 383bhp 5.5-litre V8
• S600, 510bhp 5.5-litre twin-turbo V12
• S63 AMG, 518bhp 6.2-litre V8
• S65 AMG, 604bhp 6.0-litre V12
• S350 CDI BlueEfficiency, 232bhp V6 TD
• S400 Hybrid, 275bhp 3.5-litre V6 petrol

Sadly, we won’t get the 35.7mpg/186g/km CO2 hybrid in the UK, so the diesel is destined to be the big seller. It noshes a gallon of black stuff every 37.2 miles and emits 199g/km of CO2. The crucial figures are too close to warrant the additional cost and low volumes for right-hand drive, you see…

As ever, the BlueEfficiency badge means the S350 CDI diesel’s been to Merc’s drying out clinic. Clever underbody panels improve the aero while the seven-speed auto decouples at standstill to save carve vital percentage points off the consumption figures.

I bet the S-class sports a flood to gadgets?

Oh yes. You’ll bag headlamps that flick between main and dipped beam for you (saving valuable digitwork), drowsiness detection systems and a gizmo in the stability system that corrects crosswind movements for you. Much of the tech has already been seen on the new 2009 Merc E-class, which goes on UK sale in June 2009.

Further gadgets include the latest night vision system, which now highlights pedestrians in the display, lane-keep assist and improvements to other existing systems. Pre-Safe Brake, for instance, now preps the anchors even earlier before a potential accident, reducing impact speed.

There’s also a potential row brewing over who has launched split-view multimedia systems; Land Rover claims the new 2010 Range Rover (unveiled last week) will be first to market, but Merc is making the same claim. Forget the playground rivalry; it’s a clever system that lets the driver read the sat-nav while a passenger can watch a movie. We’ve seen test systems and it works rather well.
Gizmos galore… But how do I spot the new S-class?

That grille is a smidgeon more ‘arrow-shaped’ – apparently – while the front bumper now sports a chrome strip beneath the air intakes and bi-xenon headlamps are now standard across the board. Mosey around to the rear and look out for exhausts integrated into the back bumper.

Proving that we’re all about to be increasingly being dazzled by science, LED daytime running lamps are standard on the new 2009 S-class. The rear lamps are powered by 52 LEDs, marking out a double-C signature.

The facelifted S-class goes on sale in the UK in autumn 2009. With fluctuating exchange rates and business meltdown, nobody’s pricing their cars early these days, but we expect the new S to start at just under £60k.

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