Mercedes-Benz’s flagship S-Class sedan has been redesigned for 2014. The new lineup will eventually include at least six models, several of which will reach North America this year and next. Numbered among them are a coupe, which will help phase out the CL-Class, and two long-wheelbase models that will take over for the retired Maybach marque.
Meanwhile, the new S550 is due to hit U.S. showrooms this fall. It will be powered by a finely tuned, twin turbocharged 4.8-liter V-8 that delivers 455 horsepower at 516 pound-feet of torque. That’s a big boost over the 429 horsies that pull the 2013 S550, and that’s just the beginning. The upcoming S63 AMG and S65 AMG are expected to deliver up to 571 and 621 horsepower, respectively. The S550 pairs rear-wheel drive with a new, seven-speed automatic; all-wheel drive will undoubtedly be standard on the more powerful models.
The exterior includes more straight lines than the prior generation. The slightly modified front and rear fascia sport new, all-LED headlights and taillights. The most noticeable differences are the grille — which is wider, taller and more upright — and the hard edges on either side of the elongated hood. The new car’s profile is nearly an exact match to last year’s model.
The same can hardly be said for the new interior. The S-Class’s cabin was completely reimagined, and the results are stunning. The appointments are as luxurious as expected, but the cushy leather seats and soft-touch materials hide a king’s ransom of electronics.
The S550 comes standard with a 10-speaker stereo. Two Burmester surround-sound systems are available as upgrades. The dash is dominated by a massive, 12.3-inch screen powered by a proprietary multimedia and vehicle settings system. The instrument cluster is an LCD with projections of analog gauges. Sensors and cameras scan the road ahead for uneven terrain, traffic signs and lane departures. The front seats offer heated massages. That is not a misprint.
The S-Class remains in a tight race for the affections of fleet buyers who will settle for nothing less than German luxury. The BMW 7 Series and Audi A8 both have refinements of their own and power to spare, but the latest offering from Stuttgart is always worth a look. Pricing is not yet available for the 2014 S-Class, but the 2013 S550 starts at $95,000.