As expected, Mercedes’ flagship luxury sedan boasts new levels of comfort, convenience and attention to aesthetic detail, but it’s the host of new active safety and driver assistance technologies debuting on the car that are really going to set it apart from the competition.
Eschewing New York in favour of a Shanghai reveal, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz S Class aims to move the company ahead of the chasing pack when it comes to real-world semi-autonomous capabilities. And it may well have succeeded. The vehicle boasts a completely reworked and redeveloped suite of systems that can work together to offer everything from automatically slowing to enter a corner or bend and then accelerating out of it and being able to assist with steering inputs on the autobahn at speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour (192 kilometres per hour). Looking to the car to take over completely in traffic jam situations with braking, accelerating, stopping, starting and even steering? This Mercedes can.
This is the first Mercedes that can combine camera, sensor, live and archived mapping information to develop a 360-degree picture of the world around it so it knows that the reason the car ahead is slowing down is because there’s a toll booth or car park barrier ahead.
There is going to be a huge transitional period where drivers start to cede more and more control over to their cars before full autonomy is the norm. And during that transition, drivers are still going to have to step in and take control, stay alert and always understand what’s going on. The same goes for its new automated overtaking system. Tap the indicator stalk, if the coast is clear, and overtaking is permitted, the car will pass the vehicle in front and pull back into lane within 10 seconds.
The dual-screen instrument panel keeps the driver informed at all times of which systems are employed and what they’re doing. At the same time, all controls for the myriad systems are integrated directly into the steering wheel’s surface and respond to touch, swipes and taps like a smartphone screen. These controls also monitor that the driver has at least one hand on the wheel at all times to ensure he or she is still ready to take responsibility for the car in challenging situations.
This is also why the car takes monitoring driver activity to new levels. As well as suggesting a break when travelling in heavy conditions for a prolonged length of time, the new S Class will be able to increase the driver’s “wellness”.
Thanks to something called Energising Comfort Control, this car can change your mood for the better making you feel fresher, warmer, joyful, comfortable or vitalised, depending on the setting. Select a mood and the car will activate the climate control, seat massage function, use fragrances, in-cabin lighting, increase or reduce ventilation and even add a musical soundtrack to change how you feel.
The new feel-good S Class will go on sale in July.