In advance of the flagship car's launch later this year, Mercedes-Benz has revealed details and photos of the 2014 S-Class sedan interior. At the same time, our spy photographers caught the new luxury car fully undisguised on European roads.
The car's interior now has even more rounded, organic shapes than in the current S-Class, with the air vents and analog clock switching to circular rather than rectangular designs. The most notable change is that the dashboard now features two adjacent color LCD screens. The left-hand screen takes the place of a traditional instrument cluster and mimics the two-binnacle gauges of other Mercedes cars. The right-hand screen is for the infotainment system; as before, it has a split-view mode that allows the driver and passenger to see totally different images. The driver, for instance, could see a navigation map while the passenger watches a movie. Those features are controlled by a rotary controller and series of buttons at the front of the low, wide center console. Like in the past, we probably won't get the split-screen feature in the U.S.
The latest version of the Mercedes Comand infotainment system includes Google Maps imagery and the "Driveshow," a feature akin to that in airplanes that relays trip information to the screens in the front-seat headrests. The system can also direct individual sound and video to each of the four displays and headsets, so each passenger could listen to a different radio station or watch a different video.
The 2014 Mercedes S-Class also benefits from a long list of seating innovations. The seats are now available with an Energizing feature that simulates a hot-stone massage. They use 14 individual air cushions and heating elements and have six different massage programs. Just don't fall asleep at the wheel. The seat heating and ventilation systems have been optimized for faster operations and more consistent temperatures. The new Warmth Comfort package adds heated armrests and door panels, along with a heated steering wheel.
The rear seats, meanwhile, will be offered in two different configurations for standard-wheelbase S-Class sedans, and five configurations for the long-wheelbase model. The passenger-side reclining seat can now tilt back as far as 43.5 degrees and has a pop-out foot rest. Rear-seat passengers benefit from the belt buckle feeder, which automatically raises the seatbelt buckle from the seat cushion for easier access; the beltbag, which incorporates a small airbag in the seatbelt; and the cushionbag, which is designed to prevent a reclined occupant from sliding underneath the seatbelt in a crash.
The climate control receives a new option called Air-Balance, which includes an "active perfuming system" that can adjust and personalize the scent of the car's interior. It also has a filter system designed to keep out odors and pollution, and an ionization feature designed to produce fresher air and help kill airborne bacteria.
The 2014 S-Class also gets Mercedes' Frontbass system, which debuted last year on the 2013 SL-Class roadster. In the S-Class, it consists of two subwoofers embedded in the car's firewall. They use the shape of the car's cross-members to act as resonance chambers. In addition to the factory ten-speaker sound system, the Mercedes will offer optional Burmester surround-sound and 3D surround-sound systems.
Our spy photos, which show the 2014 Mercedes S-Class without any camouflage or disguise, indicate that the car has a longer, sleeker look than today's model. Mercedes confirms that, unusually, the car was initially designed in long-wheelbase configuration and then shortened to craft the standard-wheelbase variant. That's because the car is expected to sell extensively in the U.S. and Asia, where S-Class customers prefer to be chauffeured in the back seat. (European buyers apparently still like to drive for themselves.)
The car's large chrome grille and long, wide hood give way to doors with two subtle, curving character creases. The trunklid has a rounded lip and the taillights wrap around the rounded corners of the rear end. Two skinny exhaust tips are integrated into a chrome diffuser assembly.
Although it will launch with familiar V-6, V-8, and V-12 engines, by 2017 we expect the Mercedes S-Class will adopt new, more efficient inline-six engines, at least for Europe. There will also be mild- and plug-in hybrid powertrains at a later date.
Because the new car rides on the flexible Mercedes Rear Architecture, the new S-Class will spawn a long list of variants. In addition to the standard and long-wheelbase models announced today, there will eventually be an extra-long-wheelbase car, a six-door Pullman model, a full-size CL-Class replacement called SLC, an SLC convertible, and a sleek four-door coupe design. The idea is for the larger, longer S-Class models to replace Mercedes' now-defunct Maybach brand.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is expected to debut at an event in Germany on May 15.