Deep Dive: Mercedes-Benz S-Class and 2014 Audi A8

Automobile Staff
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All three of the German luxury giants have new flagships coming in the next few years. We've already told you about the next-generation BMW 7 Series due in 2015 – and its M770ix variant – but now we have all the details on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and 2014 Audi A8. Georg Kacher details them below. –Ed

Countless S-Classes

Although the new S-Class is less than twelve months away, the outgoing model still tops its segment in China and Germany. The next big Benz will likely be offered in no fewer than seven different variations: a standard-wheelbase sedan (codenamed W222, 200.79 inches long); a long-wheelbase sedan (V222, 7.08-inch stretch); an extra-long-wheelbase sedan (X222, 13.78-inch stretch); a six-door Pullmann (25.59-inch stretch); a full-size CL-class replacement (C217, rumored to return to SLC moniker); a full-size CL convertible (A217); and a full-size four-door coupe (V217). Only Mercedes has the guts to offer a Pullmann luxury liner and a stately drop-top powered by an optional 680-hp, 811-lb-ft V-12 engine. Has it already forgotten Maybach's failure?

From Pauper to Prince

The new modular rear-wheel drive architecture – dubbed Mercedes Rear Architecture – will stretch from a relatively humble four-cylinder mild hybrid S-Class to a quartet of ultra-luxurious Bentley and Rolls-Royce rivals. Lighter and more rigid than the current platform, MRA introduces a reengineered four-link front suspension, which separates the steering and braking forces from the spring and damper action. Unlike Audi and BMW, Mercedes-Benz keeps a relatively low carbon fiber profile, concentrating on steel, aluminum, and magnesium instead. The one notable exception is the new S63 AMG that sports a roof, trunk, hood, and doors made of carbon fiber.

Inside, the sixth-generation S-Class gets a completely redesigned dashboard with two large-format monitors, programmable instruments, extended voice and gesture control, head-up display, and knee and belt-integrated airbags. The long list of innovative driver aids includes dynamic LED headlights, the so-called Magic Carpet Ride chassis featuring a camera-based damper adjustment system, an ever-more-intelligent brake assist with cross traffic recognition, and a new active cruise control that can even execute lane changes and passing maneuvers.

From 2016 onwards (about a year after the car's debut), Mercedes will start introducing the new in-line six-cylinder engines codenamed M256 (gas) and OM656 (diesel). The European S-Class launches with the familiar 2.1-, 3.0-, and 3.5-liter V-6 units, but it will switch to the more efficient straight sixes at the model-year changeover for 2017. The initial engine line-up should span from the 224-hp diesel installed in the S250 CDI to the mighty V-12 fitted to the S600 and the S65 AMG. The final metamorphosis of the outgoing V-6 is a 3.0-liter good for 333 hp. On the hybrid front, customers will be able to choose from three options: mild with a 41-hp electric motor, or one of two plug-in models with motors rated at either 68 hp or 109 hp. Even the least economical hybrid drivetrain returns a super-frugal 75mpg – but only because current European regulations ignore the energy used to charge the batteries.

2014 Audi A8: An Extensive Facelift

The facelifted 2014 Audi A8 looks like a new car. Major changes include completely restyled front and rear ends with less aggressive lights, a prettier grille, and more elegant bumpers. While the current A8 (pictured here) is doing really well in China, Ingolstadt's halo car has been overtaken in Germany by underdogs like the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the Porsche Panamera. Enginewise, the high-end Audi will receive a more powerful 3.0-liter V-6 TFSI (310 hp instead of 290 hp), an improved 3.0-liter V-6 TDI (258 hp instead of 250 hp), and a brawnier 4.2-liter V-8 TDI (360 hp instead of 350 hp). Of those revised engines, only the V-6 options are expected to make it to U.S. cars. We fully expect the gasoline V-8 and W-12 engines to remain on offer with no major changes expected. Other upgrades include an MMI update, enhanced smartphone and infotainment connectivity, and additional driver assistance systems.

Short-Lived Facelift

The all-new D5-generation A8 is scheduled to arrive in 2016. It trades the long-running aluminum spaceframe for an even lighter and stiffer aluminum-and-carbon fiber architecture derived from the modular MLBevo matrix. Interestingly, MLBevo is the same platform that will underpin the next-generation A4 sedan and A5 coupe and convertible.

Another innovation earmarked for the D5 A8 is known as e-quattro. Consisting of a compact electric motor, battery pack, and performance electronics, e-quattro drives the rear wheels, offering a zero-emission range of over 15 miles. In combination with integrated torque vectoring, e-quattro also works as an on-demand all-wheel drive system. Even more sophisticated is the new plug-in hybrid that employs two electric motors – a 54-hp unit sandwiched between the engine and seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox, and a bigger 82-hp motor that propels the rear wheels. Depending on driver input, this A8 can be front-, rear-, or all-wheel drive.

-Georg Kacher

Rendering by AUTOBILD/LARSON

Mike Newell
The new S class is a handsome devil reminding me of the Ocean Drive concept of a few years back. The Maybach was a mistake. It was a marque that no one remembered, few people had ever heard of and it had no cachet. Mercedes-Benz, on the other hand, has all the cachet it needs to compete with Rolls-Royce and Bentley and unlike those British nameplates, Mercedes is owned by... Mercedes! My dream car would be an S-Class convertible (if I could afford one).

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