The Mercedes-Benz S-class introduced for 2014 is due for a mid-term facelift next spring, and the most interesting changes are happening under the hood. Benz’s plutocrat barge will be the first model to house some of the company’s new generation of inline six-cylinder engines, although those won’t be coming to the U.S. until later.
We will be getting a new entry-level S-class, to be called S450, that will employ the M276 twin-turbocharged V-6 as found in today’s GLS450 and the SL450, where it’s rated at a generous 362 horsepower. To put it into perspective, that’s just 27 horsepower short of the iconic 6.0-liter V-12 launched in the W140 S-Class.
Europe, by contrast, will see the new and tech-laden M256 3.0-liter straight-six, rated at “over 402 horsepower” and employing an electric turbocharger, a large exhaust turbocharger and an integrated starter-generator. While it won’t be offered in the U.S. initially, we expect to see it migrate to our market over the next few years.
Those who think that the prestige of an S-class demands the extra power and cylinder count of a V-8, the smallest engine available today, should watch for a variation of the M176 4.0-liter V-8 (photo above), which was developed by AMG but is slated to replace the current S550’s 449-horsepower, 4.7-liter eight-cylinder in Benz-badged models, too. It will employ a cylinder-deactivation system to operate as a V-4 under low- and medium-load conditions, and it will be far more fuel-efficient than the outgoing engine. Moreover, we hear it will wear a nameplate that should please the traditionalists among Mercedes-Benz owners.
Both the six- and eight-cylinder engines will be mated to Benz’s own nine-speed automatic transmission. Beyond those innovative powertrains, we expect the S600 to continue with its awesome 523-horsepower 6.0-liter V-12. The S550e (photo below) will likely remain unchanged for a while mechanically, but should share in the exterior and interior updates coming for the 2018 model year.
As to the high-powered AMG versions, the AMG S63 will move to a version of AMG’s own M176 4.0-liter V-8 in place of its current 5.5-liter V-8. And the AMG S65 keeps its brutal 6.0-liter V-12, rated at 621 horsepower.
Beyond the new powertrains—don’t expect any of Europe’s awesome diesels for the U.S. market—changes are relatively marginal. There will be new head- and taillights, new front and rear fascias, and some new wheel designs. Inside, the S-class will use larger TFT screens in front of the driver and they will now be visually connected under a common piece of glass. Today’s unusual two-spoke steering wheel will go away in favor of a more conventional design featuring—you guessed it—three spokes. And, as we’ve reported before, the S-class will be playing catch-up with the mid-size E-class in terms of advanced safety and semi-autonomous driving technologies.
Watch for the new models to appear at dealers in the summer for the 2018 model year. The changes will be mirrored in the V-8– and V-12–powered Maybach derivatives of the S-class. We expect prices will remain close to those on the current S-class, which range from $97,525 to $173,375 in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, with the exception of the new S450 base model, which should be priced competitively against the six-cylinder BMW 7-series in the low $80K arena. The performance-oriented Mercedes-AMG models can be appreciably more expensive.