Given Chinese luxury car buyers' love for hanging out in the back seat, it's not hard to see why Mercedes-Benz chose to reveal the new S-Class at the Shanghai Motor Show on Tuesday. (Not that the New York Auto Show wouldn't have been a good place as well, considering how many Park Avenue plutocrats use them to shuttle back and forth from Westchester and Connecticut.) No matter which continent they live on, however, full size fancy car owners will likely be impressed with the latest version of the S-Class. While the updates and alterations don't go quite as far as an all-new model might, it's pretty clear Mercedes wasn't content to half-ass this mid-life refresh.
Under the hood, the new S-Class scores an almost-entirely new set of engines. The V8 endures beneath the hood, albeit in a new downsized form; in spite of the nomenclature changes, the 4.0-liter shares identical displacement between the Mercedes-Benz S560, the Mercedes-Maybach S560, and the Mercedes-AMG S63. Power, however varies greatly; the Benz and Maybach versions make 496 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, while the AMG cranks out 612 hp and 664 lb.-ft. There's also a new inline-six diesel engine that comes in two states of tune, the latter making 340 hp and 516 lb.-ft. (The gasoline version of the forced-induction straight-six will arrive shortly; a plug-in hybrid version packing more than 30 miles of electric range should also be arriving shortly.)
All the models come with Mercedes's 4MATIC all-wheel-drive, but the S63 is the only one to come with 4MATIC+. Pioneered on the latest Mercedes-AMG E63 and connected to a dual-clutch version of the company's nine-speed automatic, it shuffles power around for maximum grip, helping push the S63 to a claimed 0-62 mph time of 3.5 seconds in spite of the car's 4,389-pound bulk. Should you be one of those anachronists who insist on having your Mercedes-Benz S-Class with rear-wheel-drive, don't sweat; the V12-powered Mercedes-AMG S65 sticks around in all its 630-hp glory. (You'll have to settle for going from 0-62 mph in a lackadaisical 4.3 seconds in that case, however.)
An S-Class is as much about comfort and opulence as it is about covering ground quickly, though, so Mercedes has upgraded the car's ride and handling setup to make travel even less stressful than before. Not only does the car's Magic Body Control system now allow it to predictively compensate for bumps at speed of up to 112 miles per hour, but the active curve compensation allows the suspension to lean into turns by up to 2.65 degrees, keeping the occupants' Pepsi securely in the cans.
This being 2017, no new Mercedes-Benz flagship would be complete without a suite of the most advanced semi-autonomous driving features available—especially since the midsized E-Class had been outpacing the S-Class in self-driving tech in recent years. Rather than add flashy new features, Mercedes worked to tweak and optimize the existing set of components it had on hand. The active cruise control draws upon both upgraded sensors and more map data; it can even hold the car at a stop for half a minute when stuck in traffic without breaking off. Likewise, the S-Class's self-steering abilities have been "noticeably improved," the carmaker said, and the car can now change lanes with the tap of a turn signal, much like Tesla's Autopilot. And like Tesla's Summon and BMW's Remote Control Parking, the new S-Class offers a feature that lets its owner—or, let's be honest, its chauffeur—park it in tight spots using a smartphone to drive the car.
Those semi-autonomous features should give the driver more time to appreciate the upgraded interior, which—in addition to the usual S-Class nicetites, like dual 12.3-inch displays and an optional Burmeister stereo—links together multiple comfort systems like the seat massagers, the interior heaters, the music, the interior lighting, and the scents from the in-car perfume system to put on a little show for the occupants. "Energizing Comfort Control," as it's called, offers six programs: Freshness, Warmth, Vitality, Joy, Comfort, and Training. Each comes with its own pre-programmed music—put on "Vitality," for example, and a song called "Feelin' Good" by Leon Riskin plays, which Mercedes-Benz felt compelled to mention in its press release even though we couldn't find the song online anywhere. You can also pick your own music from the media system, at which point the car will decide which program it's best suited for based on its beats per minute.
Admittedly, it's the peak of indulgence—the kind of thing that makes it seem like Mercedes has run out of ways to pamper its fanciest customers. But we'd be lying if we didn't admit we wanted to try it out.