It feels like the latest S-Class just went on sale, but Mercedes is already giving its flagship a thorough mid-cycle update inside and out for 2018, which means industry captains and military-attired presidents-for-life might want to wait a few months before ordering another batch of identical W222-body sedans.
First and foremost, there are new engines and new badges: The S550 will be replaced by the S560, which is not only a “more impressive” number but a reference to the W126-generation 560SEL and 560SEC of the 1980s. The numbers, as we’ve come to expect, give no immediate clue as to the displacement or number of cylinders. The twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 of the S550 will depart in favor of a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 producing 463 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. Below the S560 sedan, we’ll get the 3.0-liter V6-engined S450, which will be the base engine in the U.S.
The milder version of the long-wheelbase Mercedes-Maybach S-Class will get the new V8 engine as well, along with the S560 badge; the top version of the Maybach will keep the massive V12.
Mercedes has resculpted the aft section of the S-Class as well, restyling the bumper and the exhaust tips.
There are more changes at the top of the range, too: The Mercedes-AMG S63 will also gain a version of the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 good for 603 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque in this model, while the 5.5-liter V8 in this model will be put out to pasture. The 4Matic all-wheel-drive S63 AMG will be paired with a new nine-speed automatic that has been working its way into the AMG lineup, but not every AMG model will get a 4.0-liter V8 — the rear-wheel-drive S65 will keep its twin-turbocharged V12 and 7G-Tronic transmission — good for cigarette boat-towing stats of 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. There’s a matching AMG-branded Cigarette boat just for this, in case you want to attempt this feat.
In addition to new engines, the S-Class lineup will gain gently revised exterior looks, with the front fascia getting greatly enlarged intakes bisected by twin horizontal fins. This will be the easiest way to tell the 2018 models apart from their pre-facelift siblings, though the revised rear bumper with larger exhaust pipes joined together by a single chrome strip will serve as another reminder.
Mercedes has revised the instrument cluster and the infotainment screen, in accordance with the precedent set by the E-Class.
The 2018 changes won’t be confined to the exterior. Mercedes has been busy tinkering with autonomous driving tech since the latest iteration of the S-Class broke cover in 2013. The updated model will gain the Drive Pilot semi-autonomous driver assist system that debuted in the latest E-Class; in addition to offering Level 2 autonomous driving, it will allow drivers (who cannot be bothered to change lanes by turning the steering wheel) to change lanes by flicking the turn signal stalk. New double-pane widescreen monitors will make their way onto the expansive dash, united under one piece of glass similar to the E-Class’ screen, with classic, sport and progressive display modes. Drivers will be able to control the unified screen via voice commands, smartphone-like touch and swipe motions, or via the center console-mounted touchpad.
Mercedes’ Magic Body Control system will receive an update as well, gaining a “curve” function that will enable the body to actively lean into corners and to level out nose-dipping during braking. This feature was offered only in the S-Class Coupe until now.
Pricing for the revised lineup will be announced later this year, closer to the start of sales.