We weren’t quite clear on whether the slinky Mercedes-Benz EQS electric limo concept revealed in Frankfurt this week both previewed the 2021 S-Class as well as a standalone EV flagship model, or merely the latter.
We now know Mercedes envisages a place for both cars, with the new S-Class expected to eschew full electrification for another generation but take driver-assistance tech to some of its highest production levels yet, and the EQS to offer a slinkier electric alternative for more “aggressive” top-end customers.
We’ve already published spied images of new S-Class prototypes getting about before its 2020 reveal and 2021 sales commencement, including its new portrait-oriented, free-standing tablet display for the central infotainment unit, which should also host the debut of MBUX 2.0, the next generation of Benz's AI interface with conversational voice controls.
This week Daimler AG’s board member for Mercedes’ group research and development, Markus Schäfer, also gave us a steer on the sort of driver-assistance tech it hoped to offer, pending regulatory approval.
The company is hoping to deliver its first car meeting ‘Level 3’ autonomous classification, defined as ‘eyes-off’ technology whereby the driver could safely turn their attention away from the driving tasks and only intervene when asked to by the car’s central computer itself, should regulations allow.
“Details will take us a couple more months. Still we are targeting [it], but we have to go through homologation. Some others tried it and found issues. But that’s the development target for the new S-Class, Level 3, so let’s see next year,” Schäfer said.
“On our ambition for an S-Class, the bar is extremely high, it’s the top end of our portfolio in terms of everything, so the target is extremely high in every aspect. In a few months we can detail just how high we can put the bar, we’re working day and night.”
Given the EQS will be only electric, we asked Schäfer if we were right in suggesting the 2021 S-Class would go without full electrification. “That’s a fair assumption,” he answered.
Daimler AG chairman and Mercedes-Benz boss Ola Källenius also discussed the S-Class, saying it needed to be “at the vanguard of the automotive industry”.
“Thus it’s the symbolic representation of our purpose, our deeper meaning, our raison d’être. The reason we get up in the morning,” he added.
Meanwhile, when it comes to the EQS, you can expect a production version inside a few years as the flagship of Mercedes's growing ‘EQ’ electric family, and the first model based on its new EV-only architecture (the EQC shares some GLC components).
By 2030 Mercedes wants half the cars it sells to be either fully electric or plug-in hybrids. To that end, expect production versions of this car and others like it to use battery cells made in CO2-neutral fashion, in factories powered by renewables (such as MB’s new Factory 56 in Sindelfingen), and to be around 85 per cent recyclable at life’s end.
“It is going to have its own design language… the one-bow design is not just a vision, it’s what you’ll see in the final product,” Schäfer said.
“It’s a dedicated EV language and you can only do this design with these proportions on an architecture where everything like the firewall is at a different location.
“And this is only the first car on this platform, as we said it’s going to be a platform for mid- and large-cars, so expect this to be a scalable platform which is able to produce more derivatives.”
The show car blends slinky coupe-like proportions with cutting-edge exterior lighting and a minimalist screen-laden interior. One of the most interesting things about the interior is the way it wraps around occupants. The curved dash-top blends into the doors, as does the rear parcel shelf in symmetrical fashion. It’s as though you’re sitting in a Riva speedboat.
The black-panel grille contains a light matrix with 188 circuit boards controlling five blue LEDs apiece, for 940 LEDs arrayed so as to give the illusion of depth existing on a flat surface. Naturally this spectacular show surrounds the central three-pointed star badge.
Each headlight contains four ‘holographic headlight lens modules’, each sporting 500 LEDs “creating an almost unlimited number of display possibilities”. The rear lights are 229 individual LEDs integrated into the body, shaped like three-pointed stars.
Power units at each axle cooperate, giving fully variable all-wheel-drive. These drive units make a combined 350kW of power and 760Nm of torque, and run off a battery unit in the floor with a capacity of 100kWh. The battery comes from the Daimler subsidiary Accumotive.
It’s clear that hypercar performance takes a back seat to luxury, given the claimed zero to 100km/h sprint time is 4.5 seconds (hardly slow, but well below the flagship Model S’s 2.6 seconds and Taycan’s 2.8 seconds).
Mercedes also cites a WLTP-certified driving range of 700km between charges, and the ability charge to 80 per cent capacity from zip in under 20 minutes on a 350kW rapid charger.