UPDATE, 30 July 2020: More details on the safety tech fitted to the upcoming 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class have been revealed. Key among them, in addition to the announced rear frontal airbags, is a 48-volt active suspension system.
This has the ability to instantaneously raise the body by 80mm in the moments before a side collision occurs, reducing potential injuries to rear passengers.
A front centre airbag will be fitted to the new S-Class, protecting the two front occupants from each other in the case of an accident.
Also announced was rear-axle steering, allowing greater manoeuvrability at lower speeds, as well as aiding stability at highway speeds.
July 28: The 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class will be the first production car with dedicated frontal airbags for two back seat passengers.
While rear side and curtain airbags are already available on new cars, this is the first time an airbag has provided frontal protection to two rear occupants on a production vehicle. The 1993 Nissan President offered an airbag for the rear-left passenger – typically the most important occupant in a chauffeured vehicle.
The rear airbags will be used in conjunction with the Mercedes Belt Bag, in which smaller airbags built into the seatbelts inflate in case of an accident.
In 2015, Ford introduced the airbag seatbelt (also for certain back seat positions) to the Australian market with the Mondeo, around the same time the technology became available on the S-Class.
However, due to low demand, the airbag seatbelt is now only available on the Mercedes-Maybach limousine.
Mercedes-Benz was the first car manufacturer to offer optional airbags to complement pre-tensioner seatbelts, debuting on the S-Class limousine in 1981. Prior to that, airbags were considered as an alternative to seatbelts.
First seen on the experimental safety features concept car of 2019, called the ESF, the rear airbags use a tubular design, rather than the traditional bag fitted to steering wheels. The design reduces impact forces on the head and spine by 30 per cent.
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class will debut internationally on 3 September 2020 and is expected in Australian showrooms some time next year.