New names and engines for the S-class, new engines for the AMGs and Maybachs.
Based on appearances alone, we could understand any confusion caused by this mid-cycle refresh, but if you go beyond the superficial, the 2018 Mercedes-Benz S-class sedan lineup really is thoroughly updated. Aside from subtly altered trim, bumpers, and wheel designs, every version from the lowest-level S-class to the horsepower-addled S63 and S65 AMG models to the range-topping Maybach twins receives notable changes.
New Engines Beget New Model Designations
Look closely, however, and you’ll notice new badges that indicate where the real changes lurk. S450 and S560 are the new S-class designations boasting new V-6 and V-8 engines. The S450 essentially replaces the outgoing six-cylinder S550e plug-in-hybrid model (there’s no word on the plug-in’s fate) and is powered by a 362-hp twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6. The S560 resurrects a hallowed S-class nomenclature and succeeds the old S550. It also chucks that model’s twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V-8 for a smaller, also-twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter unit. A number of recent Benzes share this new engine; in the S-class it makes 463 horsepower (14 more than the old 4.7) and 516 lb-ft of torque (same as before). On both S iterations, the engines are mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The higher-zoot models aren’t left alone, either. The Mercedes-AMG S63 drops its twin-turbo 5.5-liter V-8 for a higher-output version of the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8. That brings a jump from 577 to 603 horsepower, with the same 664 lb-ft of torque as before. AMG also swaps the S63’s seven-speed automatic for a nine-speed unit. The S65’s twin-turbo V-12 is untouched, producing the same locomotive-like 738 lb-ft of torque and 621 horsepower as last year. At the tippy top of the S-class pile, the V-8 Mercedes-Maybach is now dubbed S560 to denote, as you’ve probably already surmised, its adoption of the same 4.0-liter V-8 as the non-Maybach S560. The V-12–powered Maybach S650 sees no mechanical changes.
Retaking Its Rightful Place
The S-class’s status as the most technically proficient Benz came to an end last year, when the redesigned E-class hit the ground with semi-autonomous tech more advanced than that on its larger sibling. That unusual usurping was born from the desire to get the latest safety technologies in front of customers as quickly as possible, and it is remedied for 2018.
Mercedes has gifted the S-class’s option sheet with the same comprehensive suite of sensors and radar hardware that gives the E-class (equipped with Drive Pilot) an impressive 360-degree understanding of its surroundings and improved autonomous-driving capability. It ups the ante with a new adaptive-cruise-control feature that uses map data and slows the car for impending curves, turns, or roundabouts. The S now can change lanes by itself—with only a flick of the turn signal—via updated active lane-change-assist technology. Users also are given more information on the status of such lane changes thanks to improved graphics and indicators in the digital instrument cluster. According to Mercedes, whereas the E-class makes do with Generation 4 driver-assistance software, the 2018 S-class marks Generation 4.5. Last year’s S-class used Generation 3 gear, and Mercedes says that just over 50 percent of customers opted for it.
Mercedes also has swapped the S-class’s dual digital dashboard displays for the same sharp 12.3-inch units used in the latest E-class. Mercedes proudly points out that it incorporated both screens under a single pane of glass (the former dual displays were mounted in separate nacelles), also like the E’s setup. Longtime Mercedes fans may be shocked, however, to learn that the brand’s long-serving cruise-control stalk has been banished. The stick used to poke out of the left side of the steering column, in a crowded cluster that also included the turn-signal stalk and the steering column’s power-adjustment joystick. That cruise-control stalk is replaced by buttons on the all-new steering wheel, which also features touch-sensitive control pads similar to those found on the E-class.
Beyond minor enhancements to the LED headlights and the active suspension’s ability to lean the body more than 2.5 degrees into a turn, motorcycle style—the latter feature new to both the S-class sedans’ and the S65’s option sheets—there’s nothing else to report. It isn’t as though the S-class really needed any changes, though. This is one of the finest sedans on the market at any price and in any configuration, and to shuffle the engines and tweak the already impressive roster of technologies is a worthy upgrade, even if the changes are not obvious.