FRANKFURT, Germany - The new Mercedes-Benz S-class is smaller and lighter than its predecessor.
'The old S-class was often criticized for being too big and appearing too heavy,' said a Daimler-Benz spokesman. At 5040mm long and 1857mm wide, the new S-class is 73mm shorter, 29mm narrower and 300kg lighter than the old model.
The new car also appears much more slender than its predecessor, thanks largely to the roof lines adapted from the E-class that was launched in 1995.
The S-class will be offered in both long- and short-wheelbase versions when it goes on sale in Europe starting in October. The current S-class also has long (5213mm) and short (5113mm) wheelbase versions.
Fuel efficiency is 17 percent better than the current S-class, said Daimler.
Three engines, all available on the E-class, will be offered initially: a six-cylinder, 224hp unit; and two eight-cylinder versions, making 279hp and 306hp. Two more engines will be added next year: an eight-cylinder common-rail direct-injection diesel and a 12-cylinder gasoline engine.
All engines conform to EU emissions standards that will come into force in 2000. In California, they will qualify as Ultra Low Emission Vehicles.
The new S-class will be built at the same Sindelfingen plant as the old model.
Among 30 new technical features on the car are intelligent cruise control and an electronic key that allows drivers to unlock the door simply by touching the handle. The cruise control uses radar to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
The main markets will be the USA, which has accounted for 39 percent of S-class sales, and Asia, which has taken 28 percent. Of the 433,000 units sold since 1990, 15 percent went to Germany. Worldwide sales in 1997 were 47,800 units.