2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class spy shots

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The first test mule for Mercedes-Benz’s next-generation S-Class has been spotted.

Test mules represent the first stage of real-world testing for new cars. It’s basically the new mechanical package hidden beneath the makeshift body of an existing car, typically the one the new car is about to replace.

Test mules provide clues on the size and hardpoints of the new car being developed. In the case of the next S-Class, which we’re expecting to arrive in 2020, as a 2021 model, we can see that the general size and proportions will match the current model but there will be a slightly wider track, as evidenced by the wheel arch extensions.

2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class test mule spy shots - Image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class test mule spy shots - Image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

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The current Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the W222, was introduced for 2014 and immediately rocketed to the top of the sales chart. The 6-figure sedan racked up more than 100,000 sales in its first year and that was before the arrival of additional body styles such as the 2-door cars and extra-long Maybach and Pullman.

It’s clear the next S-Class has some big shoes to fill. Luckily for it, it will adopt a new platform, in this case Mercedes’ MRA design for rear-wheel-drive cars. The current S-Class rides on an updated version of its predecessor’s architecture.

It’s hard to gauge what Mercedes has in store for its next S-Class this early out. The current model just received its mid-cycle update so understandably Mercedes is shy to talk about the next one. We already know a few things, however. Every powertrain will be electrified, either with mild-hybrid, plug-in hybrid or pure electric technology. It’s not clear if there will be a fuel cell option but Mercedes has demonstrated that it has the technology ready.

Mercedes-Benz and Bosch Automated Valet Parking

Mercedes-Benz and Bosch Automated Valet Parking

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There will also be much more advanced self-driving systems, including perhaps a Level 3 system. This is where the car can handle its own in certain situations, leaving the driver free to do other things. Should the driver need to take back control, the car will give warnings well in advance. Audi has already introduced such a system in its latest A8, though its availability will be limited due to a lack of regulations.

We’re expecting Mercedes to offer the next S-Class in multiple body lengths, from a short wheelbase right up to the extra-long Pullman. However, there’s a good chance the S-Class Coupe and Cabriolet will no longer be offered. Don’t be surprised if the void is filled with a Maybach offering.

We should see the first prototypes wearing the actual body of the new S-Class in late 2018 or early 2019. Stay tuned for updates as development continues.

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