2014 Mercedes-Benz S Class, live photos from unveiling in HamburgEnlarge Photo
The current-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class already set new standards for interior comfort and technology when it debuted in 2013, but the next car, due in 2018, will take things another step forward.
Speaking to Auto Express, Mercedes’ chief interior designer Jan Kaul said that the brand intends to steal back a reputation for "wow factor" cabin design from Audi and recent all-electric upstart Tesla. While the Stuttgart brand clearly respects the work of its rivals--which have set new standards for quality and for infotainment respectively--Kaul believes Mercedes can do things better.
He also says that Mercedes won't adopt technology just for the sake of it.
"We only do things because that are right for us, not because our rivals do," he said.
That was a direct reference to Audi's switch from a central display screen to the new virtual instrument binnacle of the new Audi TT. Kaul says it's something Mercedes "will look at", but may choose not to adopt. A huge central touchscreen display like that of the Tesla Model S is even less likely--the size of the screen means some functions are too low on the dashboard, causing potential distractions.
Likewise, Mercedes' recent trend for high-set, floating infotainment screens will stay for the time being. Kaul is dismissive of rivals' screens which slide into the dashboard when the car is turned off, as an expensive and complicated way of doing something unnecessary. When drivers get into the car, they want access to the screen--so it might as well be there already. Mercedes won't opt for a detachable unit either, which risks coming adrift in a crash.
The rest of the S-Class interior will also see changes. Mercedes is currently researching gesture controls for suitable functions. Future vehicles will likely use a combination--voice controls are better for navigation input, for example--but gesture could be useful too. Slimmer one-piece seats are also being investigated--sure to give cabins a more futuristic feel, and 3-D printing is also on Mercedes' radar.
Like S-Class models before it, the next is sure to be a technological tour de force.