It wasn't that long ago Mercedes-Benz introduced its current S-Class, the W222, but prototypes for an updated version have been out and about for some time.

As the S-Class was all-new in 2013, arriving as a 2014 model, we expect this updated version to land sometime in 2017, as a 2018 model.

Changes to the exterior will be subtle, with the only differences to be revised lights, exhaust tips and bumpers. The lights keep the shape of the current units but the "eyebrow" daytime running lights in the headlights adopt a new design with three strips instead of one, and one of the main light clusters has been replaced by a trio of LEDs stacked vertically.

These stacked LEDs form part of Mercedes’ next-generation Multibeam LED matrix headlight technology, which allows you to leave your high beams permanently on. Monitoring systems detect other road users and send commands to individually-controlled LEDs that can light up or darken sections of the road with precision-controlled distribution of the light beam so that no one is dazzled. The system can also detect and light up ahead of time pedestrians or animals near the side of the road, though unfortunately it may not be offered in the United States.

2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class facelift spy shots - Image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class facelift spy shots - Image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

Some shots of the interior reveal some additional changes. The dual digital displays that form the main instrument cluster and infotainment system appear slightly larger. It also looks like configuration of the displays has been revised and the multi-function steering wheel is sporting a new design as well.

We also hear that the Mercedes is experimenting with a gesture-control system that may make its debut in the updated S-Class. BMW has just launched such a system in its 2016 7-Series. Other changes in the cabin are likely to include new trim options and possibly a new design for the front seats.

Big changes will be taking place in the powertrain department. Mercedes has developed a new family of modular gasoline engines whose first member will be an inline-6 unit debuting in the updated S-Class. The inline-6 will be equipped with an integrated starter generator (ISG) that replaces the separate starter motor and alternator in current engine designs.

The new engines have also been designed to work in conjunction with a new 48-volt battery that replaces the 12-volt battery common to most cars on sale today. The plug-in hybrid S-Class (S550e in the U.S.) will also feature a new wireless charging system.