Mercedes equips S class with superlatives

Automaker raises sales target, promises 'quantum leap' in detail

Stuttgart. Product developers for the Mercedes-Benz S class are promising a new benchmark in safety, and more global sales when the next-generation sedan launches this fall.

The S class, currently in the early stages of production at the automaker's Sindelfingen , Germany, factory, represents "a quantum leap on the issue of devotion to detail," company officials said.

Mercedes has sold 500,000 units of the S class since 1998, becoming the top-selling luxury car in the world.

The vehicle went on sale Sept. 24 in Europe.

"During the first full year of production, we can build up to 88,100 units," said Peter de Potzolli, the project manager for the S class.

Sources inside the company said Mercedes is expecting worldwide sales of more than 65,000 units in 2006. Mercedes sold 58,000 units last year.

The base price for the entry-level S350, with a 272-horsepower engine, starts at 70,760 euros, or about $85,300 at current exchange rates. The L version, a longer model, starts at 78,400 euros, or about $94,500 at current exchange rates.

European Union figures put fuel consumption for the 1.9-ton vehicle between 7.8 liters and 14.6 liters per 100 kilometers, the equivalent of 16.3 miles to 30.5 miles per gallon.