|Diana T. Kurylko covers various U.S. import brands for Automotive News|
The debut of a new S-class sedan usually puts the competition on edge.
Mercedes-Benz says the S-class sedan was the world's best-selling luxury car in its class last year. In the United States, the S class topped the newer Audi A8/S8 and BMW 7 series.
A redesigned 2014 S-class sedan goes on sale this fall. The timing couldn't be better as U.S. auto sales are expected to continue expanding this year.
Spy photos show crisper and cleaner lines on the 2014 S class. Exterior dimensions appear to be nearly the same as today's car.
But the advanced technology features could pose the biggest challenge to competitors.
Mercedes-Benz product experts suggest the 2014 S class has enough technology and safety features to make it a semiautonomous car that not only warns the driver when it is drifting out of its lane or that a pedestrian is ahead, but takes steps to prevent an accident.
It will also have improved handling and stability features.
Dealers say the interior is improved and more luxurious than what the competition offers.
The bigger challenge from the S-class range is the addition of two models -- a convertible and an ultraluxury sedan. That will give the United States five S-class derivatives.
A new top-of-the-line model will have an extra-long wheelbase and will be the last model to roll out, but it's unclear when. It will target buyers who previously bought or considered the now-defunct Maybach brand. The ultraluxury model will be priced from about $185,000 to $215,000 and compete against high-end Bentley sedans.
In 2012, Mercedes-Benz sold 65,128 S-class cars worldwide, down from 68,969 in 2011. Since the current generation model went on sale in September 2005 in Europe, more than 500,000 cars have been sold worldwide, according to Mercedes-Benz.
In the United States, S-class sales declined 4 percent in 2012 to 11,794 units. S-class sales hit a peak of 30,886 cars in 2006. While competitors have raised their game in the segment, Mercedes-Benz officials are confident the new S class will make significant strides.