MUNICH - Mercedes-Benz has gotten bold again with its new S class.
The upper-premium sedan once more will be the most-powerful and most-expensive offering in its segment when it is launched in October.
That's a turnaround because the current S class is much more modest compared with its predecessor, code-name W140.
The W140 model, which was built between 1990 and 1998, was developed at the height of a size and power battle between Mercedes and BMW.
Its top engine was a 6.0-liter, V-12 gasoline powerplant with 408hp. BMW's rival engine in the 7 series was a 5.0-liter, V-12 gasoline powerplant with 300hp.
At 5213mm, the W140 S class's long-wheelbase version was so long that Mercedes had to fit antennae on the rear fenders so drivers could judge where the back of the car was when reversing.
Back then, BMW's rival 7 series was 5024mm long.
While that S class was a great success in the US and Asia, in Europe it was heavily criticized for its excessive size and power. The chrome antennae were ridiculed.
To counter the criticism, the current S class, introduced in 1998, got smaller - its long wheelbase version was 5158mm - and less powerful, the top engine is a 5.8-liter, 367hp powerplant.
Easier to park
In power, size, and price, the new S class once more will be ahead of its main competitors (see box). The long-wheelbase version once more will be more than 5200mm.
But drivers will not need antennae to park the vehicle. The new S class will be the first production car with radar sensors, which have a longer range than ultrasonic parking aids. That means drivers are warned earlier of potential hazards.
While the current S class is still the best seller globally in its segment, it is No. 3 in its class in western Europe.
In the first five months, 3,791 S class units were sold here compared with 4,764 BMW 7 series, 4,086 Audi A8s and 1,744 Volkswagen Phaetons, according to JATO Dynamics.