Big change inside for next S-Class

* New control system debuts on luxury model * Powerful plug-in hybrid option also coming * New S-Class is due in 2013...

Big change inside for next S-Class

The next-generation Mercedes S-Class will feature a 'landmark' change in interior design that's likely to influence all future Mercedes models.

The next S-Class is due to go on sale in around three years, and it has been targeted by Mercedes designers as the standard-bearer for a new interior design direction.

It will draw on many features found in the F800 Style concept, including a new control system that could do away with the rotary knob of the current COMAND operation.

The new system isn't quite a touch-screen, but uses cameras to track hand movements over a display and projects an image of a hand onto the screen.

'The design is realy looking forward,' said Hartmut Sinkwitz, a senior interior designer with Mercedes. 'In most designs there are aspects that you carry over, or must use - there is always some switchgear that you must use for cost reasons, or for brand reasons, but this will be different. It is a clean design.

'The end result will be a fusion of the traditional and the innovative, and it will be a fresh approach that showcases the design ideas under the leadership of Gorden Wagener (who was made Mercedes's head of design in 2008).'

A plug-in hybrid system is also in the pipeline for the next-generation luxury car, an 80kW motor giving an electric-only top speed of 75mph. Mercedes quotes a recharge time of 4.5 hours through a 120 Volt socket and says it provides the car with an electric range of nearly 19 miles.

The next S-Class will also see a new full-speed adaptive cruise control system that can operate in traffic by tracking the movements of the car in front with stereo cameras rather than radar. Mercedes says it can also track cars around corners, which makes it more reliable.