The next Mercedes S-Class will expand literally and offer greater personalisation to cover the gap left by the demise of the ultra-exclusive Maybach brand, the project leader has admitted.
Maybach is to disappear as a brand next year, having underperformed since Mercedes brought the name back (based on an older S-Class platform) in 2002.
The badge's axing will coincide with the arrival of the next generation of Mercedes' flagship S-Class, which is set to introduce several new technologies, including a nine-speed automatic transmission and cameras that 'read' the road surface and adjust the suspension accordingly to improve ride quality.
Dr Uwe Ernstberger said: 'We want to broaden the range of the S-Class and we'll have additional variants of that car. The next generation gets a lot of technical features that allow it to improve in extreme ways, so in a way, we need to broaden the range to accommodate that. We can go in more directions with it.'
When asked to confirm if short- and long-wheelbase versions of the car would still be offered, Ernstberger said, 'Yes. And even more!' That's a clear hint that Mercedes is planning a super-long 'Pullman' version of the car, to fill the gap left by Maybach's demise and a possible reference to the S-Class cabriolet. A drop-top S-Class might sound unlikely, but it's said to have already been given the green light for a debut in 2014.
Ernstberger confirmed that many of the technologies showcased in the new SL and E300 and E400 Hybrids at Detroit motor show are destined for the S-Class.
'The SL is also part of my responsibilities,' he said, 'so it's been straightforward to arrange transfer. You'll see elements like Magic Vision Control [the SL's wiper-mounted windscreen washing system] transferring directly. Of course the latest generation of hybrid powertrains will be installed.'
He also insisted that Maybach's demise is a natural development instead of an out-and-out failure.
'Ultimately we don't think Maybach failed,' he said. 'We just felt that we could do the job better with this new approach. The S-Class offers lots of fascinating opportunities. I'd say this is less a decision against Maybach and more one for our core brand, Mercedes-Benz.'