This image, from Car and Driver, shows the interior of a prototype of the next-gen Mercedes-Benz S Class, which will be codenamed the W223. Now, its entirely possible that the Tesla-style giant-screen-for-everything won’t make it to the production car. But based on what’s visible in the image, it looks almost production ready.
Why would Mercedes do this? Its possible that Mercedes is trying to steal Tesla customers. However, if this is the case, it could backfire. Tesla buyers just want technology, regardless of how well it works. Mercedes S Class buyers have always preferred real luxury over gimmicks. That’s why only certain functions in the current S Class are controlled through the infotainment system. That’s why there are still physical buttons for the climate controls. You don’t have to look away from the road to see what you’re pressing. You won’t press the wrong thing if you hit a pothole. Metal buttons don’t collect fingerprints. Buttons work. S Class buyers won’t like an all touchscreen interior- they would probably prefer to hang on to their previous-gen S Class.
The other possible reason why Mercedes may choose to replace most of their buttons with a touchscreen is simply to cut costs. Buttons and knobs are expensive to design. They have to use the right materials, figure out what size they should be, and how heavy they should feel. With a screen, they have very little to develop.
The problem with that is that a true luxury car shouldn’t show signs of obvious cost-cutting. This will not be a cheap car. You want solid metal buttons and knobs. Otherwise, the interior won’t be much better than a nice Hyundai. And lets not forget how cost-cutting backfired on Mercedes-Benz the last time they tried it on the S Class.
On the W221, the cheaper suspension had issues. The cheaper paint led to rust. Its not entirely unreasonable to think that the touchscreen will have issues. Especially when you consider that they’re not all that reliable in other cars either.
Hopefully, this touchscreen interior is just in this prototype. The new GLS (now being marketed as the S Class of SUVs) has a well designed interior, which could be borrowed by the W223 S Class.
We will have to wait until sometime 2020 to see the redesigned S Class. Hopefully they won’t mess it up.