Daimler unveils new flagship Mercedes model

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) - Daimler AG has unveiled the newest version of its S-Class model from luxury brand Mercedes-Benz, a car that will play a key role in the company's effort to restore its earnings performance.

The new S-class sedan was shown off on Wednesday in Hamburg, Germany.

It has a taller grille that changes its exterior appearance, but the major emphasis was on the technology added to increase driver comfort and safety - and underline Mercedes' image as a maker of advanced vehicles for the well-heeled.

The car will be important to the company's efforts to improve earnings. First quarter profits fell 60 per cent to 564 million euros (S$910 million) and the company had to abandon its profit estimate for the year.

"The S-Class has always been the signature model, the beacon model of Mercedes-Benz as a brand," said analyst Christoph Stuermer at IHS Automotive. "It is the most important model in terms of shaping the global brand image and propelling the success of the other models."

Typically, the company puts technology in the S-Class that only later appears in other models.

The car can process information from its 360-degree cameras and radar to help drivers steer within their lanes and keep the right distance to other cars, as well as avoid collisions at crossings.

It can detect rough pavement ahead and adjust the suspension to keep the ride smooth.

The seats offer a hot-stone style massage experience, using 14 separately operated air chambers and heating elements in the seat back.

If desired, a perfume generator allows the interior scent to be adjusted, with four "discreet and mild" fragrances and three intensity settings.

The company hastens to promise the scent dissipates quickly and that no perfume will get on occupants' clothes.

The company says it put much effort into the comfort of rear-seat passengers, catering to Asian customers who are more likely to have a chauffeur and will be working or resting instead of driving. One version can adjust the rear-seat recline angle by 43.5 degrees.

The new version goes on sale July 20 in Europe and in September in the United States (US) In Europe, prices start at 79,789.50 euros for a shorter-wheelbase diesel model- and head up from there to 107,635.50 euros for a longer-wheelbase gasoline version.

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