Next Mercedes S Class to feature 9-speed transmission image

With up to five cutting-edge new safety systems, including a ‘Braking Bag’ that bursts under the front axle to add an extra dimension of last-second emergency stopping power, the S-class is likely to rate as the world’s safest car when it launches late in 2012.

In addition, the next generation S-Class flagship from Mercedes-Benz will come with a nine-speed automatic transmission.

That isn’t exactly new, since talk of such a beast has been broached before. The difference this time is that Autocar’s sources says the gearbox will be “introduced on large-capacity engines.”

With no numbers for context we can’t be sure what’s meant by “large-capacity.” The gearbox will be mounted longitudinally under the S-Class. It will be used in both rear- and all-wheel drive models and even the hybrid variant is expected to be equipped with it.

Going forward, Mercedes apparently believes nine gears is the maximum number of ratios that are technically possible. More importantly, the company thinks consumers won’t accept a ten-speed unit.

The official unveiling of the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class is still expected to be a year away, with the 2013 Geneva motor show in March believed to be its earliest possible debut date.