|Parent company||Daimler AG|
|Class||Full-size luxury car|
|Body style(s)||4-door sedan|
The name "S-Class" derives from the German word "Sonderklasse" of which "S-Class" is an abbreviation. Sonderklasse means "special class" (or rather: "In a class of its own"), and in automotive terms thus refers to "a specially outfitted car." Although used colloquially for decades, the "S-Class" designation was first officially applied in 1973 with the debut of the W116 model line. Since then, five generations of officially-named S-Class sedans have been produced.
Past two-door coupe models of the S-Class were known as SEC and later S-Coupe. In 1998 they were spun off in a separate line as the CL-Class, however it will be re-designated as the S-Coupe when launching the mid-generational facelift/refresh of the C216 later in 2009 as a 2010 model.
Historical overviewIn early Mercedes-Benz history, the "S-Class" designation was used colloquially, referring to the letter "S" which designated most of the larger six-cylinder powered vehicles in the company's lineup (but not the luxurious V8-powered 600 limousine).
In 2007, the current W221 S-Class premiered, replacing the W220. This latest generation of the S-Class is slightly larger than its predecessor, with sharper exterior styling (most notably wide fender arcs) and technological improvements. New technological features on the W221 include an infrared Night View Assist feature and the latest Mercedes-Benz pre-collision system. The W221 is the second consecutive generation of the S-Class to be solely produced in a sedan body style. In the U.S., base prices for the W221 S-Class range from $87,475 for the S550, $144,975 for the S600, $127,775 for the S63 AMG and $194,775 for the S65 AMG.
Role of the Autobahn
However, following the formation of DaimlerChrysler and the cessation of engineer-sanctioned overbudgeting in the late 1990s, this slogan was dropped; the subsequent W220 model S-Class also exhibited lower reliability and quality rates.
Until 1982, there were only two lines. The new W201 ("Baby-Benz") was awkwardly called 190 no matter what engine was installed. As in earlier special models, the real capacity was indicated as e.g. "190E 2.6", in order to distinguish it from the mid-sized 260E, the mid-size five-door 260TE, and the "S-Class" 260SE using the same six-cylinder. In 1994, when the W202 was introduced as C-Class, the traditional naming convention (numbers, plus letters) was reversed, with a leading letter identifying the line (currently, A, B, C, CLS, E, G, GL, GLK, ML, R, S, V are in use). From then on, the long-wheelbase models (formerly "SEL") and the regular length models (formerly "SE") are both labeled with the prefix of "S" regardless of length. For example, both 500SEL and 500SE are now labeled as S500, with fuel injection being standard by now anyway.
Currently, the S-Class is available in three trim levels; the numbers are given in ascending order to denote more upscale models (e.g. S550/S600/S63 AMG etc.) In official Mercedes-Benz publications and on vehicle nameplates, a space between the letter and numbers is customary (e.g. S 600).
S-Class chronologyThe following generations of Mercedes-Benz flagship models are considered part of the lineage of the modern S-Class:
|Debut||Chassis code||Name/class||Major models||Summary|
|1965||W108||N/A||250S/SE, 300SE/SEL||(Article notes)|
|1972||W116||S-Class||280S/SE/SEL, 350/450SE/SEL, 300SD||(S-Class notes)|
|1979||W126||S-Class||280/300SE/SEL, 420/500/560SE/SEL/SEC, 300/350SD/SDL||(S-Class notes)|
|1991||W140||S-Class||300SE/SEL, 400/500/600SEL, 500/600SEC, 300SD||(S-Class notes)|
|1999||W220||S-Class||S280, S320, S420, S350, S430, S500, S600, S320 CDI, S55, S63, S65||(S-Class notes)|
|2006||W221||S-Class||S300(280), S350, S450, S550(500), S600, S320/S420 CDI, S63, S65||(S-Class notes)|
|Engine(s)||2.2 L I6|
The "Ponton" lineup included four- and six-cylinder models, but only the six-cylinder W180 and W128 lines are considered part of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class chronology, as they were the most powerful "Ponton" versions available.
|Engine(s)||2.2 L I6|
3.0 L I6
The Fintail was among the first cars in the world to have crumple zones and disc brakes, and for the top of range W112 models, an air suspension. The characteristic name referred to a styling feature on the rear section of the W111/W112 models, the Heckflosse ("Fintail") which resembled the larger fins then in fashion on American luxury cars produced by Cadillac and Buick.
The larger W111/W112 Fintail models should not be confused with a smaller Fintail line, the W110, which was also produced in 1961 (derived from the W111 line) and was essentially the predecessor of today's E-Class.
During this period, the designation S or SE was used for short wheelbase models including 250S, 250SE, and 300SE. Long wheelbase models (extended by 4 inches in the back door) were designated SEL (L= lang or long). Since the advent of the W108 series, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has always included two wheelbase lengths. The more powerful 300SE and 300SEL models were the most luxurious versions of the W108 line, with available burl walnut dashboards, automatic transmission, and power windows.
In 1968, the W108 line dropped the 250S and 250SE in favor of S-Class models with the larger engined 280S (in carbureted form) and the 280SE (with fuel injection); the 300SE/SEL models were later offered with a 3.5 litre V8 engine (in both the SE and SEL form) and 4.5 litre and 6.3 litre V8 engines (in the SEL model only).
3.0L I5 turbodiesel
The W116 models were large luxury sedans. The W116 was larger on the outside than the W108/W109 series it replaced, but had similar interior capacity, as the additional bulk was driven by new theories on car safety and occupant protection in a crash. It was one of the first cars to be available with ABS, a driver's airbag supplemental restraint system, or a turbo diesel engine.
The 450SE, then the most powerful model in the W116 lineup, was awarded European Car of the Year in 1974. Starting in 1975, the W116 was upgraded with a new fuel injection system in order to comply with revised exhaust emission standards in European markets. A slight power reduction was a result of this update, but in 1978, a series of further engine upgrades restored original performance levels under the new fuel injection systems.
EnginesThe most notable W116 was the high-performance, limited-production 450 SEL 6.9. This 8-cylinder model boasted the largest engine installed in a postwar Mercedes-Benz up to that time. Every 450 SEL 6.9 featured a self-leveling hydropneumatic suspension, and offered the ABS anti-lock braking system as an option from 1978 onwards. Also, in the United States and Canada only, Mercedes-Benz introduced the economical but powerful 3.0 liter 5-cylinder turbodiesel in 1978, sold as the 300SD.
3.0L 5 cyl. turbodiesel
3.0L 6 cyl. turbodiesel
In 1981, the W126 introduced the modern airbag, as patented by Mercedes-Benz in 1971, to the world as an additional measure of occupant protection. Other safety innovations on the W126 included passenger side airbags (in 1986), seat-belt pretensioners, and traction control. In the cabin, additional courtesy and reading lamps, along with heated seats and a more advanced climate control system, added to the luxurious interior environment. A four-speed automatic transmission was standard.
Although the top of range Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 of the previous generation was not directly replaced, the W126 carried forward the hydropneumatic suspension of the 6.9 as an option on the 500SEL. A new cruise control system was offered as well. Abandoning the roadster based coupes, the W126 introduced a two door variant, the SEC coupé. The longevity of the W126 S-Class model cycle was aided by a mid-cycle update in 1986, an upgrade which previously was not done in S-Class generations. During the update of the W126 model S-Class, a facelift was performed and engine upgrades occurred.
Notably, the 500SE has an interesting place in US history, despite not being offered in that country. American demand for this particular car drove the establishment of a large grey market. The detuned, yet very expensive standard US specification 380 SE/SEL/SEC/SL was underpowered, according to contemporary reports, so 25,000 units per year of the parallel import vehicle were sold in the early 1980s. That prompted then Mercedes-Benz of North America to lobby for the elimination of parallel import in 1988.
|Engine(s)||2.8L 197 hp (147 kW) I6|
3.2L 228 hp (170 kW) I6
4.2L 275 hp (205 kW) V8
5.0L 315 hp (235 kW) V8
6.0L 408 hp (304 kW) V12 (1991-1993)
6.0L 389 hp (290 kW) V12 (1994-1999)
In 1993, Mercedes-Benz model nomenclature was completely rationalized, with the SE/SEL/SEC cars becoming the S-Class and alphanumerical designations inverted (e.g. the both 500SE and 500SEL became S500 regardless of wheelbase length). In 1995, following the new Mercedes-Benz tradition of mid-life facelifts (first with the W126 in 1986), the W140 received a minor facelift. The clear turn signal indicator lenses on the front and rear were the most obvious changes. Headlamps were fitted with separate low and high beam reflectors. Following the mid-year facelift, the W140 coupé and sedan were each fitted with Electronic Stability Control. The W140 was to feature an air suspension as an option, but Mercedes-Benz was still perfecting the technology and chose to launch air suspension as an option in the next generation S-Class in late 1999.
|Layout||Front engine, rear-wheel drive / four-wheel drive|
|Engine(s)||2.8L 204 hp (152 kW) V6|
3.2L 224 hp (167 kW) V6
3.2L 197 hp (147 kW) I6 diesel
3.7L 245 hp (183 kW) V6
4.0L 250 hp (190 kW) V8 diesel
4.3L 279 hp (208 kW) V8
5.0L 306 hp (228 kW) V8
5.4L 493 hp (368 kW) V8
5.8L 367 hp (274 kW) V12
5.5L 493 hp (368 kW) V12
6.3L 444 hp (331 kW) V12
6.0L 604 hp (450 kW) V12
|Transmission(s)||5-speed automatic and 7-speed automatic (7G-Tronic)|
As with each new S-Class, the W220 brought in new innovations such as Airmatic air suspension and Active Ventilated Seats (which used miniature fans in the seats to move air through perforations). A navigation system with center console-mounted screen display was introduced, along with the COMAND input control system. Other options included keyless entry and ignition, a radar-controlled Distronic cruise control system and a cylinder shut-off system called Active Cylinder Control. The 4MATIC all wheel drive system was introduced to the North America market S-Class for 2003.
Consumer Reports classified the W220 model's reliability as "poor," its lowest rating, and declared it one of the "least reliable luxury cars." Build quality, however, was generally considered to be good. For instance, Forbes described the W220 S500 as "built remarkably well." Early W220s were recalled for issues with the trunk spring and the hydraulic fuel line; there were no recalls for the 2005 or 2006 model years.
In 2002 Mercedes-Benz introduced the world's first preemptive safety system on the W220 with its first iteration of Pre-Safe.
In 2003, the W220 S-Class received an exterior refresh with updates to the front fascia. The grille angle was adjusted to a slightly more upright position, and the xenon-discharge headlamps were given a new transparent housing, replacing the earlier opaque versions. The front bumper's lower air intakes were also restyled. In 2005, the S-Class was the first vehicle to receive a TÜV Institute environmental certificate from the German Commission on Technical Compliance for environmentally friendly components.
For one month in 2001, AMG produced the S63 AMG, which was sold in very limited numbers. The S63 was powered by a 6.3L 444 hp (331 kW) V12. An undisclosed number of were sold exclusively through AMG in European and Asian markets. The S65 AMG was introduced in 2005. Powered by a 6.0L 612 hp (456 kW) V12 twin turbo motor, the S65 was the most powerful S-Class, as well as the world's most powerful production sedan. The S65 had a 0 – 60 mph (97 km/h) time of 4.2 seconds and could reach 100 mph (160 km/h) under 9.0 seconds.
|Layout||Front engine, rear-wheel drive / four-wheel drive|
|Engine(s)||3.0L diesel 235 hp (175 kW) V6|
2.8L 231 hp (172 kW) V6
3.5L 272 hp (203 kW) V6
4.0L diesel 320 hp (240 kW) V8
4.7L 340 hp (250 kW) V8
5.5L 382 hp (285 kW) V8
6.2L 510 hp (380 kW) V8
5.5L 510 hp (380 kW) V12
6.0L 612 hp (456 kW) V12
|Transmission(s)||7-speed (5-speed on S65 & S600) automatic|
|Wheelbase||SWB - 3085 mm|
LWB - 3165 mm
Models sold in North America are the S450 (2008-,SWB and Canada only), S550, S600, S63 AMG and S65 AMG; other models to be sold outside North America include the S280, S350, S300, S420 CDI and S320 CDI. The first W221 model released in North America and Japan was the S550 (called S500 outside North America and Japan), with the S600 arriving in the following spring.
The brakes continue to become more advanced with the new Brake Assist Plus system monitoring for an impending collision and increasing braking if needed, while the Distronic Plusradar guided cruise control can now bring the car to a complete stop. This system works in outdoor conditions; a test demonstration by Mercedes-Benz in a crash-test hall resulted in embarrassment for the company when a new S-Class crashed into the back of a stationary W220 S-Class, an incident later attributed to radar-confusing steel in this hall.
Upscale department store Saks Fifth Avenue offered 20 special-edition S600 sedans for sale in its 2005 Christmas catalog. All 20 cars, priced at US$145,000 each, sold on November 22, 2005 in under seven minutes. The Saks-edition S600 sedans were finished in a mocha black exterior with an almond beige interior and were the first examples of the S600 to be sold to private owners. The S600s came with nearly every option standard. In 2007, Automobile Magazine named the W221 S-Class as one of its 2007 "All-Stars" over rivals from Lexus and BMW, and Car and Driver selected the S550 as the winner in a five-way comparison test of flagship luxury sedans, as did Motor Trend Magazine in July 2009 in a three way comparison test, with the other two competitors being the BMW 750Li, and Audi A8L 4.2 Quattro. The W221 S-Class was also the recipient of several other motoring awards (see following).
Standard features of the S550 include air conditioning w/dual-zone automatic climate controls, interior air filter, Tele Aid assistance system, navigation system w/voice recognition, power tilt/telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel w/radio controls, cruise control, leather upholstery, heated 14-way power front seats w/lumbar adjustment, memory system, heated power mirrors w/driver-side automatic day/night, power sunroof, premium sound system, 6-disc CD changer, satellite radio, wireless cell phone link, universal garage door opener, automatic day/night rearview mirror, and power rear sunshade. The S63 adds on heated/ventilated and massaging multicountour front seats w/automatic body-securing side bolsters, keyless start, power side sunshades, and power trunk closing. The S65 and S600 add on night vision, heated wood/leather-wrapped steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, power panoramic sunroof, rear dual-zone automatic climate controls, 8-way power-adjustable heated/ventilated rear seats w/lumbar adjustment, alcantara headliner, and rearview camera. Options for less expensive S-Class models include Night View Assist, power panorama sunroof, power side sunshades, heated steering wheel, upgraded leather upholstery, rearview camera, multicontour massaging front seats w/automatic body securing side bolsters, 8-way power adjustable heated/ventilated rear seats w/lumbar adjustment, rear dual-zone automatic climate controls, power trunk closing, and ventilated front seats.
PerformanceThe S550 completes the 0-60 mph run in just 5.5 seconds. The car weighs about 2250 kg, but S65 AMG still makes 0-60mph in just 4.2 seconds, comparable to many top of the line sports cars. The S 63 AMG and the S600 makes the same sprint in about 4.4 seconds.
SafetyMercedes-Benz has traditionally introduced its safety innovations in the S-Class. For instance, the S-Class was the first car in Europe to incorporate airbags. S-Class safety features include the following innovations in active safety (accident avoidance), passive safety (collision protection), and holistic safety (integration of both active and passive safety features):
- Active safety: ABS braking in 1978 (acts to reduce braking distances and improve stopping control; co-developed with Bosch); traction control and Electronic Stability Program (ESP) in 1995 (improves driver control during difficult road conditions); and Brake Assist (provides full braking power during emergency stops). In 2005, a new infrared night vision feature was introduced (improves visibility during nighttime conditions). Despite the popular misconception, the S-Class was not the first car fitted with ABS braking technology, although some credit can be given for popularizing this now largely standard feature (ABS was initially an option on most models of the W126 S-Class).
- Passive safety: crumple zones in 1957 (vehicle body structure absorbs the force of impact); three-point seatbelts in 1965 (provides additional torso/body protection); collapsible steering column (prevents the steering column from protruding into the cabin during accidents), strengthened occupant cell enhanced occupant protection during severe impacts (rollovers); pre-accident seatbelt tensioning (tightens seatbelts prior to impact), and sandwich platforms (allows the engine to slide under the occupants in a head-on collision).
- PRE-SAFE, Mercedes-Benz's holistic safety feature, was introduced on the S-Class in 2002. PRE-SAFE integrates multiple active and passive safety features for a "safety net" approach to vehicle safety by attempting to prevent accidents; if accidents do occur, PRE-SAFE aims to reduce occupant injury. In the latest version of this pre-collision system, PRE-SAFE will prime the brake assist system, lock the doors to prevent accidental opening during the accident, adjust the seats, close the windows and sunroof, and tighten seatbelts during certain types of collisions. In the event an accident results in a roll over, the PRE-SAFE feature unlock the doors and lower the windows approximately one half-inch to allow you to exit or safety workers to gain access easily.
The S-Guard is widely used at the diplomatic level to protect world leaders. Ninety governments worldwide are known to use the S-Guard for transport of government leaders and dignitaries.
Concept vehiclesS-Class robots: in the 1980s, Mercedes-Benz built the world's first driverless cars, together with the team of Professor Ernst Dickmanns at Bundeswehr Universität München. The culmination of this effort was achieved in 1995, when Dickmanns' re-engineered autonomous S-Class robot completed a trip from Munich, Bavaria to Copenhagen, Denmark and back. On the autobahn, the robot S-Class achieved speeds exceeding 175 km/h. It suggested and executed overtaking maneuvers. The car's abilities left a big impression on many observers, and is said to have heavily influenced robot car research and funding decisions worldwide.
F700 research car: a concept future hybrid, the F700 Research Car, was also unveiled at the 2007 Frankfurt auto show. The F700 featured three regular opening doors and a fourth door capable of 180 degree rotation.
AwardsRecent generations of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class have been the recipient of different automotive awards, including the following categories:
- Quality and customer satisfaction. From 1987-1990, with the W126 S-Class leading its sales, Mercedes-Benz received the highest customer ratings in the J.D. Power Sales Satisfaction Index. In 1990, the Mercedes S-Class was the third-ranked luxury vehicle in J.D. Power's Initial Quality Survey, behind only the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Lexus LS. Versus an average of 140 problems per 100 cars, the S-Class averaged 74.5, nearly twice better. The latest S-Class also tied with the Audi A8 (total) for having the fewest quality problems in the industry after 90 days of ownership, with just 72 problems per 100 vehicles in the 2007 IQS Ranking.
- Safety and security. Popular Mechanics gave the W221 S-Class its 2007 Automotive Excellence Award in the Safety category. In 2007, What Car? magazine recognized Mercedes-Benz with its Safety Award, noting safety innovations which first appeared in the S-Class. In 2006, the S-Class received a British Insurance Car Security Award at Thatcham, the UK insurance centre. The W126 S-Class was awarded by the U.S. Highway Loss Data Institute as the "The Safest Passenger Car of the Year" in 1988 and 1989.
- Design and technology. In 2006, Wheels Magazine feted the W221 S-Class with an Automotive Design Award. Production analyst group Automotive Circle International (ACI) gave the W221 S-Class its "EuroCarBody Award 2005." The S-Class' Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control was named a Topauto award winner in the Innovation category in 2006. In 2005, Popular Science gave the S-Class its Best of What's New - Grand Award. In 2006, the W221 S-Class received the Best Seat award for its driver seat design at the Automotive Interior of the Year Awards.
- Luxury car. In 2007, What Car? magazine named the S-Class "Best Luxury Car" for the seventh time. In 2006, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag awarded the W221 S-Class with the Golden Steering Wheel Award in the Luxury category, the Drive Car of the Year Awards in Australia crowned the S-Class winner of Best Luxury Car over $60,000, and German-speaking journalists awarded the S-Class as the top luxury auto in the Topauto 2006 awards.
- Car of the Year. In 2007, Fleet News named the S-Class its "Luxury Car of the Year" for the fifth time. Top Gear magazine named the S-Class "Limousine of the Year" for 2006. The S-Class was named Car of the Year in Wheels Magazine for 1981 and again in 1999. The W116 S-Class was European Car of the Year in 1974.