The Mercedes-Benz S-Class, formerly known as Sonderklasse (German for “special class”, abbreviated as “S-Klasse”), is a series of luxury flagship vehicles produced by the German automaker Mercedes-Benz, a division of German company Daimler AG. The S-Class designation for top-of-the-line Mercedes-Benz models was officially introduced in 1972 with the W116, and has remained in use ever since.
Rear Defogger/Wash Wipe
Trip Computer (MFD)
Steering Adjust (Rake/Reach)
First generation (1972-1980):
In 1972, Mercedes-Benz introduced the W116 line, the first to be officially called the S-Class. Produced from 1972 through 1980, the W116 series featured a four-wheel independent suspension and disc brakes. The 280, 350, and 450 (4.5L version) models featured SE and SEL versions. Production of the W116 totaled 473,035 units. This was a groundbreaking sedan for Mercedes-Benz, and for the first time in the company history, the car had an obvious, blatant and outward emphasis on safety placed above a pure styling viewpoint. The overall design incorporated numerous safety features developed from the “safety research vehicles” in the mid-to-late 1960s to the very early 1970s.
Second generation W126 (1979-1991):
The W126 series premiered in late 1979 as an 1980 model, and in March 1980 as an 1981 model in the US and Australia replacing the W116 line. The W126 line featured improved aerodynamics and enlarged aluminum engine blocks. In Australia in 1981, the W126 S-Class won Wheels magazine’s Car of the Year award. The W126 was manufactured from 1979 through 1991 with a mid-cycle update. Coupé models based on the S-Class were reintroduced with the W126 (380/500 SEC). Total sales of the W126 S-Class sedans reached 818,036 units, with an additional 74,060 coupes sold.
In 1981, the W126 introduced a driver side airbag, as patented by Mercedes-Benz in 1971, as well as the passenger side airbags (in 1988), seat-belt pretensioners, and traction control. It was the first production car to feature an airbag standard, and as late as 1991 there were only a few other manufacturers in Europe who offered an airbag.
Third generation W140/C140 (1991-1998)
The W140 cost 25% more than the W126. It replaced and featured double-pane window glazing, self-closing boot lid and doors, electric windows with a jam-protection feature (lowering when encountering an obstruction), rear-parking markers in the US (which appeared on the rear wings when in reverse), and a heating system which emitted warm air while residual energy was available after the engine was turned off.
Fourth generation W220 (1998-2005):
As with each new S-Class, the W220 brought in 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, complementing the traditional rear-wheel drive configurations.
Fifth generation W221 (2005-2013):
The all-new W221 was introduced in the autumn of 2005 at the Frankfurt International Motor Show, with sales starting in autumn of 2005 and export to other markets beginning in 2006. The W221 S-Class made its North American premiere at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in January. The W221 is slightly larger in all dimensions than its predecessor, and it features three newly developed engines with up to 26% power increase. The interior is completely new, all materials have been upgraded and make for a more luxurious ride, and the center console transmission gear lever has been replaced with a column-mounted shifter. New technological features on the W221 include an infrared Night View Assist feature and the latest Mercedes-Benz pre-collision system. The W221 features sharper exterior styling (most notably wide fender arcs) and technological improvements. The W221 is the second consecutive generation of the S-Class to be solely produced in a sedan body style.
A special armored version of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been produced, known as the S-Guard. Features include the capability to withstand small arms fire and certain explosive devices, a self-sealing fuel tank, and an alarm system. For 2009, Mercedes-Benz launched a long-wheelbase version of the S-Guard, known as the Pullman Guard. This model is 45 centimeters longer than the standard model and also has a higher roof and taller rear window with a different rake.
Notable examples of awards received by the Mercedes-Benz S-Class include the top ranking in the J.D. Power Sales Satisfaction Index from 1987 to 1990, seven time ranking as What Car? “Best Luxury Car”, and five times as Fleet News “Luxury Car of the Year”.The S-Class was Wheels Magazine Car of the Year for 1981 and 1999,U.S. Highway Loss Data Institute “Safest Passenger Car of the Year” in 1988 and 1989, and European Car of the Year in 1974. The S-Class is also the first car ever (2005) to receive an environmental certificate from the German Commission on Technical Compliance (TÜV).Other awards range from Popular Science Best of What’s New-Grand Award 2005 to Top Gear magazine’s “Limousine of the Year” for 2006.