Highlights of the S-Class and its predecessors

Nov 12, 2012
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class and its predecessors have always stood for innovative automotive engineering. Over the years, they have continually brought new features to the market which have then found widespread acceptance. Here is a brief overview of the special features in each model series.
Mercedes-Simplex 60 PS (1903 to 1905)
  • State-of-the-art high-performance engine: large-displacement four-cylinder unit with overhead intake valves
  • Highly efficient honeycomb radiator
  • Longer wheelbase and low centre of gravity
Mercedes-Benz Nürburg, W 08 (1928 to 1933)
  • First Mercedes-Benz series production car with an eight-cylinder engine
  • Luxurious and spacious Pullman body
  • High-speed transmission system as special equipment (from 1931, in conjunction with increased cubic capacity)
Mercedes-Benz 770 ‘Super Mercedes’, W 07 and W 150 (1930 to 1943)
  • First Mercedes-Benz series production car with an 8-cylinder supercharged engine
  • Dual ignition system with two spark plugs per cylinder (high-voltage magneto ignition and battery ignition)
  • High-speed transmission system (five-speed manual transmission from 1938)
  • Oval tubular box frame (from 1938)
  • De Dion rear axle (from 1938)
Mercedes-Benz 320, W 142 (1937 to 1942)
  • Smooth-running six-cylinder engine
  • All-synchromesh four-speed transmission, with remote action gear from 1939
  • Wide range of bodies: sedan, Pullman sedan (with exterior case from 1939), streamlined sedan, several convertibles
Mercedes-Benz 300, W 186 and W 189 (1951 to 1962)
  • Cutting-edge six-cylinder engine with overhead camshaft
  • Manually-controlled intake manifold fuel injection (from 1957)
  • Safety tang lock to prevent the doors from bursting open
  • Electrically-operated torsion bar suspension to compensate the height of the rear wheels under heavy loads
  • Heating with blower(s) as standard
  • Air conditioning as special equipment (from 1958)
  • Power-assisted steering as special equipment (from 1958)
Mercedes-Benz 220, W 187 (1951 to 1954)
  • Cutting-edge six-cylinder engine with overhead camshaft
  • Safety tang lock to prevent the doors from bursting open
  • Heating with blower(s) as special equipment
Mercedes-Benz 220 a/220 S/220 SE, W 180/W 128 (1954 to 1959)
  • Integral body construction
  • Increased spaciousness and comfort due to modern ponton shape
  • Front suspension subframe
  • Single-joint swing axle with low centre of rotation
  • Brake drums with turbo cooler
  • Heating with blower(s) as standard, separately adjustable for driver and front passenger
  • Hydrak automated hydraulic clutch as special equipment (from 1957)
  • Manually-controlled intake manifold fuel injection (220 SE, from 1958)
Mercedes-Benz 220 b to 300 SE/300 SE long, W 111/W 112 (1959 to 1965)
  • Passenger safety cell with crumple zones (front and rear)
  • Padded steering wheel and interior appointments designed so as to reduce injury hazards in accidents
  • Wedge-pin door locks featuring two safety detents
  • Disk brakes (300 SE, from 1961)
  • Dual-circuit braking system (from 1963)
  • Four-speed automatic transmission (from 1961)
  • Air suspension (300 SE, from 1961)
  • Long version available (300 SE, from 1963)
  • Central locking as special equipment (300 SE long)
Mercedes-Benz 600, W 100 (1963 to 1981)
  • Powerful, large-displacement V8 engine
  • Four-speed automatic transmission
  • Dual-circuit braking system with disk brakes
  • Air suspension
  • Power-assisted steering
  • Central hydraulic system for seat adjustment, opening and closing doors, windows and luggage compartment
  • Electronically-controlled heating and ventilation system
Mercedes-Benz 250 S to 300 SEL 6.3, W 108/W 109 (1965 to 1972)
  • Safety steering system (from 1967)
  • Hydropneumatic compensating spring on rear axle
  • Air suspension (300 SEL, 300 SEL 6.3, 300 SEL 3.5)
  • Top-of-the-range 300 SEL 6.3 model with an output of 250 hp (184 kW), powerful V8 engine and sports car performance (from 1968)
Mercedes-Benz S-Class 116 model (1972 to 1980)
  • First official use of the ‘S-Class’ designation
  • Integral safety concept
    –four-spoke safety steering wheel
    –tank above rear axle to protect it from collisions
    –safety door handles
    –generously sized headlamps and turn signal lamps
    –dirt-deflecting taillights
    –dirt-deflecting side windows
  • ABS (anti-lock braking system) as special equipment (from 1978)
  • Cruise control as special equipment (from 1975)
  • Double wishbone front axle
  • Coupled-link axle with anti-squat control (450 SE, 450 SEL, 450 SEL 6.9)
  • Automatic transmission with torque converter as special equipment (standard on 450 SE, 450 SEL, 450 SEL 6.9)
  • Self-levelling hydropneumatic suspension (450 SEL 6.9, from 1975)
  • First luxury class sedan with a diesel engine, first series production passenger car with a turbo-diesel engine (300 SD, from 1978)
Mercedes-Benz S-Class 126 model (1979 to 1991)
  • Bodyshell with forked longitudinal member, first series production vehicle worldwide to meet the offset crash requirements
  • Lower drag coefficient of cd = 0.37
  • New V8 engines with light-alloy block
  • Closed-loop catalytic converter as special equipment (from 1985) or standard fitment (from 1986)
  • Electrically adjustable steering column as special equipment (from 1985)
  • Driver airbag and belt tensioner for front passenger as special equipment (from 1981)
  • Passenger-side air bag (from 1988)
  • Automatic locking differential as special equipment for the six-cylinder models (from 1985)
  • ASR (acceleration slip regulation) as special equipment for V8 models (from 1985)
  • The most successful high-end, luxury Mercedes-Benz sedan
Mercedes-Benz S-Class 140 model (1991 to 1998)
  • Petrol engines with four-valve technology and variably adjustable inlet camshafts
  • First Mercedes-Benz series production car with a twelve-cylinder engine, the brand’s most powerful passenger car engine up to that point (600 SE, 600 SEL)
  • Premium-class diesel 300 SD available for the first time on the world markets
  • Systematically designed for a high level of recyclability
  • Total avoidance of chlorofluorocarbons
  • Five-speed automatic transmission with electronic management (standard fitment for V8 and V12 models, from 1995)
  • Parameter steering with speed-dependent steering torque
  • Insulating double glazing on side windows for reduced noise
  • Automatic climate control with activated charcoal filter and CO/NOX sensors as standard equipment (S 600) or special equipment
  • Electrically folding exterior mirror
  • Closing assist for doors and boot lid as special equipment
  • Headlamps with variable-focus reflectors
  • Electronics linking via CAN-bus
  • Restraint system with automatic height adjustment
  • Side airbags for driver and front passenger (from 1996)
  • Adaptive damping system (ADS) as special equipment
  • Electronic Stability Program (ESP® ) as standard equipment (S 600, from 1995) or special equipment (S 420, S 500, from 1995)
  • Brake Assist (BAS, from 1996)
  • PARKTRONIC electronic parking aid as standard equipment (S 600, from 1995) or special equipment (from 1995)
  • Auto Pilot System (APS) navigation system as special equipment (from 1995)
  • TELE-AID emergency call system as special equipment (from 1997)
  • LINGUATRONIC voice control system as special equipment (from 1996)
  • Xenon headlights with dynamic headlamp range control as special equipment (from 1996)
Mercedes-Benz S-Class 220 model (1998 to 2005)
  • Lightweight body with weight-reducing materials mix (high-tensile steel, light alloy, plastic)
  • Aluminium crash boxes in the front end and rear structure
  • Drag coefficient cd = 0.27
  • Automatic cylinder cut-out system as standard equipment (S 600) or special equipment (S 500)
  • Seven-speed 7G-TRONIC automatic transmission with electronic management (S 430, S 500, from 2004)
  • AIRMATIC air suspension with electronically controlled adaptive damping system ADS
  • Active Body Control ABC as special equipment (standard fitment on the S 600)
  • Additional turn signal lamps integrated into the wing mirrors
  • Auto on/off headlamps
  • COMAND control and display system with dynamic navigation system as special equipment
  • Window bags
  • Rear Side bags
  • Passenger-side air bag with two-stage gas generator
  • Rear belt tensioner and belt force limiter
  • Side windows with laminated glass
  • Multizone automatic climate control with solar-dependent settings for individual seats
  • Luxury seats with ventilation and dynamic multi-contour backrest as special equipment
  • DISTRONIC proximity control as special equipment
  • KEYLESS‑GO keyless access and drive authorisation system as special equipment
  • Bi-xenon headlights with dynamic headlamp range control as special equipment (from 2002, standard fitment on the S 600)
  • PRE‑SAFE® preventive occupant safety system (from 2002)
  • V8 diesel engine with light alloy block (S 400 CDI)
  • 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive as special equipment (S 430, S 500, from 2002)
Mercedes-Benz S-Class 221 model (2005 to 2013)
  • Drag coefficient cd = 0.26
  • First car with an environment certificate
  • Seven-speed 7G-TRONIC automatic transmission with electronic management and DIRECT SELECT steering column shift
  • Active Body Control ABC with crosswind stabilisation as special equipment (standard fitment on the S 600)
  • ADAPTIVE BRAKE system
  • Adaptive brake light
  • Brake Assist Plus as special equipment
  • Advanced DISTRONIC PLUS proximity control (automatic braking to a standstill) as special equipment
  • PRE-SAFE brake with autonomous partial braking (from 2006) or autonomous emergency braking (from 2009) as special equipment
  • Advanced COMAND system with controller on the central tunnel
  • SPLITVIEW display as special equipment (from 2009)
  • Park Assist as special equipment
  • Panoramic tilting/sliding roof as special equipment
  • active Night View Assist as special equipment
  • Blind Spot Assist as special equipment (from 2007, active Blind Spot Assist from 2010)
  • Lane Keeping Assist as special equipment (from 2009, active Lane Keeping Assist from 2010)
  • Adaptive Highbeam Assist as special equipment (from 2009)
  • Speed Limit Assist as special equipment (from 2009)
  • First luxury class vehicle with a hybrid drive and lithium-ion battery (S 400 HYBRID, from 2009)
  • First S-Class with a four-cylinder engine (S 250 CDI, from 2010)
Road sign “No access for vehicles of any kind” on a building of the Mercedes-Benz plant in Sindelfingen. In the foreground, we see three Mercedes-Benz 770, known as the “Grosser” or “Grand” Mercedes (W 07, built from 1930 to 1938) ready for delivery.
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Mercedes-Benz 300 c (W 186). Drawing from the 1956 catalogue.
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The Mercedes-Benz 300 (W 186) grabbed the headlines at the Frankfurt International Motor Show in April 1951. With a top speed of 160 km/h, it was the fastest production car in Germany. This marked Mercedes-Benz’s re-establishment as a luxury car maker – just six years after the Second World War.
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The Mercedes-Benz 300 SD turbo diesel (116 series) was the first standard turbo-diesel passenger car as well as the first luxury-class saloon with a diesel engine. This luxury diesel was only sold in the United States and Canada.
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A major update of the Mercedes-Benz 300 was launched in 1957 (internal name: 300 d, W 189) with a petrol injection system, automatic transmission and a redesigned body without B-pillars – officially referred to back then as a ‘pillarless full-vision body’.
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Mercedes-Benz S 250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY (221 model series S-Class, 2011 to 2013) produced in 2011, the first S-Class with a four-cylinder engine.
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Mercedes-Benz started carrying out systematic crash tests in 1959 at its Sindelfingen plant. Between 1962 and 1973, a hot-water rocket was used to propel the test vehicles. This photo shows a Mercedes-Benz 220 (W 111) with a hot-water rocket just about to start.
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The first luxury saloon with hybrid drive and lithium-ion battery: Mercedes-Benz S 400 HYBRID (221 series) from 2009.
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The first luxury saloon with hybrid drive and lithium-ion battery: Mercedes-Benz S 400 HYBRID (221 series) from 2009.
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Special equipment in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class 221 series: Lane Keeping Assist uses steering wheel vibrations to warn drivers if they leave their lane. Active Lane Keeping Assist, which has been available since 2010, applies individual brakes to automatically steer the vehicle back into its lane if it crosses a solid line.
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Special equipment in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class 221 series: Lane Keeping Assist uses steering wheel vibrations to warn drivers if they leave their lane. Active Lane Keeping Assist, which has been available since 2010, applies individual brakes to automatically steer the vehicle back into its lane if it crosses a solid line.
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221 model series Mercedes-Benz S-Class Saloon (2005 to 2013). Brake Assist PLUS and Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC PLUS support the driver in emergency braking situations. If the driver is distracted and therefore fails to spot the immediate risk of a rear-end collision, PRE-SAFE® Brake can intervene and autonomously apply the brakes. It has the effect of an "electronic crumple zone".
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The electronic stability programme (ESP) has been fitted as standard in all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars since early 2000. An anonymised analysis of accident statistics by the German Federal Statistical Office provides clear evidence that driver-related accidents involving Mercedes-Benz passenger cars have decreased substantially since the universal implementation of ESP.
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In 220 model series S-Class Saloons (1998 to 2005), Mercedes-Benz offered Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC as an optional extra. Description of the operating principle from driver's viewpoint.
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