The Mercedes-Benz S-ClassThe most successful luxury-class series in the world.
The tradition of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class
What makes a vehicle the epitome of the automobile in its time? The Mercedes-Benz S-Class and its predecessors have been answering this question since the early years of the brand’s history. The tradition of luxury models from Mercedes-Benz has continued uninterrupted since 1951, but executive and luxury class saloons were already firmly established in the model range long before the Second World War. The latest generation in this unique tradition is the new 222-series Mercedes-Benz S-Class (combined fuel consumption: 12.7-2.1 l/100 km combined CO2 emissions 289-49 g/km*). Following an extensive model facelift with numerous innovations, it has been on the market since summer 2017.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class follows a long and rich tradition that goes back to the beginnings of the Mercedes brand at the start of the 20th Century. Luxury, comfort and safety: long before the official introduction of the model designation S-Class in 1972, cars in the executive and luxury class have been the main emphasis in the product portfolio of the Stuttgart-based brand.
Mercedes-Benz 560 4MATIC (model series 222) of 2017 in front of the former hunting lodge of the Wald & Schlosshotel Friedrichsruhe.
With every generation of its flagship models, Mercedes-Benz gives convincing answers to the wishes and requirements of the time. Every single model in the history of the S-Class makes its mark on the automobile development of its time with individual strengths, and is therefore also a reflection of its era. To summarise the importance of this development heritage, a Mercedes-Benz S-Class and its preceding model series have always been the epitome of the automobile.
Outstanding in the sum of all its qualities
Thanks to innovative technology, outstanding comfort and trailblazing safety systems, every generation of the flagship model from Mercedes-Benz sets the example for automobile development throughout the entire industry. Many technical features that Mercedes-Benz offers in the S-Class for the first time in a regular production model are subsequently not only used in other Mercedes-Benz model series, but also adopted by other car manufacturers.This leadership role is a constant in both the past and present of Mercedes-Benz. There is probably no other model with which the brand is more strongly identified than with the S-Class. In the sum of its attributes it is the lodestar for the Mercedes-Benz brand and the entire automotive world.
The world’s bestselling car in the luxury class
Unrivalled tradition since the early years of the brand
From the W 187 to the “Ponton Mercedes” (1951 to 1959)
From the “Fintail” to the high-performance saloon (1959 to 1972)
The “Fintail” models 220, 220 S and 220 SE (W 111) introduced in 1959 received their nickname from the discreet fintail that embellished the rear wings – officially these were known as “guide rods” in view of their function as a parking aid. The new luxury class generation was a very special milestone in automobile history, as this was the first time the safety body with crumple zones and a rigid passenger cell invented by Béla Barényi was incorporated into a series production model. Presented in 1961, the 300 SE (W 112) as the top model in the series featured an air suspension system and the automatic transmission developed by Mercedes-Benz as standard equipment. In 1963 the long-wheelbase version of this model founded a new tradition in the luxury class saloon portfolio of Mercedes-Benz: the 100-millimetre longer wheelbase gave passengers in the rear significantly more legroom and travelling comfort. The 108 and 109-series saloons that replaced the “Fintail” models in 1965 impressed with their timeless, elegant design and generously dimensioned window areas. Alongside the models with a conventional steel suspension – internally assigned to the 108 series – there were air suspension variants (109 series) which were also available with a 100 mm longer wheelbase right from the start. The 300 SEL 6.3 presented in 1968 was a particular highlight. The new top model in the series was equipped with the powerful V8 engine of the high-end Mercedes-Benz 600 saloon, and together with outstanding comfort and luxurious appointments it delivered sports car-like performance.
Automobile trendsetters: the model series 116 and 126 (1972 to 1991)
The model designations of the succeeding 116 series presented in 1972 expressed what had already been the norm at Mercedes-Benz for decades: the luxury class saloons with the “S” in their model designations were now officially named the “S-Class”. The new designation went hand in hand with a host of innovations that set new standards in terms of safety and comfort. The comprehensive safety concept included e.g. a collision-protected fuel tank, a four-spoke safety steering wheel, anti-soiling side windows, large headlamps, prominent direction indicators and dirt-repelling, ribbed rear lights. 1977 saw the start of the diesel era in the luxury class with the 300 SD, though initially only in the North American markets. The luxury diesel was also the first series production car with a turbodiesel engine. From 1978 the S-Class became the world’s first series production car to be available with the anti-lock braking system (ABS), which ensured steerability even under emergency braking. A world sensation at the time, this trailblazing innovation is now a standard feature in all vehicle classes. The S-Class underlined its status as the measure of automobile engineering, and made its model designation a generic term for high-end cars.
The technology transfer from the S-Class to the other Mercedes-Benz model series and to the products of competitors as the automotive state of the art was systematically continued over the subsequent period, and made the S-Class a true trendsetter. The 126 series introduced in 1979 was the automobile engineering debut for the airbag in 1981, and it is now a central element in automobile safety. Other features of this S-Class generation were its aerodynamically optimised contours and the systematic weight reduction for lower pollutant emissions, e.g. using new light-alloy V8 engines. The 126 series also made its mark with respect to design: it was the first Mercedes-Benz passenger car to dispense with traditional chrome bumpers, replacing them with deformable plastic bumpers that could withstand low-speed parking impacts undamaged. Initially perceived by some as plain and lacking in appeal when it first appeared, the design of the 126 series was soon seen as timeless and elegant.
Luxury in best form: the model series 140 and 220 (1991 to 2005)
In 1991 the 140-series S-Class appeared as the new top-of-the-range Mercedes-Benz. Its developers set their sights on maximum comfort, achieved partly with generous dimensions and double-glazed windows for optimum noise insulation. This was the first time a series production Mercedes-Benz car was equipped with a V12 engine, in the flagship 600 SE and 600 SEL models. The power range began with the 300 SD Turbodiesel, which now also made the luxury class diesel available in markets outside North America. This generation of the S-Class also introduced a trailblazing safety innovation into automobile engineering: the Electronic Stability Program ESP®, which became standard equipment for the V12 models in 1995 and optional for the V8 models. In the following year Brake Assist BAS was also added.
When it was time a model change in 1998, the new 220-series S-Class featured a rather understated exterior. Among the key development aims were further weight reduction and a further increase in safety and comfort. Despite dispensing with the weight-intensive double-glazing, the new model generation offered further improved comfort due e.g. to the new, electronically controlled AIRMATIC air suspension, the control and display system COMAND and the innovative proximity cruise control system DISTRONIC. The Active Body Control (ABC) suspension available from 1999 reduced body roll tendencies and allowed a previously unprecedented level of handling refinement. The interior design, which was for the first time closely coordinated with the exterior, ensured a high-class ambience in the S-Class. Customers with sporty ambitions were catered for by the S 55 AMG: for the first time an AMG model officially appeared in the S-Class price list. In autumn 2002 the regular top model without the AMG badge, the S 600, benefitted from a power increase that for the first time reached the magic output threshold of 368 kW (500 hp). At the same time a further trailblazing innovation had its debut in the 220 series: the preventive occupant protection system PRE-SAFE®. By virtue of this system, the vehicle autonomously initiates measures to protect the occupants as well as possible when a collision threatens. As part of the model facelift, Mercedes-Benz also offered the S-Class with the intelligent all-wheel drive system 4MATIC for the first time.
Continuity in innovation: model series 221 (2005 to 2013)
The 221 model generation presented in 2005 combined an expressive exterior with a luxurious interior. The Controller of the further improved COMAND system allowed rapid and intuitive operation of the increasingly complex functions and menus. The pioneering technical innovations included Active Night View Assist and the further improved proximity control system DISTRONIC PLUS with Brake Assist Plus, which were extended to become PRE-SAFE® Brake with autonomous partial braking in 2006. Further assistance systems such as Blind Spot Assist, Lane Keeping Assist and Speed Limit Assist further relieved driver stress, bringing the Mercedes-Benz S-Class another step closer to the vision of safe, accident-free driving. This generation of the S-Class also set new standards in driver fitness safety.
The upgraded generation of the 221 series appeared in 2009. The S 400 HYBRID was the first car in the luxury class with hybrid drive, and the first series production car with a lithium-ion battery. Masterpieces of efficiency were introduced in 2010, in the form of the S 350 BlueTEC as a diesel variant and the S 350 and S 500 BlueEFFICIENCY with economical yet powerful direct-injection petrol engines. In early 2011, Mercedes-Benz for the first time introduced a highly efficient four-cylinder engine into the S-Class in the S 250 CDI. Its diesel power unit allowed fuel consumption figures at the level of a compact car, with commensurate performance and ride comfort. This generation of the S-Class was also highly successful: all in all, almost 550,000 221-series saloons left the production lines in Sindelfingen up to May 2013.
With the S-Class into the future: model series 222 (since 2013)
From 2013 Mercedes-Benz took the many generations of evolutionary continuity in the executive and luxury class into the future with the 222-series S-Class. This set new technical standards, e.g. being the first car in the world to dispense entirely with light bulbs and use only economical LED technology for both the exterior and interior. Particularly high efficiency was ensured by modern drive units which also included hybrid technology.
The S-Class has especially become the modern guiding star in automobile development thanks to the Intelligent Drive system. It is under this name that the Stuttgart-based brand groups all its networked safety and driver assistance systems. Intelligent Drive makes driving a car more safe and comfortable than ever before. It also includes assistance systems that relieve driver workload and allow semi-autonomous driving. Back in August 2013, on the historic Bertha-Benz route from Mannheim to Pforzheim, the S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE research vehicle demonstrated what the future of autonomous driving might look like thanks to such networked technologies: its systems were able to cope with the highly complex requirements of an autonomous journey along country roads and through city traffic. A further, major step towards autonomous driving was taken by the next development stage of Intelligent Drive in the facelifted model variant of the new 222-series S-Class (combined fuel consumption: 12.7-2.1 l/100 km combined CO2 emissions 289-49 g/km*) presented in summer 2017: Active distance control DISTRONIC and Active Steering Assist now support the driver even more conveniently when keeping a safety distance and steering.
For example, the S-Class automatically adjusts its speed on bends or when approaching junctions and roundabouts. This is possible because further improved camera and radar systems monitor the surroundings, and for the first time also incorporate map and navigation data into the calculation of driving behaviour. Via the display in the instrument cluster and the head-up display, the driver is at all times kept informed of the assistance functions that are currently active. The innovative Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive system is modular in structure. Standard equipment in the new S-Class includes Active Brake Assist, Cross-Wind Assist, ATTENTION ASSIST, Traffic Sign Assist, the occupant protection system PRE-SAFE® and the new PRE-SAFE® Sound.
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