September 1985, again at the Frankfurt show, a completely revised S-Class range was introduced. In addition to a subtle facelift, which mainly altered the appearance of the bumpers, side skirts and wheels, the emphasis was on a restructured engine line-up. The most spectacular innovation in the engine range was a 5.6-litre eight-cylinder unit.
A 5.6-litre eight-cylinder unit
The most spectacular innovation in the engine range was a 5.6-litre eight-cylinder unit, which was developed by lengthening the stroke of the 5.0-litre V8 and which unleashed an output of 272 hp. If required, an even more highly compressed version was also available that delivered a mighty 300 hp, although it was not possible to combine this unit with a closed-loop emission control system. But even without a catalytic converter this ‘ECE version’ met the emissions standards stipulated by the Economic Commission for Europe. The models fitted with this engine variant – the 560 SEL and 560 SEC – were, in their day, the most powerful Mercedes-Benz production cars ever built.
“The 560 SEL and 560 SEC – were, in their day, the most powerful Mercedes-Benz production cars ever built”.
All variants in the revised model range – with the exception of the 560 SEL and 560 SEC in the ECE version – were available on request with a closed-loop emission control system with three-way catalytic converter. In each case the series version was the ‘catalytic converter retrofit version’, for which the vehicle was delivered without catalytic converter and oxygen sensor, but with the multi-functional mixture preparation and ignition system. These retrofit versions could be fitted with the closed-loop catalytic converter without difficulty at a later date. This gave customers maximum flexibility in choosing the time to convert their vehicle – a not insignificant advantage, given that unleaded petrol was not universally available at the time.
The closed-loop catalytic converter
From September 1986, the closed-loop catalytic converter was standard equipment on all Mercedes-Benz passenger car models with petrol engines; the retrofit versions were available until August 1989 – with a corresponding price discount.
The most successful premium-class series in the history
Production of most variants came to an end between August and October 1991, although the last few armoured models did not come off the production line until April 1992. During the entire twelve-year production period a total of 818,036 saloons left the production lines in Sindelfingen, 97,546 of them with diesel engines. That made the 126 the most successful premium-class series in the history of the company.
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