A history of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class in 10 steps
October 17, 2017 at 3:34 PM
An S-Class badge signifies the top-of-the-range, luxury vehicles that Mercedes-Benz is famous for. When you buy one, you know you will be travelling in comfort with the latest technology that Daimler AG can provide. So where did it all start?
Way back in post-war Germany, the Mercedes W180 was presented as a “special class” car. This translates to Sonderklasse in German which became shortened to S-Klasse and anglicised to S-Class. It was the first to feature a monocoque construction, meaning that the shell of the vehicle provided structural integrity as opposed to the frame, which had always been the case in the past.
The W111 was the next incarnation of these S-Class models. In a nod to the American trend of adding tail fins to their cars, the design of the boot area had a smaller and more compact version of these. Safety considerations began to be included too, as this model had both front and rear crumple zones to absorb the effect of a collision and protect the driver and passengers.
The W108 was the beginning of a slightly more streamlined and flashier design. It had the same French designer as the TGV, Paul Bracq, who was also responsible for the 7-series BMW, and certainly shows its pedigree.
The previous cars mentioned were all part of the S-Class phenomenon, but this model, the W116, was the first to officially be labelled as such. It was also all about innovation, being the first production car to have ABS and to include a diesel engine.
The W126 was produced for longer than any of the other models in the history of the S-Class. It had massively improved aerodynamics and was also the first car to incorporate many of the safety aspects more widely in use today. It was the first modern car to try to reduce injuries in a collision by using airbags, and also had a padded dashboard to protect the occupants.
The W140 had a sturdier, bulky look which clearly appealed to the members of the Russian Government. Vladimir Putin had one of these models extended and altered to create an armoured limo that he used for political engagements. He was obviously keen on the power of the 6.0 litre engine which managed to give it a massive 408bhp.
Reverting back to a smaller and more graceful outline, the W220 was the first to incorporate cruise control and a ‘Keyless-Go’ access system. With eight interior airbags, it was also one of the safer vehicles on the market at the time.
The W221 was definitely a pumped-up version of the previous models with the inclusion of many new gadgets. Not only did it have blind-spot monitoring, and lane departure and speed warning systems, but it also had an infra-red camera for greater vision at night or in bad weather.
As usual, the W222 is the ultimate in discrete style, with a slightly neater profile than the W221. It includes the ‘Magic Body Control’, a system that scans the imperfections in the road ahead and alters the car set-up for a smoother ride.
10) 2018 Onwards
This new S-Class has ‘Intelligent Design’ which brakes for you if it sees an obstruction that you miss. This includes both bicycles and pedestrians, making it one of the safer cars around and a forerunner of the new breed of vehicles which will eventually drive themselves. The S-Class cars have always been innovative, but with the newest incarnation, we are seeing the future in the form of driverless cars. How long before Mercedes bring out an S-Class that needs no input from us at all?