In September 1972 a totally new car generation of the upper class was presented to the public. For the first time the name „Mercedes-Benz S-Class“ was officially used. It replaced model series 108/109 and at that time consisted of Types 280 S, 280 SE and 350 SE. Six months later the S-Class saloon was also available with a larger displacement capacity in the 4.5-liter V8-engine, parallel to the 450 SL and the 450 SLC. At the same time Type 450 SEL was launched with a wheelbase extended by 100 mm. As with its predecessors the rear passengers thus benefitted from the newly gained leg room. Since November 1973 the prolonged version was also available as 350 SEL, since April 1974 finally also as 280 SEL.
A remarkable technical novelty in the saloons of type range 116 was the double-wishbone front wheel suspension with zero steering-offset and brake dive support. It improved the handling characteristics of the car considerably. The rear wheel suspension corresponded for the most part to the construction which had proved itself for years in the „Stroke Eight“ models and was also used in the 350 SL.
In terms of passive safety the S-Class also outlined the latest technological development. The many construction details realised in the 350 SL for the first time and for safety reasons now, of course, were transferred as a whole to the S-Class saloons. Thus the fuel tank was not located in the rear end of the car anymore, but above the rear axle and thus protected against collision. Inside a heavily padded dashboard, deformable or conceiling switches and controls as well as a new four-spoke security wheel with impact absorber and broad impact cushion provided for utmost crash protection. Important improvements in comparison to the preceding model range was the even more stable safety passenger cell with stiffened roof-frame structure, high-strength roof and door pillars as well as reinforced doors. The energy absorption of the front and rear deformation zone in the front and rear end was significantly increased by a controlled deformation capacity.
Newly developed cowl panels at the A-pillars, serving as water-shield gutters, guaranteed good visibility in rain and kept the side windows clean in bad weather. Further safety details were wide wraparound direction indicators, well visible also from the side. In addition, broad rear lamps with ribbed surface profile proved to be very insusceptible to dirt.
In May 1975 Type 450 SEL was presented as the new top model of the Type range and as the legitimate successor to 300 SEL 6.3. The powerful 6.9-liter V8-engine, developed from the 6.3-liter unit, achieved 286 hp and a maximum torque of 56 mkg. For the first time in a Mercedes-Benz car a hydropneumatic suspension with level control system guaranteed highest driving comfort. Further optional equipment belonging to the production delivery of the top model included central locking system, air-conditioning and headlamp washer system. As its direct predecessor, the 450 SEL 6.9 was an immediate and full success. Even though it was more than twice as expensive than the 350 SE, as many as 7,380 cars were built within its production time of four years and six months.