Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

Being a role model means leading the way. Mercedes-Benz S-Class – always ahead of its time.
  • Mercedes-Benz S-Class

  • Tradition and future – from the Simplex to the S-Class.

    Being a role model means leading the way. Since the earliest days of the automobile, the top-of-the-line models from Mercedes-Benz have been the most well-known and famous ambassadors of German automotive engineering. With groundbreaking innovations, they have set the standards for passenger car development in general. This tradition is still alive today and will, find its continuation in a model series that carries forward the prestigious name of the S-Class into the future.

    The roots of this model series date back to the origins of the Mercedes brand: in 1903, Wilhelm Maybach, chief designer at Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, developed the Mercedes Simplex 60 hp, a new top-of-the-range model that was available also in the form of a luxurious touring saloon. It was an automobile worthy of every superlative – elegant and exclusive, stately and fast – an automobile that opened up new perspectives for the high society of the day and which, thanks to its lavish spaciousness, seats in the style of comfortable armchairs and fully enclosed passenger compartment, offered a degree of motoring comfort unattained by conventional “motor carriages”.

    In short, the Simplex 60 hp transformed the automobile into a form of conveyance acceptable in polite society. Emperors and kings, industrialists and celebrities placed their orders with the Stuttgart-based company – the name Mercedes became a byword for luxury and comfort on wheels.

    This reputation spurred generations of designers and engineers always to give their best – from the early years of the motor car through to the new S-Class: over 110 years of brand history, packed with innovations, patents and ideas that have revolutionised the motor car. And the story is set to continue: just like each of its predecessor models, the future S-Class will once again be more than a car’s length ahead of its time, setting new standards in many areas of automotive engineering – because being a role model means leading the way.


    S-Class model series.

      Luxury on wheels.

      Covering long distances, enjoying every kilometre, arriving safe and relaxed at a journey‘s end – these are the qualities offered by Mercedes-Benz luxury-class saloons. Get in, lean back and experience another world – a world of fine things, characterised by beautiful styling, high-grade materials and technological excellence. In short: sheer luxury. The historical roots of these automobiles date back to imperial times in Berlin and Vienna. The foundation stone was laid by the businessman Emil Jellinek, whose daughter Mercedes gave the brand its name. In 1904, Jellinek ordered a Mercedes Simplex 60 hp in the form of a touring saloon that afforded its five passengers every conceivable comfort. This top-of-the-line Mercedes was thus the Stuttgart brand‘s first luxury touring car – and the beginning of a great automotive tradition.

      Travelling in style.

      Jellinek’s touring saloon, bearing the melodious brand name Mercedes, became a topic of conversation in the ranks of high society and aroused desires in an age when the upper classes still mostly travelled by horsedrawn carriage or open-top motorised “Phaeton”. It was thus that the grand Mercedes-Benz saloons became established in the highest echelons of society and, over a period of many years, acquired a status that they have, to this day, both consistently and credibly upheld: a status as ambassadors of European luxury – an ideal that, then as now, stands the world over for elegance, beauty, comfort, innovation, safety, durability and lifestyle. Each model series in the long tradition of Mercedes-Benz luxury-class saloons has been a representative of that style. The tone has been set in particular by the brand’s top-of-the-line models – such as the stately 770 model of 1930, which in every way did justice to its name “Grand Mercedes”, measuring 5.60 metres in length, weighing in at a kerb weight of 2.7 tonnes and delivering 200 hp from Mercedes-Benz’s first seriesproduced 8-cylinder compressor engine – an automobile worthy of every superlative and with a radiator as grand and imposing as the owners of this vehicle. Equally unforgettable are the luxury saloons of the 1950s and 1960s: the legendary 300 “Adenauer Mercedes”, which made its debut in 1951 as Germany’s largest and fastest series-produced motor car, and the Mercedes-Benz 600 of 1963, which indulged its passengers with exquisite interior appointments and a multiplicity of technical innovations designed to provide the ultimate in travel comfort.

      Stylish and luxurious motoring in the 1970s was typified by the 116 series, with which the name “S-Class” was made the official designation of Mercedes-Benz luxury-class saloons. This was also the model series that conferred respectability on the use of the diesel engine in top-flight passenger cars, albeit initially only in the USA. Boasting a 12-cylinder power unit, an abundance of space and the finest of engineering, the 140 model series was the “big event” on the roads of the 1990s: a saloon with which Mercedes-Benz raised the bar to a new height in terms of automotive comfort and luxury. Luxury on wheels: from the summer of 2013, the new S-Class will fulfil the wishes of discerning customers while carrying forward a philosophy that dates back as far as the start of the 20th century.

      Always ahead of its time.

      What will driving be like tomorrow? What will the car of the future offer us? The Mercedes-Benz S-Class gives the answers to these questions. The S-Class has for decades been ahead of its time, acting as a trendsetter for technical innovation – and not just to the benefit of its owners. Virtually every other model series has in due course benefited from the advances embodied in the S-Class – yet another Mercedes-Benz tradition. The new top-of-the-line model from Mercedes-Benz carries forward this pioneering role.

      Ideas move the world.

      “The love of inventing never ends.” With this statement of belief, automotive pioneer Carl Benz left a legacy to future generations of engineers which has driven developers for decades. Curiosity, creativity, the courage to embrace new ideas and a passion for the motor car – these are the traditional, and future, values of Mercedes-Benz. This much is demonstrated by the history of the S-Class and its predecessor models, which bear impressive witness to the technological leadership of the Stuttgart-based brand. From the very beginning, these vehicles have served as a platform for groundbreaking innovations in terms of safety and comfort – new advances that have to this day enriched the entire world of passenger car engineering. Automotive safety has always been a prime concern of Mercedes-Benz. This commitment is borne out by a host of innovations that, while starting out in the S-Class, were later to find their way into large-scale production: the crumple zone, anti-lock braking system (ABS), airbag, Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), to name but a few examples of such innovations. Mercedes-Benz engineers are equally committed to research and development in the field of vehicle body technology, where they have for years made constant advances. Consider the example of aerodynamics: with a drag coefficient (Cd value) of 0.36, the S-Class of 1979 (126 model series) was the most aerodynamically efficient motor car of its age – today’s new S-Class once again sets the pace with a Cd value of just 0.24. Innovations in chassis technology, which migrate from Mercedes-Benz luxury saloons to other model series, result in increased comfort and driving safety: the “ponton” Mercedes of 1954 (W 180) incorporated the same single-joint swing axle that had already been successfully used in Formula 1 racing cars, resulting in improved wheel location and handling performance; the 300 SE “fintail” (W 112) of 1961 was the first Mercedes-Benz saloon to feature air suspension as standard on both the front and rear axles; in 1965, the company’s engineers developed a hydropneumatic compensating spring for the rear axle of the brand’s luxury-class saloons (W 108/W 109). After more than 20 years of development, the S 600 of 1999 (220 model series) reached a muchacclaimed milestone in chassis technology: Active Body Control (ABC). A host of recent innovations are based on advances in microelectronics. Also in this area, the S-Class has for decades been a pace-setter: the 140-series saloons of 1991 were the first series-produced motor cars to feature a digital data network that laid the groundwork for numerous innovations in the successor model (220 model series) – from the Keyless-Go access system to the COMAND control and display system to DISTRONIC adaptive cruise control. More than 30 innovations meant that the S-Class of 1998 represented a pinnacle of automotive engineering – and, like all Mercedes-Benz cars with an “S” in their name, a role model for future vehicle generations.

      Comfort Mercedes-Benz style.

      Comfort has many different facets, each highly complex and extremely individualised – because comfort is perceived, experienced and judged with all the senses. Although there are objective indicators to provide information on the existence of typical comfort features, such as agreeable air quality or quietness or balanced suspension, none of these values is able to truly reflect the subjective, i.e. human, sensation of comfort. That’s why automobile developers have for many years had only one genuinely reliable benchmark by which to measure the ultimate in driving comfort: the luxury saloons made by Mercedes-Benz.


      “How much car does a person need?” This is a question that precedes the design of each new Mercedes-Benz model. And rightly so, because spatial planning is one of the key criteria for determining the well-being of the occupants of a car. In other words: people need space in which to unwind and relax – including in a motor vehicle. Each Mercedes-Benz luxury saloon addresses this basic need. The length, width, height and wheelbase of the body create the basis for a spacious interior. What’s more, as comfort is a highly personal matter, Mercedes-Benz has always offered the option of adapting the available space to suit the individual needs of the owner. Model variants with a longer wheelbase have been available ex factory since as early as the beginning of the 1960s, when the long-wheelbase version of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SE (W 112) made its appearance, offering an extra 10 centimetres of legroom in the rear. In the 1920s and 1930s, the spacious Pullman saloons with up to eight seats were among the most popular variants of the luxury class Nürburg (W 08) and “Grand Mercedes” (W 07) models. Yet space isn’t everything. For enhanced comfort, it is also necessary to adapt technology to meet the needs of the driver and make life easier for him or her, as testified by the name “Simplex”, which was given to the first Mercedes models. The name stood for a simplified mode of operation that made it easier for the driver to engage and disengage the clutch when changing gear, something that in those days still demanded a considerable amount of effort. In the 1930s, the 770-series “Grand Mercedes” (W 07) was among the first automobiles to feature a “servo foot brake”. Later, in the early 1950s, passengers in the Mercedes-Benz 300 (W 186) were the first to experience the benefits of a standard-fit heater blower and from 1958 an optionally available air conditioner, which cost almost as much as a brand-new VW “Beetle”. The 220-series “Ponton” (W 180) of 1954 introduced a heating system that was separately controllable for driver and front-seat passenger. The ultimate in comfort was reserved for the occupants of the Mercedes-Benz 600 (W 100) of 1963, which featured a “convenience hydraulic system” that not only set the seats, window lifters and sliding sunroof to the desired position at the touch of a button but also closed the doors. With a special emphasis on reducing noise, the 140-series S-Class of 1991 was the first saloon to come with noise-insulating double glazing. As automotive technology becomes ever more powerful, yet also increasingly complex, engineers are faced with an additional challenge: fewer switches for more functions. With regard to ease of operation, the S-Class of 1998 (220 model series) was the first Mercedes-Benz to feature the innovative COMAND system, which unites various vehicle functions in a single unit and uses menu navigation to make those functions much easier to control. Carrying on from there, the successor model (221 model series) introduced a comprehensive control and display concept that is now available in all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars.

      Rationality and emotion.

      For Mercedes-Benz, design means more than just beauty of form and optical effects. Design is a trademark of quite special importance. It moulds the brand image and reflects its values: effortless superiority, innovation, sportiness, progressiveness … Yet design must also arouse passion – passion for the motor car and desire for a model. This intriguing symbiosis of rationality and emotion is made especially evident in the S-Class and its predecessor models. These vehicles are not just the highest representatives of the Mercedes-Benz brand but also fascinating dream cars; they are technology trendsetters and design icons, prestige objects and character types.

      Signs of the times.

      While the luxury cars of the 1920s and 1930s had a highly imposing appearance thanks to their angular bodies and prominent radiators, the models of the early 1950s bore witness to the spirit of an age that was in search of a new direction in formal design. Although the wings and headlamps of the 220 (W 187) and 300 (W 186) models were already integrated into the body, the extravagant, baroque forms, like many other products from that era, still conformed to pre-war ideals of beauty. A new beginning seemed to be required, and Mercedes-Benz answered the call on both the technical and formal fronts: the 220-series “Ponton” (W 180) of 1954 was not only the first luxury-class model to feature a selfsupporting body, but it also made a mark with its modern “three box” design. The next change of generation in terms of design came just five years later: “trapezoidal styling” was the name given to the elegant, elongated lines of the W 111 model series, which finally brought an end to the rounded body forms of earlier years and ushered in a new design era. This new direction in styling also brought forth the distinctive fintails that gave these saloons their famous nickname. This design detail, borrowed from the styling of US cars of the time, also had a functional aspect: the fintails, officially known as “sight lines”, served as a parking aid when reversing. Other trendsetting design elements from Mercedes-Benz included vertical headlamps, horizontally arranged tail lights, a flatter radiator grille and modern “full-vision windows”. The same elements were incorporated into the design idiom of the model series of the 1960s and 1970s, which are still today remembered for their clear, unadorned form and restrained elegance. At the end of the 1970s, “aesthetics created in the wind tunnel” was one of the slogans used to promote the aerodynamically optimised 126-series saloon. In the 1980s, the 140 series was described as embodying a “new flow of forms” with gentle transitions, and the S-Class of 1998 (220 model series) was introduced by the designers as a “coupé-like saloon” reflecting Mercedes-Benz’s new, progressive-dynamic brand image. This led in 2005, with the 221 model series, to the development of a new style founded on the principle that “less is more”, which meant focusing on the essentials of good product design: on the interplay between surfaces and lines. The designers came up with a deliberately purist design language characterised by large, smoothly profiled body surfaces defined by tight lines – a masterpiece on wheels. This superior styling finds its continuation in the new S-Class, which at the same time incorporates some novel design elements pointing the way to the future of Mercedes-Benz’s automobile design philosophy. These include a new flow of lines dynamically directed towards the rear end –where the new luxury saloon has its centre of force. This new direction in design is emphasised by the powerful proportions – elongated engine bonnet, long wheelbase, short rear end.

      In the name of sport.

      Can a luxury saloon be characterised as “sporty”? Can such a vehicle compete with a thoroughbred sports car? In earlier years, automobile experts would have answered such questions with a resounding “no”. Yet they were then forced to revise their opinion: in 1968, with the 108/109 model series, Mercedes-Benz unveiled a new top-of-the-range model whose performance, handling and speed were to revolutionise this segment of the market, the legendary 300 SEL 6.3, which was the archetype of a new luxury-class car that Mercedes-Benz continues to offer to this day: the high-performance saloon.

      Power und Performance.

      “King of the autobahn” – this characterisation, chosen by motoring journalists at the end of the 1960s to describe the 300 SEL 6.3 (109 model series), spoke volumes. It was a car worthy of every superlative: equipped with the V8 engine and automatic transmission from the “big” Mercedes-Benz 600, it was capable of outperforming top-class sports cars, acquiring for itself the reputation of the fastest and safest longdistance saloon of the age. The 8-cylinder engine produced 184 kW/250 hp, delivered a maximum torque of around 500 Newton metres and accelerated the vehicle from 0 to 100 km/h in just 8 seconds. Although the 300 SEL 6.3 boasted a top speed of 221 km/h, the visible signs of such brute power were confined to its wider tyres, twin halogen headlamps and additional long-range beams – a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In other words: understatement in the extreme. The success of this exceptional car (over 6,500 units were sold) encouraged Mercedes-Benz product planners to continue along this path. Sporty performance allied with the ultimate in comfort: the same appealing combination was presented in 1975 by the 450 SEL 6.9 (116 model series), which was now propelled by a 210 kW/286 hp 8-cylinder power plant into hitherto uncharted territory: a top speed of 225 km/h with acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in just 7.4 seconds. Thereafter, the trend in terms of power output was set on a steep upward trajectory, with the 560 SEL (126 model series) of 1985 producing 200 kW/272 hp. Six years later, the 600 SEL (140 model series) became the first Mercedes-Benz series-produced passenger car to be powered by a 12-cylinder engine with an output of 300 kW/408 hp – a new mile-stone in the long history of Mercedes-Benz luxury saloons. “Biturbo” was the name used in 2002 to characterise the most powerful version of the 220 model series: the V12 engine of the S 600 was aspirated by two turbochargers, making for a maximum output of 368 kW/ 500 hp. Gentle pressure on the accelerator was all that was needed to propel the vehicle from 0 to 100 km/h in just 4.8 seconds with 800 Newton metres of torque, once again making the S-Class a match for many a thoroughbred sports car. Since 1999, Mercedes-AMG has been a group member company and has carried forward the development of high-performance cars with a sporty flair, top-flight engineering and exquisitely appointed interiors. Within the 221-series S-Class family, the S 65 AMG ranks as the highlight in this automotive firmament. Its 12-cylinder power plant delivers 463 kW/630 hp, i.e. 277 kW/380 hp more than the engine in the first “king of the autobahn”. Power and performance – both are once again on plentiful offer in the new S-Class with its powerful high-torque engines. Also optionally available is a hybrid drive combining dynamic response with efficiency, sportiness with environmental compatibility – a high-performance car in a contemporary form.

      Design for environment.

      Rcov= Rcyc+mTE/mv x 100 > 95 %. This is one of the formulas used to characterise an environmentally compatible car. Quite simply, the goal is achieved if 95 % by weight of all materials can be recycled – with no more than 10 % being incinerated to recover energy. From 2015, this recycling rate will be required by the European Union for all passenger cars. The 221-series S-Class has satisfied this requirement since as far back as 2005, which is one of the reasons why this luxury saloon was the first car in the world to be awarded an ISO environmental certificate by a panel of independent experts. “Design for Environment” – since the mid-1990s, this requirement has been an integral part of the development and manufacturing process for every Mercedes-Benz motor vehicle. Yet it was long before then that the company’s engineers began to concern themselves in depth with the environmentally compatible design of passenger cars. This is yet a further area in which the S-Class has always been a trendsetter. For example, the 140-series S-Class was the first CFC-free passenger car, which is why it was awarded the 1992 environment prize by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Equally trendsetting is the application of highgrade recycled materials and renewable raw materials, which were used, for example, to produce the door panels and parcel shelf for the 1998 S-Class (220 model series). Mercedes-Benz developers have also consistently worked hard to increase the fuel efficiency of the brand’s saloons while reducing their exhaust emissions. Advanced engine technology plays a key role in this endeavour. In the summer of 1957, the model 300 (W 189) was the first model to be equipped with manifold petrol injection. Since that time, this power-increasing and efficiency-improving technology has been applied without exception in all top-of-the-line models from Mercedes-Benz. In September 1977, the 300 SD (116 model series), which was designed for the US market, became the first luxury-segment saloon to be powered by a turbodiesel engine; from the end of 1999, advanced common-rail direct injection in the S 320 CDI (220 model series) achieved a fuel saving of around 15 % compared with previous prechamber engines; and, in the summer of 2000, Mercedes-Benz unveiled its first V8 diesel engine in the S 400 CDI. With a fuel consumption of just 9.6 litres per 100 kilometres, this luxury saloon was capable of covering the distance between Hamburg and Basel without refuelling – while affording customers the comfort they have come to expect from a top-of-the-line Mercedes-Benz saloon. In 2010, the S 250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY was unveiled as a highly efficient 4-cylinder S-Class model. Its diesel engine delivered fuel consumption figures similar to those of a small car, something that had hitherto been considered unachievable for a luxury-class vehicle. BlueEFFICIENCY is the trademark for especially fuel-efficient and ecofriendly Mercedes-Benz models. Most 221-series saloons bear this emblem or feature an additional BlueTEC label to indicate that they are powered by a diesel engine using the currently best available emission control technology. BlueTEC models already today comply with tomorrow’s stringent EU emission limits meaning that they have the future built in as standard.

      Playing it safe.

      “It wasn’t enough for us to build a first-class braking system. We wanted more, so that, in critical situations, the driver retains control over the vehicle.” These were the words with which Professor Dr. Hans Scherenberg, member of the Daimler-Benz Board of Management, presented a milestone in the history of automotive engineering: the ABS anti-lock braking system, which was available as early as 1978 in the 116 model series and was the first modern assistance system. The new S-Class comes with over a dozen such electronic “co-pilots” designed to assist the driver. These are capable of warning the driver in critical situations and also of actively assisting him or her in case of acute danger so as to prevent an accident or at least to significantly reduce the severity of an accident. This enables the new model to live up to the pioneering credentials of the S-Class in terms of vehicle safety.

      “S” as in safety.

      In the beginning, there was a vision. Béla Barényi, a Mercedes-Benz engineer since 1939, had the vision of a completely safe automobile – a body “surrounded by front and rear crumple zones”. He was the first to realise that the energy of an impact in the event of a collision had to be absorbed by deformation. The metal had to bend in a controlled manner, thereby absorbing most of the forces that could otherwise act on the occupants and cause serious injury. In 1952, this vision was turned into a patent and, in 1959, the invention went into series production: the 220, 220 S and 220 SE models (W 111), better known as Mercedes “fintails”, were the first cars in the world to feature this technology. Today, every modern passenger car is designed according to this principle. Following in the footsteps of Béla Barényi, Mercedes-Benz engineers conducted further research and development aimed at improving passenger car safety. And, on each occasion, the S-Class was the technology pace-setter: the safety steering system went into series production in 1967, the first comprehensive security concept came in 1972; the anti-lock braking system was introduced in 1978, and in 1979 Mercedes-Benz presented a bodywork structure designed to cope with (particularly frequent) offset front impacts. A short time later there was the next sensation: experts at Mercedes-Benz had spent around 14 years developing an air cushion that inflated instantaneously out of the steering wheel in the event of a collision to protect the driver. In 1981, the 126-series S-Class became the world’s first automobile to be equipped with an airbag for the driver and a belt tensioner for the front-seat passenger. The front-seat passenger airbag followed in 1988. Yet another important milestone in vehicle safety was presented by the Stuttgart-based brand at the beginning of 1994: the Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), which is capable of preventing skidding while cornering, thereby continuing to this day to make a key contribution to improved road safety. The system has been available in the S-Class since 1995. Adaptive cruise control in the 220-series S-Class of 1998 rang in the age of anticipatory assistance systems, which today employ advanced radar and camera technology to warn of critical situations and, in case of acute danger, to intervene to brake the vehicle. Such modern, electronic assistance systems also include Active Blind Spot Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist, available in the S-Class (221 model series) since 2010. Yet another anticipatory – or rather: preventive – assistance system based on an ingenious invention by Mercedes-Benz engineers was launched in the S-Class (220 model series) of 2002: PRE-SAFE, which uses sensor signals to detect critical situations and activates various occupant protection systems in advance of an impending collision. For, as we all know, prevention is better than …