Innovations and facts: Mercedes-Benz S-Class and preceding model series

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the preceding model series have always stood for innovative automotive engineering. Again and again, they introduced new features on the market that subsequently became widespread to crucially shape the entire vehicle development sector. This overview illustrates the special characteristics of each model series.

Mercedes-Simplex 60 HP (1903 to 1905)

  • Modern high-performance engine: large-capacity four-cylinder with overhead intake valves
  • Highly efficient honeycomb radiator
  • Long wheelbase and low centre of gravity

 

Mercedes-Benz Nürburg (W 08, 1928 to 1933)

  • First series-production Mercedes-Benz car with an eight-cylinder engine
  • Luxurious and spacious Pullman body
  • Overdrive transmission as an optional extra (from 1931, in conjunction with added displacement)

 

Mercedes-Benz 320 (W 142, 1937 to 1942)

  • Smooth-running six-cylinder engine
  • Fully-synchronised four-speed manual transmission, from 1939 with overdrive
  • Very wide choice of bodies: Saloon, Pullman Saloon (from 1939 with external luggage boot), Streamline Saloon, various Cabriolet versions

 

Mercedes-Benz 220 (W 187, 1951 to 1954)

  • Cutting-edge six-cylinder engine with overhead camshaft
  • Conical-pin safety door lock to prevent doors from bursting open
  • Heater with fan as special equipment
  • Production numbers (Saloon): 16,066

 

Mercedes-Benz 219/220/220 S/220 SE (W 105/W 180/W 128, 1954 to 1959)

  • Self-supporting bodyshell
  • Improved spaciousness and comfort with modern Pontoon shape
  • Front suspension subframe
  • Single-link swing axle with low pivot point
  • Brake drums with “turbocooling”
  • Heater and fan as standard, separately controlled for driver and front passenger
  • “Hydrak” hydraulically automated clutch as special equipment (from 1957)
  • Mechanically controlled manifold petrol injection (220 SE, from 1958)
  • Production numbers (Saloon): 111,021
  • Model with highest production figures: 220 S (55,268 vehicles)

 

Mercedes-Benz 220 to 300 SE/long-wheelbase 300 SE (W 111/W 112, 1959 to 1965)

  • Passenger safety cell with crumple zones (front and rear)
  • Padded steering wheel and “injury-reducing vehicle interior”
  • Conical-pin door locks with two safety detents
  • Disc brakes (300 SE, from 1961)
  • Dual-circuit braking system (from 1963)
  • Four-speed automatic transmission as standard (300 SE) or optional equipment (from 1961)
  • Air suspension (300 SE, from 1961)
  • Long-wheelbase version available (300 SE, from 1963)
  • Central locking as optional equipment (long-wheelbase 300 SE)
  • Production numbers (Saloon): 344,417
  • Model with highest production figures: 220 S (161,119 vehicles)

 

Mercedes-Benz 250 S to 300 SEL 6.3 (W 108/W 109, 1965 to 1972).

  • Safety steering system (from 1967)
  • Hydropneumatic compensating spring at the rear axle
  • Air suspension (300 SEL, 300 SEL 6.3, 300 SEL 3.5)
  • Top-of-the-range model 300 SEL 6.3 with 184 kW (250 hp) V8 engine and performance at sports car level (from 1968)
  • Production numbers (Saloon): 383,341
  • Model with highest production figures: 280 S (93,666 vehicles)

 

116 model series Mercedes-Benz S-Class (1972 to 1980)

  • Officially designated the “S-Class” for the first time
  • Integral safety concept
  • Four-spoke safety steering wheel
  • Fuel tank over the rear axle to provide protection in the event of a collision
  • Safety door handles
  • Large headlamps and turn indicators
  • Dirt-resistant rear lights
  • Dirt-resistant side windows
  • Anti-lock braking system ABS as optional equipment (from 1978)
  • Cruise control as optional equipment (from 1975)
  • Double wishbone front axle
  • Coupled-link axle with anti-squat control (450 SE, 450 SEL, 450 SEL 6.9)
  • Automatic transmission with torque converter as optional equipment (standard for 450 SE, 450 SEL, 450 SEL 6.9)
  • Hydropneumatic suspension with level control (450 SEL 6.9, from 1975)
  • First luxury-class saloon with a diesel engine, first production car with a turbocharged diesel engine (300 SD, from 1978)
  • Production numbers (Saloon): 473,035
  • Model with highest production figures: 280 SE (150,593 vehicles)

 

126 model series Mercedes-Benz S-Class (1979 to 1992)

  • Bodyshell structure with forked member, the first series production vehicle worldwide to meet the frontal offset crash criteria
  • Low drag coefficient of Cd= 0.36
  • New V8 engines with light-alloy block
  • Closed-loop catalytic converter as optional equipment (from 1985), then standard equipment (from 1986)
  • Electrically adjustable steering column as optional equipment (from 1985)
  • Driver airbag and belt tensioner for front passenger as optional equipment (from 1981)
  • Front passenger airbag as optional equipment (from 1988)
  • Automatic locking differential as optional equipment for six-cylinder models (from 1985)
  • ASR acceleration skid control as optional equipment for V8 models (from 1985)
  • To this day, the most successful Mercedes-Benz saloon in the executive and luxury class
  • Production numbers (Saloon): 818,036
  • Model with highest production figures: 280 SE (133,955 vehicles)

 

140 model series Mercedes-Benz S-Class (1991 to 1998)

  • Low drag coefficient of Cd= 0.31
  • Systematically geared towards recyclability
  • Complete absence of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • Petrol engines with four-valve technology and adjustable intake camshafts
  • First Mercedes-Benz production car with a twelve-cylinder engine, the brand’s most powerful car engine at this point (600 SE, 600 SEL)
  • Luxury-class 300 SD diesel available to global markets for the first time
  • Five-speed automatic transmission with electronic control (standard for V8 and V12 models, from 1995)
  • Speed-sensitive power steering with speed-dependent steering torque
  • Double-glazed side windows for maximum noise insulation
  • Automatic air conditioning with activated charcoal filter and CO/NOX-sensitive sensors as standard equipment (S 600, or optional)
  • Electrically folding exterior mirrors
  • Power closing for doors and boot lid as optional equipment
  • Headlamps with variable-focus reflectors
  • Electronic CAN bus network
  • Belt system with automatic height adjustment
  • Side airbags for driver and front passenger (from 1996)
  • ADS Adaptive Damping System as optional equipment
  • Electronic Stability Program (ESP®) as standard equipment (S 600, from 1995) or optional equipment (S 420, S 500, from 1995)
  • BAS Brake Assist System (from 1996)
  • PARKTRONIC electronic parking aid as standard equipment (S 600, from 1995) or optional equipment (from 1995)
  • APS Auto Pilot System navigation system as optional equipment (from 1995)
  • LINGUATRONIC voice control system as optional equipment (from 1996)
  • TELE-AID emergency call system as optional equipment (from 1997)
  • Xenon headlamps with dynamic headlamp range control as optional equipment (from 1996)
  • Production numbers (Saloon): 406,717
  • Model with highest production figures: 300 SE/S 320 (98,095 vehicles)

 

220 model series Mercedes-Benz S-Class (1998 to 2005)

  • Lightweight body with weight-reducing material mix (high-strength steel, light alloys, plastics)
  • Aluminium crash boxes in the front and rear end structures
  • Drag coefficient of Cd= 0.27
  • Automatic cylinder shutoff as standard equipment (S 600) or optional equipment (S 500)
  • Electronically controlled 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission (S 430, S 500, from 2004)
  • AIRMATIC air suspension with electronically controlled ADS Adaptive Damping System
  • ABC Active Body Control as optional equipment (standard equipment in the S 600)
  • Turn signal repeaters integrated into the exterior mirrors
  • Automatic full beam
  • COMAND control and display system with dynamic navigation system as optional equipment
  • Windowbags
  • Side airbags in the rear
  • Front passenger airbag with two-stage gas generator
  • Seat belt tensioners and belt force limiters in the rear
  • Laminated glass side windows
  • Multi-zone automatic air conditioning with individual control for each seat depending on the angle of the sun
  • Luxury seats with ventilation and dynamic multicontour backrest as optional equipment
  • Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC as optional equipment
  • KEYLESS GO keyless access and drive authorisation system as optional equipment
  • Bi-xenon headlamps with dynamic headlamp range control as optional equipment (from 2002, standard equipment for S 600)
  • PRE-SAFE® preventive occupant protection system (from 2002).
  • First S-Class AMG model in official model range (S 55 AMG, 265 kW/360 hp, from 1999; with a compressor from 2002, 368 kW/500 hp and 700 newton metres of torque)
  • S 65 AMG with 450 kW (612 hp) and 1,000 newton metres of torque (from 2003)
  • V8 diesel engine with light-alloy block (S 400 CDI, from 2000)
  • 4MATIC all-wheel drive as optional equipment (S 350, S 430, S 500, from 2002)
  • Production numbers (Saloon): 484,697
  • Model with highest production figures: Long-wheelbase S 500 (108,823 vehicles)

 

221 model series Mercedes-Benz S-Class (2005 to 2013)

  • Drag coefficient of Cd= 0.26
  • First car with an environmental certificate
  • Electronically controlled 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission and DIRECT SELECT steering wheel gearshift
  • ABC Active Body Control with cross-wind stabilisation as optional equipment (standard equipment in the S 600)
  • ADAPTIVE BRAKE braking system
  • Adaptive brake lights
  • Brake Assist Plus as optional equipment
  • Improved Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC PLUS (with braking to standstill) as optional equipment
  • PRE-SAFE® Brake with autonomous partial braking (from 2006) and autonomous emergency braking (from 2009) as optional equipment
  • Improved COMAND system with Controller on the centre tunnel
  • SPLITVIEW display as optional equipment (from 2009)
  • Parking Assist as optional equipment
  • Panoramic tilting/sliding roof as optional equipment
  • Active Night View Assist as optional equipment
  • Blind Spot Assist as optional equipment (from 2007, from 2010 as Active Blind Spot Assist)
  • Lane Keeping Assist as optional equipment (from 2009, from 2010 as Active Lane Keeping Assist)
  • Adaptive Highbeam Assist as optional equipment (from 2009)
  • Speed Limit Assist as optional equipment (from 2009)
  • First luxury-class car with hybrid drive and lithium-ion battery (S 400 HYBRID, from 2009)
  • First S-Class with a four-cylinder engine (S 250 CDI, from 2010)
  • New xenon headlamps with 20 percent higher colour temperature (5000 kelvin) for daylight-like light (2010)
  • Production numbers (Saloon): 547,698
  • Model with highest production figures: Long-wheelbase S 500 (96,032 vehicles).

 

222 model series Mercedes-Benz S-Class (2013 to 2020)

  • “Intelligent Drive” with new assistance systems and significantly enhanced functions:
    • DISTRONIC PLUS with Steering Assist and Stop&Go Pilot makes it easier to keep the vehicle in lane and masters partially autonomous driving in queues of traffic.
    • Braking assistance system BAS PLUS with Cross-Traffic Assist can help prevent rear-end collisions and collisions with crossing traffic. Active Lane Keeping Assist can prevent the vehicle from unintentionally leaving the lane.
    • Data generated by stereo cameras and the radar system helps detect objects on adjacent lanes.
    • Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus allows the high beam to remain switched on without dazzling other drivers by masking out other vehicles in the high-beam light cone.
    • The evolved Night Vision Assist Plus with thermal imaging camera can automatically switch the speedometer display to a crisp night-vision image that highlights the sources of danger and flashes identified pedestrians as part of a spotlight function.
    • Within an enhanced speed range ATTENTION ASSIST is capable of warning in the event that drivers are not paying attention or getting tired.
    • From 2017 driver assistance systems, such as Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC and Active Steering Assist support drivers even more conveniently in keeping the distance and steering. The speed is automatically adapted when cornering or approaching junctions. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class facelift takes another leap towards autonomous driving.
  • In autumn 2013, the S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE research vehicle on the basis of the 222 model series featuring close-to-series-production technology autonomously covered Bertha Benz’s historic route from Mannheim to Pforzheim. This S-Class, internally known as “Bertha”, has formed part of the Mercedes-Benz Classic vehicle collection since 2016.
  • Enhanced PRE-SAFE® with new functions (PRE-SAFE® Brake with pedestrian detection, PRE-SAFE® PLUS and PRE-SAFE® IMPULSE) can contribute to preventing accidents in urban environments, mitigate hazardous situations caused by following vehicles and enhance the seat belts’ protective function. From 2017 the new PRE-SAFE® Sound became standard in S-Class facelift models.
  • Enhanced safety system for passengers in the rear thanks to buckle feed mechanism, beltbag (both optional in “PRE-SAFE® rear package”) and Cushionbag (in optional Executive seat).
  • Body with third-generation aluminium hybrid bodyshell with 50 percent higher light-alloy design quality rating (torsional rigidity in relation to weight and vehicle size) compared with the predecessor model series.
  • First car in the world entirely without bulbs, instead featuring almost 500 LEDs in the interior and exterior. The multi-level brake light control functionality represents a world-first. From 2017 MULTIBEAM LED headlamps enable extremely fast and accurate low-beam adaptations to the current traffic situation. ULTRA RANGE high beam generates the maximum legally permitted light intensity.
  • Thanks to ROAD SURFACE SCAN the S-Class is the first vehicle in the world capable of identifying potholes in advance. MAGIC BODY CONTROL adapts the chassis and suspension accordingly (optional for models with an eight-cylinder engine). Continuously operating ADS PLUS adaptive damping system and evolved, fully bearing AIRMATIC air suspension represented standard features.
  • For the first time in the S-Class’s history the saloon with a long wheelbase lies at the core of the development process. It was used as the blueprint for the version with a short wheelbase. Accordingly, there were many innovations to aid passenger comfort and safety in the rear of the vehicle.
  • Display and operating concept with features including two high-resolution TFT colour display with 8:3 ratio, touch-sensitive phone keyboard and LINGUATRONIC voice control with Speech Dialog system. From 2017 the high-resolution displays were merged to one widescreen cockpit under a shared lens. The steering wheel features touch-sensitive Touch Control buttons.
  • Air conditioning with optional AIR‑BALANCE Package: fragrancing (global innovation), ionisation and even more powerful filtration. THERMOTRONIC automatic climate control in the rear offers two additional zones to boost comfort. Electrical armrest heating as part of Heat Comfort package is new in this model series.
  • Systems, such as ENERGIZING massage function applying the hot-stone principle (global innovation) and active seat ventilation with reversing fans increase seating comfort. Five different seat variants are available for the rear. From September 2017 ENERGIZING comfort control merges different systems in the vehicle to enable individual set-ups to boost well-being.
  • New multimedia generation featuring intuitive control and an illustration of functions in visuals and animations as well as individual entertainment in the rear. Optionally available audio systems that were developed in collaboration with Burmester. From 2017 enhanced messaging options for passengers in the front and rear.
  • In 2014, the S 500 Plug-In HYBRID (325 kW system output) is the first series-production plug-in hybrid by Mercedes-Benz. It can cover up to 33 (combined fuel consumption: 2.6-2.5 l/100 km, combined CO₂ emissions: 59-57 g/km, combined electrical consumption: 20.2-20.0 kWh/100 km) kilometres without generating any local emissions. 2017 saw the presentation of the S 560 e featuring an electric motor that was jointly developed with Bosch to match the 9G‑TRONIC plug-in hybrid transmission.
  • As of 2014, the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class chauffeur-driven limousine topped the 222 model series with a wheelbase that had been extended by 200 millimetres (3365 millimetres). The Mercedes-Maybach S 600 Pullman with a wheelbase of 4,418 millimetres was introduced at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show.
  • Premiere of new and highly efficient engines in the S-Class facelift in 2017: six-cylinder in-line diesel and petrol engines and a V8 Bi-Turbo with cylinder shut-off. Simultaneously world premiere of pioneering technologies, such as an integrated starter alternator on 48‑volt basis and an electrically powered auxiliary compressor.
  • Production anniversary: the 500,000th 222 model series S-Class rolled off the production line at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Sindelfingen in November 2019.
  • Victory at “Best Cars”: in its last production year, the 222 model series Mercedes-Benz S-Class won the “Best Cars 2020” readers’ choice award in the luxury class presented by “auto motor und sport” specialist magazine.
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