When people think of luxury cars, often the first thought that comes to mind is the Mercedes Benz S Class. Beautiful styling, quality craftsmanship and luxury seating is a certainty with all Mercedes Benz S Class vehicles. A pioneer of such safety devices such as the drivers airbag, ABS Brakes and Stability Control, the S Class has been the choice of captains of industry, Heads of State and the well-to-do for over four decades.
The Mercedes Benz S Class story begins in 1972 with the launch of the W116 code S Class. The W116 S Class was hailed as the definitive luxury drivers car at launch, with much more progressive styling than the angular W108. Rubber bumper bars, sleek lines from the R107 and powerful new engines were the headline stories for the W116. Deliveries commenced in Australia to great fanfare in July 1973. Initially only the 280SE and 350SE were available until the introduction of the long wheelbase 450SEL later in 1973. The price of the 450SEL, starting at $21,807 before options, was enough to buy a comfortable house in Melbourne or Sydney at the time! Whilst the incredible 450SEL 6.9 was launched as the range topper in Germany in 1975, it took until 1978 before this model became available in Australia.
In 1979 the new model Mercedes Benz S Class, the W126, began production. The W126 proved to be an immensely popular model, with a production run of over 11 years. Aerodynamics played a big part in the design of the W126, which helped fuel consumption and handling. Australian deliveries commenced in 1981, with the 280SE, 380SE and long wheelbase 380SEL. Prices had increased markedly due to inflation, with a 380SEL selling for $62,095 in 1981. ABS Brakes were standard equipment on all W126 models, with a drivers airbag being an option (standard from 1989). In 1986 the models were replaced with the larger capacity 300SE/L, 420SEL and 560SEL. The W126 S Class soldiered on until 1991, when it was replaced by the W140 after a production run of 818,105. Due to its quality construction many W126 S Classes remain on Australian roads today.
The W140 Mercedes Benz S Class signalled great change when launched in 1991, the last design to be penned by the legendary Bruno Sacco. Much bigger, squarer in design with a higher roofline, the W140 was launched in the middle of a worldwide recession, which hurt sales. The increase in size and change of design polarized opinion, however what could not be denied was the fantastic driving experience. The major story was Mercedes first production V12 engine, the 6 litre M120 as fitted to the 600SEL. In 1993 the model names were changes so that the letters came before the numbers, for example the 300SE becoming the S320. Stability control was made standard on the S600 in 1996, a world first. The W140 had a much shorter lifespan than the W126, with production ceasing in 1998 at a production run of 432,732.
In 1998 the new Mercedes Benz S Class was coded the W220. Elegant styling, with reduced exterior dimensions, was highly praised. So much so, that in 1999 the W220 Mercedes Benz S Class was awarded Wheels Car Of The Year. Much lighter and agile than the W140, the W220 continued its enormous popularity throughout the world. With airmatic suspension, stability control as standard and a luxurious interior, the W220 did a wonderful job of transporting its occupants in total comfort. AMG sports models became available in Australia for the first time, with models such as the S55 and the incredible 450 Kw 1000Nm S65 V12 leading the S Class lineup.
Mercedes forged ahead in 2005 with the W221 code S Class. This model first became available in Australia in 2006. Styling again moved on markedly from the W220, both from an exterior and interior perspective. Much new technology was introduced with the W221, including Night View Assist, upgraded COMAND system and Brake Assist Plus. Safety was taken care of with such features as Blind Spot Assist, nine airbags and Distronic Plus. Diesel and petrol models were available, with the base model in Australia the S350, going up to the V12 twins, the S600 and S65. In 2009 a mild facelift was introduced, with the main cosmetic changes to the taillights and grille.
The current Mercedes Benz S Class is coded W222 and was introduced in 2013. Designed by Robert Lesnik, the W222 offers the ultimate in safety and luxury motoring. A Maybach S600 variant became available with the W222, bring a further extended wheelbase along with even greater lashings of luxury and comfort. Mercedes has also made a conscious effort to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions with the introduction of the S300 hybrid diesel and the S500e plug in hybrid petrol. The hybrid and plug in technology result in amazing fuel consumption figures, particularly taking into account the two tonne weight of the vehicle. Performance enthusiasts have not been left behind, with AMG models including the V8 S63 and V12 S65 available.
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