2023 Author: Eric Donovan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-08-25 09:36
The Mercedes S-Class is the flagship of the Stuttgart company. The W126 was presented to the public 40 years ago. Since then, it has been considered a reference in the upper class.
With wide side guard rails made of polyurethane foam and bumpers, it ended the age of the shiny chrome cruisers. The previous S-Class (W116) had led this to its climax.
The 280 S to 560 SEL models, drawn with distinguished elegance under Mercedes-Benz design chief Bruno Sacco, fit perfectly into the social and political climate of the time of environmental discussions, maximum vehicle safety and external modesty. Instead of visual splendor, the fresh Stuttgart flagships presented safety and comfort innovations in abundance, as well as efficient six-cylinder and benchmark-setting V8s with up to 221 kW / 300 PS. This clever mix guaranteed the luxury liners a lead over the competition for the next decade and with almost 820,000 units, the crown of the most popular luxury sedan of all time.
Formative for future models
In fact, despite the initially dreary gray plastic planks - mockingly called Sacco boards by critics - the S-Class soon succeeded in outshining the automotive haute couture of its competitors to such an extent that Mercedes marketing in North America confidently “had the most pleasant living space on four wheels “Applied.
The dynamic lines of the S-Class shaped almost all upcoming Mercedes models.
Not even the BMW 750i launched in 1987 with the first German twelve-cylinder of the post-war era under the hood brought the now-aged W126 sedans into serious trouble. On the contrary: The long version of the 5.16 meter star lounges served all new members of the automotive upper house such as Audi (V8), Infiniti (Q45) and Lexus (LS 400) as a role model for ultimate elegance and exclusivity.
After all, the fine four-door series W126 as well as the SEC Coupé, which was added in 1981, were supposed to do justice to the Daimler promotional motto “The first among the best”. SEC was the first Mercedes coupé to adapt the sports grille of the SL series and the sharpened V8 models with over 74,000 units quickly advanced to become the best-selling S-class coupé to date. The lightweight S-Class - in fact, the special class, which was also made lean thanks to high-strength steels, weighed up to 220 kilograms less than its predecessor, depending on the type - cut a good figure everywhere.
Fastest four-door car in the world until 1987
From 1985 the top Mercedes models were among the first prestige types with a regulated three-way catalytic converter. The star carriers, which can reach speeds of up to 250 km / h, were the first series-produced Mercedes to take the 300 hp mark and were considered the fastest four-door model in the world until the BMW 750i made its debut in 1987.
The factory customization program fulfilled every customer request and also included futuristic refinements such as fax machines and early flat screens. If you wanted, you could order the basic six-cylinder 280 S, which released 156 hp, “naked” for a good 35,000 marks, roughly half the price of a lavishly equipped 500 SEL.
50 percent more expensive than Senator
At the same time, the 280 S offered the most expensive way to enjoy 2.8-liter sedan comfort, as it cost 50 percent more than the Opel Senator or Volvo 264. Nevertheless, the basic Benz still lacked the basics such as right wing mirrors, rev counter or heated ones Rear window which were only available as an option. The customers hardly cared: the six-cylinder became favorites and were also valued as large family carriages or as tractors for caravans.
The V8 program began with the 350 SE models and, from 1985, with the 420 SE, with the type codes still referring to the displacement at that time. The "five hundred" had the aura of the mystical pre-war supercharger type 500 K, but was surpassed in 1985 by the 560 SEL. Only then did the super-powerful 6.9-liter Benz of the W116 series find a real successor. (SP-X)
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