Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Lineage of the S-class: How We Arrived at Mercedes’ Latest Flagship

The Lineage of the S-class: How We Arrived at Mercedes’ Latest Flagship:

The Mercedes-Benz S-class earned its platinum status by its long service as the luxury-sedan segment’s showcase of technological innovation. The seventh-generation 222-series S-class expected late next year (2013) will further the cause of active- and passive safety while standing on the high shoulders of its predecessors.
Even before Mercedes joined forces with Benz in 1926, the two brands successfully built and sold luxury models that engendered utmost respect across Europe. At the beginning of the 20th century, as speeds rose, closed bodywork gradually replaced the open tourers that established the two brands’ reputations. By the mid-1920s, supercharged six-cylinder engines gave Mercedes-Benz’s top models the power and speed required to secure their status as the fastest and most luxurious cars major money could buy. Following World War II, Mercedes-Benz quickly bounced back with its first 300 model, a 100-mph sedan introduced in 1951. By 1957, fuel injection, air conditioning, and power steering were added, setting the stage for the type 600 limousines that arrived in 1963. Below, you’ll find a generation-by-generation breakdown of the latest and greatest in technology innovation throughout the history of the S-class.
‘Ponton Mercedes,’ 1951–59
The Ponton (pictured above) was the second Mercedes to get the S moniker in its name with the advent of the 220S, which debuted in 1956 with modern styling and unibody construction. (The first S-badged Benz was 300S W-188, which debuted in 1951). Mechanical port fuel injection came in 1958.

‘Fintail’ sedans, 1959–72
The second-generation S models’ breakthrough was a bodyshell with crumple zones engineered to absorb collision energy. The 1961 300SE benefitted from air suspension and a Mercedes-developed automatic transmission. The stretched wheelbase 300SEL was powered by the potent 6.3-liter V-8 from the 600 series.

W-108/109, 1965–72
After the playful fintail models, the W-108/109 adopted a far more contemporary and restrained look. The car featured front and rear disc brakes. The lineup was topped by the 300 SEL 6.3, which was fitted with the 6.3-liter V-8 from the 600. AMG, then an independent tuner, created versions with more than 300 hp. And Mercedes developed the 300 SEL 4.5 specifically for the U.S. market.

W-116 series, 1972–80
The S-class name became an official Mercedes designation in the third generation that introduced key safety strides: a reinforced fuel tank, head and taillamps configured to minimize the buildup of dirt deposits, and a collision-friendly steering wheel. In 1978, the S-class was an early ABS adopter.

W-126 series, 1979–91
Airbags arrived at Mercedes-Benz in 1981, only a few years after GM had pioneered this equipment in its largest sedans.

W-140 series, 1991–98
Mercedes blessed some of its fifth-generation S-class models with a silky 6.0-liter V-12 rated at 389 horsepower. The world’s first use of electronic stability control (ESP) came in 1995. A brake-assist system, which automatically engaged the brakes with more determination in an emergency, followed in 1996.

W-220 series, 1998–2005
New technology helped trim the weight of the sixth-generation S-class. Air suspension, adaptive body control, and radar-based cruise control also arrived. The Mercedes-Benz COMAND control and display infotainment system was equipped. All-wheel drive—known as 4MATIC—and the Pre-Safe seat-belt tensioning system improved the S-class’s all-weather mobility and occupant safety.

W-221 series, 2005–2013
Night View Assist helped identify and avoid collisions with pedestrians and animals. Brake Assist Plus allowed automatic brake intervention with no driver action required. Blind spot, lane keeping, and speed limit assists also stretched the S-class’s safety portfolio. An efficient hybrid powertrain was added to the options list in 2009 with energy stored in a lithium-ion battery pack, the first automotive use of that technology. New gas engines were equipped with direct fuel injection.
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