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The Mercedes-Benz S-Class is a series of luxury sedans produced by Mercedes-Benz, a division of Daimler AG. The classification was officially introduced in 1972 with the W116 S-Class, which succeeded previous Mercedes-Benz models dating to the mid-1950s. The S-Class has served as the flagship model for Mercedes for over fifty years in its various incarnations. The S-Class has debuted many of the company’s latest innovations, including drivetrain technologies, interior features, and safety systems (such as the first seatbelt pretensioners). The S-Class has ranked as the world’s best-selling luxury sedan, and its latest generation, the W221 S-Class, premiered in 2005 as an all-new design. As in previous iterations, the W221 S-Class is sold in standard- and long-wheelbase versions; V6, V8, V12, diesel and hybrid powertrains are offered. All models built in Mexico or sold in the United States are only available in long wheelbase.
The name “S-Class” derives from the German word “Sonderklasse” of which “S-Class” is an abbreviation. Sonderklasse means “special class” (or rather: “In a class of its own”), and in automotive terms thus refers to “a specially outfitted car”. Although used colloquially for decades, following its official application in 1972, five generations of officially named S-Class sedans have been produced. Past two-door coupe models of the S-Class were known as SEC and later S-Coupe. In 1998 the S class coupe was spun off in a separate line as the CL-Class, however it will be re-designated as the S-Coupe for the 2013 model year.
Mercedes-Benz S Class W221 (2005-2013)
The all-new W221 was introduced in the autumn of 2005 at the Frankfurt International Motor Show, with export to other markets beginning in 2006. The W221 S-Class made its North American premiere at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in January. The latest S-Class is slightly larger in all dimensions than its predecessor, and it features three newly developed engines with up to 26% power increase. The interior is completely new, all materials have been upgraded and make for a more luxurious ride, and the center console transmission gear lever has been replaced with a column-mounted shifter. New technological features on the W221 include an infrared Night View Assist feature and the latest Mercedes-Benz pre-collision system. The W221 features sharper exterior styling (most notably wide fender arcs) and technological improvements. The W221 is the second consecutive generation of the S-Class to be solely produced in a sedan body style.
Models sold in North America are the S450 (2008-, SWB and Canada only), S400 Hybrid (2010- ), S350 Bluetec 4MATIC (2012- ), S550, S600, S63 AMG and S65 AMG; other models to be sold outside North America include the S280, S350, S300, S420 CDI and S320 CDI. The first W221 model released in North America and Japan was the S550 (called S500 outside North America and Japan), with the S600 arriving in the following spring. Mercedes Benz Mexico also produces a police spec model of the S-600, the S-600P. The S-600P is similar to the standard S-600 but is equipped with the dual turbo charged V-12 engine of the S65 AMG and includes police lights, siren, run-flat tires, a gun mount, a Lanix computer station integrated with the host police network, optional prisoner cage and restraint seats, and level B6/B7 armoring. The S-600P is only built in Mexico and only comes in long-wheelbase version. The Mexican government uses S-600P’s mainly for transporting important figures, but several police departments in wealthier cities in the country use them as patrol vehicles, as does the Mexican Federal Police in limited numbers. A small number of S-600P were purchased by the police department of Guangzhou, China for protection of key government figures.
In the US for 2010, the S-Class received a facelift across the entire model line. Daytime LED running lights were fitted to the outer edges of the bi-xenon lamp units. The rear end was accented with a total of 52 distinctively arranged LEDs in the two taillights. Gone are the body-colored strips through the tail lamps. Other noticeable changes at the front of the car are a more pronounced arrow-shaped grille, plus a new front bumper with a light-catching contour and a chrome strip below the cooling air intakes. New, sleeker rear-view door mirrors with LED turn signals were also added. Exhaust tailpipes of all S-Class variants were visibly integrated into the rear bumper. The wheels were updated to more modern-style ones. Also new is a S400 Hybrid version. Safety also improved on most Mercedes Benz models, with the orange-colored light reflectors mounted on the side of the bumpers. Also, before it was updated it had a C-Class look at the front. Afterwards it disappeared. Also, some shiny chrome is added to the bottom of the doors and bumper.
In terms of performance, the S550 completes the 0–60 mph run in just 5.4 seconds. Despite having a weight of 2304 kg, the S65 AMG still makes it 0 to 60 in just 4.2 seconds. The S 63 AMG and the S600 makes the same sprint in about 4.6 seconds. Mercedes-AMG claim that the S63 will pull from 50 mph to 70 mph in around 3.9 seconds while the S65 make it to 50 mph from 70 mph in 3.6 seconds.
The brakes continue to become more advanced with the new Brake Assist Plus system monitoring for an impending collision and increasing braking if needed, while the Distronic Plus radar guided cruise control can now bring the car to a complete stop. This system works in outdoor conditions; a test demonstration by Mercedes-Benz in a crash-test hall resulted in embarrassment for the company when a new S-Class crashed into the back of a stationary W220 S-Class. This incident was later attributed to the radar system malfunctioning inside the radar-reflective (i.e. radar-confusing) steel test building where the event was filmed.
Upscale department store Saks Fifth Avenue offered 20 special-edition S600 sedans for sale in its 2005 Christmas catalog. All 20 cars, priced at US$145,000 each, sold on November 22, 2005 in under seven minutes. The Saks-edition S600 sedans were finished in a mocha black exterior with an almond beige interior and were the first examples of the S600 to be sold to private owners. The S600s came with nearly every option standard. In 2007, Automobile Magazine named the W221 S-Class as one of its 2007 “All-Stars” over rivals from Lexus and BMW, and Car and Driver selected the S550 as the winner in a five-way comparison test of flagship luxury sedans, as did Motor Trend Magazine in July 2009 in a three way comparison test, with the other two competitors being the BMW 750Li, and Audi A8L 4.2 Quattro. The W221 S-Class was also the recipient of several other motoring awards (see following).
Mercedes Benz S Class W222 (2014)
Large stretches of the German Autobahn network do not feature any speed limit except a recommended 130 km/h (81 mph). Driving at rather high speeds for extended periods tends to result in increased strain on a vehicle and requires careful engineering. Mercedes-Benz has sought to engineer its vehicles, most notably the S-Class, to excel in this unique environment and allow high speed cruising. Specific standards of engine performance, body integrity, and reliability are part of this process; for example, the S-Class is built with an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph) which drivers can maintain when driving on the autobahn. AMG Manufaktur offer delimitation to allow speeds of 300 km/h (186 mph).
Historically, the engineering of the S-Class was claimed to have being designed without a regard to the cost, a practice which continued unfettered up through the W140 line. The company in turn has been able to exploit this as a marketing tool, culminating in its onetime slogan, “engineered like no other car in the world.” This slogan was used throughout the 1980s with the marketing of the W126 S-Class, however, following the formation of DaimlerChrysler and the cessation of engineer-sanctioned overbudgeting in the late 1990s, this slogan was dropped. The subsequent W220 model S-Class were reported to suffer from relatively lower reliability and quality rates to previous models.
In the 1980s, Mercedes-Benz built the world’s first driverless cars using the S-Class, together with the team of Professor Ernst Dickmanns at Bundeswehr Universität München. The culmination of this effort was achieved in 1995, when Dickmanns’ re-engineered autonomous S-Class robot completed a trip from Munich, Bavaria to Copenhagen, Denmark and back. On the autobahn, the robot S-Class achieved speeds exceeding 175 km/h. It suggested and executed overtaking maneuvers. The car’s abilities left a big impression on many observers, and is said to have heavily influenced robot car research and funding decisions worldwide.
A concept future hybrid, the F700 research car, was also unveiled at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show. The F700 featured three regular opening doors and a fourth door capable of 180-degree rotation. Also comes with bulletproof and puncture-resistant tyres.
Mercedes-Benz has traditionally introduced its safety innovations in the S-Class. For instance, the S-Class was the first car in Europe to incorporate airbags. S-Class safety features included innovations in active safety (accident avoidance), passive safety (collision protection), and holistic safety (integration of both active and passive safety features). Active safety features include: ABS braking in 1978 (acts to reduce braking distances and improve stopping control; co-developed with Bosch); traction control and Electronic Stability Program (ESP) in 1995 (improves driver control during difficult road conditions); and Brake Assist (provides full braking power during emergency stops). In 2005, a new infrared night vision feature was introduced (improves visibility during nighttime conditions). Despite the popular misconception, the S-Class was not the first car fitted with ABS braking technology, although some credit can be given for popularizing this now largely standard feature (ABS was initially an option on most models of the W126 S-Class).
Passive safety features include: crumple zones in 1957 (vehicle body structure absorbs the force of impact); three-point seatbelts in 1965 (provides additional torso/body protection); collapsible steering column (prevents the steering column from protruding into the cabin during accidents), strengthened occupant cell enhanced occupant protection during severe impacts (rollovers); pre-accident seatbelt tensioning (tightens seatbelts prior to impact), and sandwich platforms (allows the engine to slide under the occupants in a head-on collision).
PRE-SAFE, Mercedes-Benz’s holistic safety feature, was introduced on the S-Class in 2002. PRE-SAFE integrates multiple active and passive safety features for a “safety net” approach to vehicle safety by attempting to prevent accidents; if accidents do occur, PRE-SAFE aims to reduce occupant injury. In the latest version of this pre-collision system, PRE-SAFE will prime the brake assist system, lock the doors to prevent accidental opening during the accident, adjust the seats, close the windows and sunroof, and tighten seatbelts during certain types of collisions. In the event an accident results in a roll over, the PRE-SAFE feature unlock the doors and lower the windows approximately one half-inch to allow you to exit or safety workers to gain access easily.
Road accident statistics on a model-by-model basis from the UK Department of Transport show that the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is one of the safest cars on the UK roads (measured in terms of chance of death in an accident).
Mercedes Benz S Class S-Guard
A special armored version of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been produced, known as the S-Guard and it is available with Forward Motors. Special features include the capability to withstand military-grade small arms fire and certain explosive devices, a self-sealing fuel tank, and a special alarm system. For 2009, Mercedes-Benz launched a long-wheelbase version of the S-Guard, known as the Pullman Guard. This model is 45 inches longer than the standard model and also has a higher roof and taller rear window with a different rake.
The S-Guard is widely used at the diplomatic level to protect world leaders. Ninety governments worldwide are known to use the S-Guard for transport of government leaders and dignitaries. The S-Guard is built on a special production line at the S-Class facility in Sindelfingen, Germany, with specific S-Guard enhancements integrated at multiple stages throughout the production process.
Mercedes Benz S Class Production
Most S-Class models, including the W221, are built at the Daimler AG plant in Sindelfingen, Germany and at the Mercedes-Benz-Valdez plant in Santiago Tianguistenco, Mexico. Founded by Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft in 1915, the Sindelfingen plant also produced the model 600 “Grosser Mercedes” and past generations of the S-Class. Previous S-Class models (such as the W126) were built in different locations ranging from Stuttgart to South Africa, but with recent models (such as the W220) production has been concentrated in Sindelfingen and Santiago Tianguistenco. In February 2007, DaimlerChrysler Malaysia’s (now, Mercedes Benz Malaysia) plant in Pekan, Pahang began production of S350 (model W221) vehicles and is currently assembling S300, S350L and S500L. In all, some 2.7 million S-Class vehicles have been produced in the past forty years.
W221: 85,900 (’06), 85,500 (’07), 90,600 (’08), 53,400 (’09), 66,500 (’10)
Mercedes Benz S Class Awards
Notable examples of awards received by the Mercedes-Benz S-Class include the top ranking in the J.D. Power Sales Satisfaction Index from 1987 to 1990, seven time ranking as What Car? “Best Luxury Car”, and five times as Fleet News “Luxury Car of the Year”. The S-Class was Wheels Magazine Car of the Year for 1981 and 1999, U.S. Highway Loss Data Institute “Safest Passenger Car of the Year” in 1988 and 1989, and European Car of the Year in 1974. The S-Class is also the first car ever (2005) to receive an environmental certificate from the German Commission on Technical Compliance (TÜV). Other awards range from Popular Science Best of What’s New—Grand Award 2005 to Top Gear magazine’s “Limousine of the Year” for 2006.