Launched in 1991 at Geneva Motorshow, the Mercedes S-Class W140 was the first Mercedes saloon to be available with a 12 cylinder engine.
The Mercedes S-Class W140 was one of superlatives of cars industry.
In 1991, the specialist magazine “mot” belonging to Auto motor und sport Group mentioned: “With the new S-Class, Mercedes is again demonstrating its claim to have invented the car and that it builds the best car in the world. When faced with a 400 SEL one cannot help but say: the claim is probably justified.”. Once more this S-Class comprised the entire corporate knowledge on all aspects of the car – that only its inventor can possess.
Mercedes launched a lot of innovations on the S-Class W140 and the list is very long. On the electronics side these include the CAN bus (Controller Area Network) for networking, the navigation system Auto Pilot System APS (from 1995), the parking aid PARKTRONIC (from 1995), the voice-operated control system LINGUATRONIC (from 1996) and the emergency call system TELE-AID (from 1997). But ground-breaking safety systems such as the Electronic Stability Program ESP® (from 1995) and the Brake Assist BAS (from 1996) are also part of the mix. A further safety bonus also comes courtesy of the belt system with automatic height adjustment, sidebags for the driver and front passenger (from 1996) and the xenon headlamps with automatic range adjustment (from 1996).
The new double wishbone front suspension is mounted on a subframe and decouples the body from audible and tangible vibrations. The double insulation glazing for the side windows ensures first-class noise insulation. Further comfort features are the electrically folding exterior mirrors and the power closing for the doors and boot lid. Another luxury comfort option is the Adaptive Damping System ADS.
The S-Class W140 was the first Mercedes available with a 12-cylinder engine: 6.0 litre V12 for the 600 SE/600 SEL had a rated output of 408 HP.
The facelifted version was presented also at Geneva Motorshow 1994. But before, In June 1993, the model designation were changed and the S was now placed before the three digit number. 406,717 saloons were produced at Sindelfingen plant until mid-2000 from which 28,101 units were diesels.
Few people know probably that a 500 SEL from the W140 Series served as a test vehicle for technology trialling in everyday conditions. It was converted in such a way that the control computer was able to operate the steering, throttle valve and brakes. To this end high-performance computers evaluated image sequences of the journey in real time, recorded by two wide-angle cameras. “VaMP” (“Versuchsfahrzeug für autonome Mobilität – Pkw”, German for “test vehicle for autonomous mobility – passenger cars) was the name of the research project, which was carried out by the Institute for System Dynamics and Flight Mechanics at the University of the German Armed Forces in Munich with Mercedes-Benz. The 500 SEL delivered functional verification of the technology: in October 1994 on a three-lane motorway in normal traffic it drove at up to 130 km/h and covered 1000 kilometres, demonstrating lane changes in both directions plus – after approval from the security driver – autonomous overtaking.