Mercedes has organized a special drive test with all six Mercedes S-Class generations. Car magazine was there and drove all of them. Here are the main impressions.
How many S-Class generations are really? The correct answer is six, because the S badge has appeared first time on the W116 series from 1972.
The 1954 W180 (Ponton) and the 1959 W111 (Fintail) were also luxury models but did not wear a S badge. So, the starting point is 1972.
Between 1972 and 1993, the S badge followed the number which designated the displacement of the engine (560 SEL, 600 SEL etc) and since 1993, the S-Class name appear first in the name.
Including Ponton and Fintail, over four million four door luxury saloons were sold, while the W126 series was the most popular with 818,000 units sold between 1979 and 1991.
The S-Class Coupe was launched wih the 126 Series whilee S-Class Cabrio appeared only in 2016 with the current generation 222 Series.
1972-1979 W116: the begining
The first S-Class generation was launched at the begining of the oil crisis and may be this is the explanation why the entry level 280 SE was the most popular variant.
The first S-Class was the first series production car with an electronic ABS system.
The top version was 450 SEL 6.9 but a V8 engine was available also in the 350 SEL in which delivered 205 HP.
1979-1991 W126: the best seller
The second S-Class generation had better aerodynamics, a lighter body and light-alloy V8s.
1991-1998 W140: the king of the road
The third generation has made an astonishing progress, much more important than the normal evolution from a generation to another.
It was really a flagship, which offered top class comfort while the top version 600 SEL (S 600 L after the facelift) was powered by the 6.0 liter V12 with 408 HP channelled to the rear wheels.
But W140 was also a very heavy car in a period in which Mercedes want to demonstrate to the wole world that S-Class is the king of the road.
1998-2005 W220: the S-class went to fitness
After the oversized W140, the fourth generation save many kilos but the design lost that aura of the king of the road.
Technically, S-Class was again a technological vitrine and has introduced the adaptive air suspension and adaptive cruise control.
In 2002 was launched also the 4Matic four wheel drive in the S-Class.
2005-2013 W221: comeback to the tradition
After seven years of discretion, the W221 adopted again an imposing silhouette and bold wheelarches evoking notions of pre-war Benzes with their separate wings.
2013-present W222: the best of the best
The sixth generation is in the middle of its lifecycle. New V8 engine developed by AMG and new 6 inline diesel engine cand be found under the hood. Mercedes came back to the 6 inline configuration after 12 years.