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Mercedes-Benz W140

For complete overview of all S-Class models, see Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

Motor vehicle

Mercedes-Benz W140
1992 Mercedes-Benz 300 SE (W 140) sedan (2010-07-19).jpg

1991–1993 Mercedes-Benz 300 SE (W140)

ManufacturerDaimler-Benz
ProductionApril 1991 – September 1998 (sedan)
October 1992 – September 1998 (coupe)
Model years1992–1999
AssemblyGermany: Stuttgart
Mexico: Toluca
DesignerOlivier Boulay (Sedan exterior: 1986; Coupe exterior: 1987)
Bruno Sacco (design director 1982–1990)[1][2]
ClassFull-sizeluxury car (F)
Body style4-door sedan (W140; short)
4-door sedan (V140; long)
4-door sedan (VV140; Pullman)
2-door coupé (C140)
LayoutFR layout
RelatedMaybach 57 and 62
Engine
Transmission4-speed 4G-Tronicautomatic
5-speed 5G-Tronic automatic
5-speed manual
Wheelbase3,040 mm (119.7 in)
3,139 mm (123.6 in) (V140)
2,944 mm (115.9 in) (C140)
4,140 mm (163.0 in) (Pullman)
Length5,113 mm (201.3 in)
5,213 mm (205.2 in) (V140)
5,065 mm (199.4 in) (C140)
6,228 mm (245.2 in) (Pullman)
Width1,886 mm (74.3 in)
1,895 mm (74.6 in) (C140)
Height1,486 mm (58.5 in)
1,427 mm (56.2 in) (C140)
Curb weight1,880 kg (4,145 lb)
2,190 kg (4,828 lb) (V140)
2,060–2,240 kg (4,542–4,938 lb) (C140)
PredecessorMercedes-Benz W126
SuccessorMercedes-Benz W220 (S-Class)
Mercedes-Benz C215 (coupé: CL-Class)

The Mercedes-Benz W140 is a series of flagship vehicles manufactured by Mercedes-Benz from 1991 to 1998 in sedan/saloon and coupe body styles and two wheelbase lengths (SE and SEL). Mercedes-Benz unveiled the W140 S-Class at Geneva Motor Show in March 1991 with sales launch in April 1991 and North American launch on 6 August 1991.

All models were renamed in June 1993 as part of the corporate-wide nomenclature changes for 1994 model year on, becoming S regardless of wheelbase length or body style as well as fuel type. Diesel models carried a TURBODIESEL trunk/boot lid label. In 1996, the S-Class coupé was renamed again as CL-Class into its own model range.

The W140 series S-Class was superseded by the W220 S-Class sedan and C215CL-Class coupé in 1998 after an eight-year production run.

Production of the W140 reached 432,732,[3] with 406,710 sedans and 26,022 coupés.

History[edit]

The development on the W140 began in 1981, with official introduction originally set in September 1989. Several different design proposals were studied from 1982 until 1986, when a definitive design proposal by Olivier Boulay was selected on 9 December 1986. Several engineering prototypes were evaluated from early 1987, with the final exterior design locked in September 1987. The design patents were filed on 23 February 1988 in West Germany and 23 August 1988 in the United States.[4] The lead designer Bruno Sacco attributed Jaguar's XJ40 sedan and BMW's E32 7-Series as a major influence in W140 design.[5][6] The initial exterior design proposal called for the two different cooling grille designs to denote the lower and upper model, similar to the idea of round and rectangle headlamps on the W123 (1976-1985). Innovative metal-forming technology allowed the extension of the engine hood/bonnet to the front bumper, with the grille placed inside the extruded metal. The W140 became the second model after the R129 (1989-2001) to have this extruded metal grille.

When BMW introduced a new 7-Series (E32) in 1986, a first post-war German passenger V12 engine, M70, was offered. This surprise announcement forced Mercedes-Benz to delay the introduction of the W140 by eighteen months to 1991. The delay allowed Mercedes-Benz to develop the new V12 engine and to rearrange the engine bay to accommodate the gargantuan V12 engine along with upgrading the brake system. The final development prototypes were completed in June 1990, with pilot production models being built from June 1990 to January 1991.

The project cost overruns and eighteen-month delay resulted in the departure of Wolfgang Peter, Mercedes-Benz' chief engineer.[7] The price of a W140 was considerably higher than its predecessor, the W126, (up to 25 per cent) leading to slow sales during the recession of 1990-1994. Mercedes-Benz shifted from "engineer's design" to "market-driven design" in the 1990s.[citation needed]

Two engines, a stillborn V16 engine based on an elongated V12 engine and an 8.0 W18 engine[8] meant for a hypothetical 800 SEL/S 800 were, again, developed in response to the purported rumour of BMW exploring a V16 engine and testing it in a 7-Series (E32) mule, named Goldfisch V16. The W18 did not proceed past the blueprint stage, but Mercedes-Benz had a small fleet of 85 W140 prototypes with V16 engines. Due to the increasing concern for climate protection and fear of sending a wrong message to the public in the early 1990s, the V16 engine was quietly cancelled.[9]

In March 1994, the updated W140 was unveiled at the 1994 Geneva Auto Salon and went on sale in April 1994.

In 1995, the two tone exterior appearance was made to be monotone, low-beam xenon headlamps were added and the rear indicator lenses became clear. The change were later was introduced in June 1996 as 1996.5 models in Europe and 1997 models in the United States.

The W140 received notoriety when Diana, Princess of Walesdied in a car crash, involving an S 280 model, in a Paris tunnel in 1997.[10][11]

Models[edit]

The three body types are carried over from the W126: four-door sedan/saloon in two wheelbase lengths and one two-door coupé. The model types are assigned as W140 for standard wheelbase, V140 for long wheelbase, and C140 for coupé. In 1996, S-Class coupé was renamed as CL-Class and spun off from S-Class. A longer Pullman version with 4140 mm wheelbase was introduced in 1995 with two engine choices (S 500 Pullman and S 600 Pullman). The S 600 Pullman could be ordered with armour package.

The Sultan of Brunei ordered eighteen S 73 T station wagons/estates with AMG-prepared M 297 7.3-litre V12 engines putting out 391 kW (532 PS; 524 hp) and 750 N⋅m (553 lb⋅ft) to be built, with ten units delivered. The S 73 T had an S-Class coupé front end and the rear part of an S210 station wagon/estate installed, and rear lights of S-Class sedan.[12]

A one-off custom-built S 500 lang Landaulet Popemobile was built for Pope John Paul II in 1997.

Features[edit]

Safety[edit]

The W140 S-Class introduced noted safety innovations.[13]

  • Braking system. The V8 and V12 W140 models distributed more braking power to the rear wheels, increasing stopping effectiveness. In 1996, the W140 received Brake Assist System BAS, which engaged during emergency maneuvers to boost braking power to maximum.[14]
  • Electronic Stability Program (ESP) was introduced in 1995 on the Mercedes-Benz S 600 Coupé.[15] ESP used on-board computers to improve vehicle handling response during difficult driving conditions. This was a Mercedes developed system, which has since been licensed to other manufacturers.
  • XenonHigh-intensity discharge headlights (low beam only) were introduced in 1995.
  • Side airbags and seat occupancy sensors were introduced in 1996.
  • Automatic windscreen wipers with rain sensors were introduced in 1996.

Comfort and convenience[edit]

W140 features included:

  • Double-paned soundproofed glass was a new S-Class innovation first fitted on the W140. This form of window glazing allowed for improved soundproofing, reduced condensation, and other insulation benefits.
  • Electrically-operated exterior mirrors could be folded by switch to ease driving in narrow spaces.
  • 'Parameter steering' was a system which made low-speed driving easier by reducing the effort required to maneuver in speed-sensitive situations such as parking.
  • Rear-parking markers, or guide rods. These rods extended from the rear corners of the trunk lid when in reverse, providing the driver with a guideline for rear maneuvers. In 1995, this system was replaced by the sonar-based Parktronic system which measured the distance of the bumpers to nearby obstacles.
  • 12-way powered, heated front seats, with 3 setting memory functions and lumbar support.
  • Windshield wipers with heated washer system. Later models also included rain-sensing windshield wipers.
  • Electrically-operated automatic-dimming inside rear-view mirror that tied into the seat and steering wheel memory.
  • Heated exterior mirrors. Later models also included auto-dimming driver's side mirror.
  • Orthopedic seats were an expensive option from the factory but consisted of several different air cushions in the seat that the user can inflate and deflate to find the perfect driving position.
  • Dual-zone climate control. Four-zone climate control on LWB models.
  • Reclining and heated rear seats on LWB models. V12 models also have the four-place seating option, which allows fully adjustable rear seats, lumbar support and rear sunshade control. The center seat has been replaced by a burlwood center console, allowing a 2 + 2 seating format.
  • The climate control system could be set to operate for 20 minutes after the engine had been turned off.
  • Electric rear sunshade.
  • Rear passenger illuminated vanity mirrors.
  • Soft-closing doors and trunk.
  • Leather interiors and burl inserts (optional; standard for 500SEC/CL 500).
  • In 1995 the S 600 Coupe became the first Mercedes car with GPSnavigation system, designated Auto Pilot System APS. It featured CD-ROM maps and full color navigation display in the center dashboard.
  • In 1996 the Linguatronic voice control system and Parktronic sonar-based parking system were introduced
  • In 1997 the TELEAID emergency and tracking system was introduced in the US market.
  • Also, developed with the car, a Bose sound system was available as an option.

Drivetrain technologies[edit]

Gallery[edit]

  • Interior (C140): the 500 luxury version was sold with Nappa leather and burl inserts

Engines[edit]

For the W140 series, a new generation of inline-6 and V8 petrol engines was developed with double-overhead camshafts (DOHC), four valves per cylinder, and new variable valve timing. Mercedes-Benz's first passenger V12 engine was introduced in 1991 in a response to BMW's 750i/750iL (E32). Only the 3.5-litre inline-6 diesel engine, OM 603.97x, was carried over from W126, and it remained the only engine in the W140 model range with a two-valves-per-cylinder format until its replacement in 1996. The advent of DOHC, with four valves per cylinder and accompanied by variable valve timing, helped to increase the horsepower and torque figures without imposing a heavy fuel-consumption penalty, all while reducing emissions. All petrol engines were equipped with catalytic converters during the entire W140 model run, regardless of where they were sold.

The 3.0-litre 24-valve inline 6, M 104.98x, was first introduced in 300 SL-24 and 300 E-24, 300 CE-24, and 300 TE-24 in 1989. This engine, fitted to 300 SE/300 SEL, had a very short run in W140; it was replaced by upgraded inline 6 engines introduced in 1993 with two displacements. The smaller 2.8-litre M 104.94x engine was fitted to 300 SE 2.8 (one year only) then S 280 (1994-1998). The larger 3.2-litre M 104.99x engine was fitted to 300 SE/300 SEL (one year only) then S 320 (1994–1998).

The M 119 V8 engines were available in 4.2-litre (M 119 E 42) and 5.0-litre (M 119 E 50) versions and remained unchanged during its entire model run. In 1994, AMG developed a 6.0-litre version (M 119 E 60) with 279 kW (379 PS; 374 bhp) and 580 N⋅m (428 lb⋅ft) in a very limited production for Japanese market. The S 500 AMG 6.0 and CL 500 AMG 6.0 were built from 1994 to 1999 per customer order.[17] For 1993, the V8 engines were detuned for improved emission control.

The M 120 V12 engine was offered in 6.0 litres only for the entire model run. This engine developed 290–300 kW (394–408 PS; 389–402 hp) and 569–580 N⋅m (420–428 lb⋅ft) of torque for the 6.0-litre version. The 300 kW (408 PS; 402 bhp) version was available in Europe from 1991 to 1992 and in the United States for 1992 only. In 1993, the V12 was slightly detuned to 290 kW (394 PS; 389 bhp) for lower emission control. An AMG-prepared 6.0-litre M 120 V12 with higher performance rating, 327 kW (445 PS; 439 hp) and 623 N⋅m (460 lb⋅ft), was only available for S- or CL-Class (C140) coupes and not S-Class sedans/saloons.

The 3.5-litre inline-6 diesel engine, OM 603.97x in the 300 SD TURBODIESEL (1991–1993) and S 350 TURBODIESEL (1994–1996) models was offered outside the North American and Japanese markets for the first time. This engine was replaced in 1996 by the entirely new 24-valve OM 606.961 ERE engine. This engine was loosely derived from the M 104 petrol engine, but with a different crankshaft and cylinder head. The smaller engine fitted to S 300 TURBODIESEL put out 130 kW (177 PS; 174 hp) and 330 N⋅m (243 lb⋅ft). The fuel was delivered indirectly in the precombustion chamber before entering the combustion chamber.

Transmissions[edit]

W140 remains the only S-Class to have wider range of transmissions during its eight-year run. The transmission choices at the introduction was 5-speed manual and 4-speed 4G-Tronic automatic. A new 5-speed 5G-Tronic was introduced in 1994 for inline 6 petrol engines only. In September 1995, 5G-Tronic was updated with electronic control for more optimal shifting points based on the sensor readings and became the sole automatic transmission option for the entire model range from 1996 to 1998.

The models equipped with inline 6 petrol engines have 5-speed manual transmission as standard with either 4-speed or 5-speed automatic transmission as extra-cost options, making W140 the last S-Class to have manual transmission. In June 1996, both 4-speed and 5-speed automatic transmissions were replaced by 5-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. The inline 6 diesel engines were never offered with manual transmissions, following the "tradition" with W116 and W126. S 300 TURBODIESEL, introduced in 1996, received the 5-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission.

The models with V8 and V12 engines were offered with 4-speed automatic transmission as standard until August 1995. On September 1995, the 4-speed automatic transmission was replaced by 5-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission.

4MATIC, the all-wheel-drive system introduced in W124 (1985–1996), was never fitted to W140 S-Class. W140's successor, W220, became the first S-Class to have 4MATIC as extra-cost option.

Technical data[edit]

The figures given for acceleration, top speed, and fuel consumption are combination of all types of transmission (5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic, 5-speed automatic, and 5-speed electronically controlled automatic) and three body types (standard, long, and coupé) wherever applicable.

ModelChassisYearsConfigurationDisplacementPowerTorqueEmpty Weight (kg)0–100 km/h (0-62 mph)Top Speed (km/h)Fuel ConsumptionUnits
Petrol Engines
300 SE 2.8 W140.028 02/1992–05/1993 (M 104 E 28) Inline 6 2799 cc 142 kW (193 PS; 190 bhp) 270 N⋅m (199 lb⋅ft) 1890 10.6-11 seconds 210–215 km/h (130–134 mph) 11.1–11.7 L/100 km (21.2–20.1 mpg‑US) 22,784
S 280 06/1993–09/1998
300 SE W140.032 09/1991–05/1993 (M 104 E 32) Inline 6 3199 cc 170 kW (231 PS; 228 bhp) 310 N⋅m (229 lb⋅ft) 1890 8.9–9.4 seconds 225–230 km/h (140–143 mph) 11.1–12.3 L/100 km (21.2–19.1 mpg‑US) 98,095
S 320 06/1993–09/1998 315 N⋅m (232 lb⋅ft)
300 SEL W140.033 01/1991–05/1993 310 N⋅m (229 lb⋅ft) 1900 85,346
S 320 Long 06/1993–09/1998 315 N⋅m (232 lb⋅ft)
400 SE W140.042 04/1991–05/1993 (M 119 E 42) V8 4196 cc 210 kW (286 PS; 282 bhp) 410 N⋅m (302 lb⋅ft) 1900 7.9–8.5 seconds 245–250 km/h (152–155 mph) 11.7–12.2 L/100 km (20.1–19.3 mpg‑US) 14,277
S 420 06/1993–08/1998 205 kW (279 PS; 275 bhp) 400 N⋅m (295 lb⋅ft)
400 SEL W140.043 04/1991–05/1993 210 kW (286 PS; 282 bhp) 410 N⋅m (302 lb⋅ft) 2000 35,191
S 420 Long 06/1993–09/1998 205 kW (279 PS; 275 bhp) 400 N⋅m (295 lb⋅ft)
S 420 Coupé
CL 420
W140.063 02/1994–08/1998 2080 2,496
500 SE W140.050 04/1991–05/1993 (M 119 E 50) V8 4973 cc 240 kW (326 PS; 322 bhp) 480 N⋅m (354 lb⋅ft) 1900 7.0–7.5 seconds 250 km/h (155 mph) 11.5–11.9 L/100 km (20.5–19.8 mpg‑US) 21,942
S 500 06/1993–08/1998 235 kW (320 PS; 315 bhp) 470 N⋅m (347 lb⋅ft)
500 SEL W140.051 04/1991–05/1993 240 kW (326 PS; 322 bhp) 480 N⋅m (354 lb⋅ft) 2000 65,065
S 500 Long 06/1993–09/1998 235 kW (320 PS; 315 bhp) 470 N⋅m (347 lb⋅ft)
500 SEC W140.070 10/1992–05/1993 240 kW (326 PS; 322 bhp) 480 N⋅m (354 lb⋅ft) 2080 14,953
S 500 Coupé
CL 500
06/1993–09/1998 235 kW (320 PS; 315 bhp) 470 N⋅m (347 lb⋅ft)
600 SE W140.056 04/1991–05/1993 (M 120 E 60) V12 5987 cc 300 kW (408 PS; 402 bhp) 580 N⋅m (428 lb⋅ft) 2180 6.3–6.5 seconds 250 km/h (155 mph) 12.5–13.7 L/100 km (18.8–17.2 mpg‑US) 3,399
S 600 06/1993–07/1998 290 kW (394 PS; 389 bhp) 570 N⋅m (420 lb⋅ft)
600 SEL W140.057 04/1991–05/1993 300 kW (408 PS; 402 bhp) 580 N⋅m (428 lb⋅ft) 2190 32,517
S 600 Long 06/1993–09/1998 290 kW (394 PS; 389 bhp) 570 N⋅m (420 lb⋅ft)
600 SEC W140.076 10/1992–05/1993 300 kW (408 PS; 402 bhp) 580 N⋅m (428 lb⋅ft) 2240 8,573
S 600 Coupé
CL 600
06/1993–09/1998 290 kW (394 PS; 389 bhp) 570 N⋅m (420 lb⋅ft)
Diesel Engines
300 SD W140.134 10/1991–05/1993 (OM 603 D 35 A, 12 valves) Inline 6 3449 cc 110 kW (150 PS; 148 bhp) 310 N⋅m (229 lb⋅ft) 1940 13.1 seconds 185 km/h (115 mph) 9.7 L/100 km (24 mpg‑US) 20,518
S 350 Turbodiesel 06/1993–08/1996
S 300 Turbodiesel W140.135 06/1996–08/1998 (OM 606 D 30 LA, 24 valves) Inline 6 2996 cc 130 kW (177 PS; 174 bhp) 330 N⋅m (243 lb⋅ft) 1940 11.2 seconds 206 km/h (128 mph) 8.1 L/100 km (29 mpg‑US) 7,583

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

General[edit]

  • Barrett, Frank (1998). Illustrated Buyer's Guide Mercedes-Benz. Motorbooks International Illustrated Buyer's Guide series (2nd ed.). Osceola, WI, USA: MBI Publishing. ISBN .
  • Clarke, R.M., ed. (2007). Mercedes AMG Gold Portfolio 1983-1999. Road Test Portfolio Series. Cobham, Surrey, UK: Brooklands Books. ISBN .
  • Engelen, Günter (2002). Mercedes-Benz Personenwagen [Mercedes-Benz Passenger Cars] (in German). Band 3: Seit 1986 [Volume 3: Since 1986]. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN .
  • Häußermann, Martin (2006). Mercedes-Benz S-Class: The brochures since 1952. Archive edition of the DaimlerChrysler Group Archive. Bielefeld, Germany: Delius Klasing. ISBN .
  • ————————— (2006). Mercedes-Benz – The Large Coupés: The brochures since 1951. Archive edition of the DaimlerChrysler Group Archive. Bielefeld, Germany: Delius Klasing. ISBN .
  • Hofner, Heribert (1997). Die S-Klasse von Mercedes-Benz: von der Kultur des Fahrens [The S-Class from Mercedes-Benz: from the culture of driving] (in German). Augsburg: Bechtermünz Verlag. ISBN .
  • ———————; Schrader, Halwart (2005). Mercedes-Benz Automobile [Mercedes-Benz Automobiles] (in German). Band 2: von 1964 bis heute [Volume 2: from 1964 to today]. Königswinter, Germany: Heel Verlag. ISBN .
  • Jeanes, William. "Mercedes-Benz 300SE". Car and Driver (March 1993): 126–127.
  • Kittler, Eberhard (2001). Deutsche Autos [German Cars] (in German). Band [Volume] 6: seit [since] 1990 – Mercedes, Ford, Opel und Porsche. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN .
  • ——————— (2002). Mercedes-Benz. Typenkompass series (in German). Band 2. Personenwagen seit 1976 [Volume 2. Passenger Cars since 1976]. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN .
  • Larimer, Fred (2004). Mercedes-Benz Buyer's Guide: Roadsters, Coupes, and Convertibles. St. Paul, MN, USA: MBI Publishing. ISBN .
  • Niemann, Harry (2006). Personenwagen von Mercedes-Benz: Automobillegenden und Geschichten seit 1886 [Passenger Cars from Mercedes-Benz: Automobile Legends and Stories since 1886] (in German). Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN .
  • Nitske, W. Robert (1995). Mercedes-Benz Production Models Book 1946-1995 (4th ed.). Osceola, WI, USA: MBI Publishing. ISBN .
  • Pitt, Colin, ed. (2002). Mercedes-Benz W126 W140 W220. Hockley, Essex, UK: Unique Motor Books. ISBN .
  • Röcke, Matthias (1991). Das große Mercedes-S-Klasse-Buch: alle Modellreihen von W 108 bis W 140 (1965 bis heute) [The Big Mercedes S-Class Book: all model codes from W 108 to W 140 (1965 to today)] (in German). Königswinter, Germany: Heel Verlag. ISBN .
  • ——————— (2003). Das neue große Mercedes-S-Klasse-Buch [The New Big Mercedes S-Class Book] (in German). Königswinter, Germany: Heel Verlag. ISBN .
  • Schlegelmilch, Rainer W.; Lehbrink, Hartmut; von Osterroth, Jochen (2013). Mercedes (revised ed.). Königswinter, Germany: Ullmann Publishing. ISBN .
  • Seifert, Eberhard (1991). Die Mercedes S-Klasse: eine Dokumentation [The Mercedes S-Class: A Documentation] (in English and German). München: Südwest-Verlag. ISBN .
  • Smith, Kevin. "Mercedes-Benz 500SEC". Car and Driver (March 1993): 45–49.
  • Taylor, James (2009). Mercedes-Benz: Cars of the 1990s. Crowood AutoClassic Series. Ramsbury, Marlborough, UK: The Crowood Press. pp. 9–16, 52–72. ISBN .
  • —————— (2014). Mercedes-Benz S-Class 1972-2013. Ramsbury, Marlborough, UK: The Crowood Press. ISBN .
  • Vieweg, Christof (2000). Alles über die Mercedes-Benz-S-Klasse [Everything about the Mercedes-Benz S-Class]. Technik transparent series. Stuttgart: DaimlerChrysler. ISBN .

Workshop manuals[edit]

  • Mercedes-Benz Technical Companion. Cambridge, MA, USA: Bentley Publishers. 2005. ISBN .
Sours: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercedes-Benz_W140
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        Sours: https://www.theparking.eu/used-cars/mercedes-s600-w140.html
        Mercedes S600 W140 1998

        31k-Mile 1998 Mercedes-Benz S600

        Sold For$41,000On5/15/19$41,000Sold
        31k-Mile 1998 Mercedes-Benz S600

        BaT Essentials

        • Lot #18866
        • Seller: BobLuther
        • Location: Alexandria, Virginia 22314
        • Chassis: WDBGA57G8WA393856
        • 31k Indicated Miles
        • 6.0-Liter M120 V12
        • 5-Speed Automatic Transmission
        • Brilliant Silver Metallic
        • Ash Nappa Exclusive Leather
        • Active Damping System
        • Xenon Headlamps
        • Single-Family Ownership
        • Factory Literature
        • Clean Carfax Report
        • Private Party or Dealer: Dealer
        • Additional Charges From This Dealer: USD $0 Document Fee
        • Model Page: Mercedes-Benz W140 S-Class
          Category: German
        Sours: https://bringatrailer.com/listing/1998-mercedes-benz-sl600-11/

        Now discussing:

        It couldn't be easier to praise the Mercedes-Benz S-class. The feeling it imparts to owners and the cultural capital it commands are contained in its name: Sonderklasse. Special Class.

        Decades of plaudits for one S-class after another make the W220 S-class, revealed at the 1998 Paris Motor Show and sold from 1998 to 2005, a special entry in the annals of special cars.

        When we reviewed the new S500 for our May 1999 issue, we called its shape "emotional," its interior "warm-blooded, approaching tropical in its sensuousness," and said it "sets a benchmark" on the curving roads used for our 10Best selection. The technical highlights took one staffer nearly two hours to learn. At the end of our review, we asked, "Is this the world's finest car?"

        But the W220 was just as complicated as it was special, because all of its advances led to distressing consequences. Some decried the svelte styling as Mercedes giving in to fashion. (The W220 would have made more design sense following the W126 instead of the W140.) The advanced, sensuous interior design was let down by clearly inferior materials. And all those initially masterful electronics? They broke. A lot. The reason for that: The W220's backstory was even more complicated than the car.

        No S-class, even one that can drive itself and park itself, develops itself. It'd be hard to get a tormented and financially poorer W220 owner to agree, but the worst part of the W220 wasn't a component, it was the cataclysms at Daimler and Mercedes-Benz throughout the 1990s. The German industrial bedrock heaved for a solid 12 years, and the cars cracked.

        Six contextual threads braided themselves into a tasseled whip called the W220 S-class, seemingly designed to punish owners. (And the S-class wasn't the only weapon of indulgent destruction. The 1996 W210 E-class was arguably worse, one of its foibles a diesel engine racked by an issue called Black Death.) Viewed in aggregate, one might be surprised the W220 didn't come out worse.

        Here's what happened: In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Daimler-Benz CEO Edzard Reuter tried to turn Daimler into a global tech company through what the New York Times called an "acquisition spree, buying into aerospace, defense, electronics, rail systems, financial services, software, and household appliances." Reuter wasn't an engineer and didn't jibe with Mercedes's conservative, bank-vault engineering ethos. His interest in the car division was that it mined the money to pay for his run at an empire. A recession in the early 1990s helped end that run in 1995, the company awash in red ink.

        Jürgen Schrempp took over. Often cast as a German version of General Electric CEO icon Jack Welch, one of Schrempp's nicknames was Mr. Shareholder Value. In the 1996 Daimler annual report, Schrempp's opening statement targeted raising Daimler-Benz's operating margin to 12 percent. This would be done by increasing efficiency and cutting costs via efforts like internal competitiveness drives and Daimler's embrace of Japan's just-in-time manufacturing.

        It worked. At the end of 1996, Daimler-Benz was profitable again. That profit grew the next year. In 1998, The Independent wrote Schrempp "would be remembered as the man who transformed the ill-focused German industrial company into one of Europe's most profitable carmakers."

        Honeymoons are great.

        Car and Driver

        As Schrempp pared fat, he also embarked on empire building. Whereas Reuter cobbled together disparate companies, Schrempp wanted to build the world's largest automaker, a juggernaut he called Welt AG or World Inc. He incorporated Mercedes-Benz into Daimler in 1997, orchestrated the DaimlerChrysler "merger," sealed in 1998, then took a controlling 37.7-percent stake in Mitsubishi and a 10.5-percent stake in Hyundai in 2000.

        Concurrent with budget cuts and empire building, Mercedes-Benz passenger-car boss Jürgen Hubbert, an urbane and imperturbable German nicknamed Dr. Mercedes, exploded the model count. In 1987, Mercedes sold five passenger-car lines. By 1997, five had become 10. The next decade birthed another four model lines, two whole brands in Smart and Maybach and a one-off supercar, the Mercedes-McLaren SLR.

        In 2007, a Mercedes executive confessed, "The flood of new products caused us a lot of problems." According to Automotive News, suppliers at the time said Schrempp took Mercedes's focus off engineering. Schrempp believed Mercedes cars cost too much to produce and sell because of "overengineering." Daimler's distractions ended up gutting basic engineering.

        In 1995, when Daimler-Benz's board approved the W220's final design, however, no one knew that was happening.

        The rise of the personal computer in the 1990s turned chip-based car technologies into a brand differentiator and profit center. In our review of the W140 S-class that preceded the W220, we wrote that the sedan's body was "packed with hardware as densely as Maria Shriver's husband is packed with muscle." (That'd be Arnold Schwarzenegger, now her ex-husband.)

        The W220 was at least one but perhaps four orders of magnitude beyond the W140 in terms of tech.

        Finally, the W220 had to erase the sins of the W140. James Taylor's book Mercedes-Benz S-Class 1972-2013 titles the chapter on the too big, too heavy, too ostentatious W140 S-class, "Hubris."

        According to Taylor, that's how Dieter Zetsche, then head of passenger-car engineering overseeing the W220, ended up with a brief for "better performance with lower fuel consumption, more interior room, increased safety, lighter weight, and a range of equipment that was as comprehensive as possible … [to] pioneer new technologies that would set it apart from rival contenders; and finally, it had to be cheaper to build, in line with the new corporate philosophy of the car division that was sweeping away many long-established practices at the time."

        Well then.

        Zetsche's team delivered the first car in the world with keyless start and a radar-based cruise control, called Distronic. The W220 introduced the brand's Cockpit Management and Data System, COMAND, with GPS navigation, updated Linguatronic voice-controlled phone and audio functions, and TeleAid. The sedan came with three owner's manuals: one for the car, one for COMAND, and one for the phone system.

        The Airmatic suspension with electronically controlled adaptive damping was new. Active Body Control (ABC), a hydraulic, fully active system to eliminate body roll, followed a year later, introduced on the CL. The W220 was the first S-class to offer 4Matic all-wheel drive. In 2002, the W220 debuted Pre-Safe. Systems inside the W220 secured 340 patents. The flagship contained 40 ECUs communicating over three separate fiber-optic conduits.

        And its immediate technological superiority turned into components that broke with frightening and cascading regularity.

        The Airmatic suspension pipework leaked, or its pump would break. When the Airmatic system goes, the car squats on its wheels like it's trying not to poop itself. The ABC's hydraulic pump would retire, or its pipes would leak, causing the sedan to lean permanently.

        The soft-close doors would refuse to pull themselves closed due to a glitchy pneumatic actuator or yet another busted pump. The COMAND system module failed and needed replacement, audio-system issues were legion. The electronics drained the battery, and diagnosing the elusive draw reads like a bomb disposal guide. Forget about jumping the W220 with another car, because surges would fry the W220's fiber-optic electrical system.

        Of the crank-position sensor in the W220's new family of V-6 and V-8 engines, one site says, "The W220 S-class will go through these quite happily" and refuse to start when the car is hot.

        Even away from electronics, the W220 had issues. In 1993, Mercedes-Benz switched to water-based paint. For reasons that remain unclear, the steel didn't get the treatment it needed, so early production models suffered severe rust issues, especially around the wheel wells.

        Car and Driver

        The May 1999 Road & Track review of the S500 chided, "The interior of the new S-class is a blend of the highest of automotive technology and, alas, of heightened cost/benefit calculations. (Think of the S500's $9650 price cut and think hard.)" When Car and Driver drove every generation of the S-class in 2018, we labeled our slide showcasing the interior, "Degraded Materials."

        A drain valve below the windscreen would get blocked with dirt, leaves, or snow. Water would run off the blockage into the bulkhead, then into the passenger footwells, where it shorted the floor-mounted Signal Acquisition Module (SAM)and fuse box. One of Mercedes's recommended fixes was to cut a second drainage hole with a drill and body saw. Yeah. Drill and saw a hole. In a Mercedes. Asinstructed by Mercedes.

        As many owners discovered, there was so much more that could, and did, go wrong. Schrempp would blame "complex electronics systems installed without being properly understood." He was talking about the E-class, but the S-class had a similar appetite for destruction. Consumer Reports classified the W220 model's reliability as "poor," anointing it one of the "least reliable luxury cars."

        A facelift in 2002 fixed many common issues. Five years later, "Hubbert revealed that in its push to solve some of its high-tech problems, Mercedes disabled or removed hundreds of electronic features and functions from high-end products like the S-class. Apparently, nobody noticed. And if they did, it was only because the vehicles started to work better."

        The 2003 to 2005 models are recommended for those who must sample the W220. Necessary research includes the W220 Encyclopedia, compiled over the years by enthusiasts for window shoppers. It's 13 single-spaced pages of links to fixes.

        The issues bred in the 1990s would haunt Daimler for years. In 1990, Mercedes-Benz came first in the J.D. Power & Associates Vehicle Dependability Study. In 2003, the company was 27th, behind Jaguar and Plymouth, over issues like "handling, braking, shocks and struts, electronic window controls, and inaccurate fuel gauges." Who was number one that year? Lexus.

        Looking back, the W220 is a good example of what Deepak Chopra meant when he said, "All great changes are preceded by chaos." For all its missteps, the sedan and its two-door sibling introduced five of the technical brand pillars Mercedes boasts about today and will boast about tomorrow: COMAND navigation, Pre-Safe, Distronic, Airmatic, and Active Body Control.

        We don't imagine such chaos at the top of the line happening again soon. S-class models since the W220 reestablished the model's rectitude, and the 2021 W223 S-class that debuts Wednesday—a supercomputer that thinks it's a limousine, from the sounds of it—was developed mostly on Dieter Zetsche's watch. He understood the complications of the W220. And if he imparted any wisdom before retiring, it was likely this one word: focus.

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        Sours: https://www.caranddriver.com/features/a33852859/complicated-mercedes-w220-s-class/


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