Mercedes W 116: These ten innovations bring the S-Class

Mercedes W 116: These ten innovations bring the S-Class

A new chapter in the history of the Mercedes brand: the new boss limousine, which was launched to dealers in September 1972, was called the S-Class for the first time. This car with the abbreviation W 116 series wears it thick, with lush chrome tinsel on the body, but also verbally in brochures and advertisements.

Useful for classic car fans

Mercedes promises “new dimensions”, meaning it will increase by 5.5 centimeters in width and at least six centimeters in length. So what are their innovations?

The S-Class from the W 116 series came to market in 1983 and laid the foundation for the great reputation that the luxury car family still enjoys today.


The first S-Class shone above all through technical tricks, which overall meant a generational leap. This S-Class contains ten major technical innovations, and is very impressive. Many have remained an integral part of every Mercedes for decades, and some have even been adopted by the competition.

From Gothic straight to Baroque

The design is also new. A caesar really. The authoritarian look has replaced the delicacy of its predecessors, from the majestic Mercedes W 108 jumping straight into late Baroque ornamentation.
However, the SL of the R 107 series that was presented in 1971 already anticipated cross headlights and a display that emphasized width, so the formal reorientation was at most half a surprise.

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This innovation brings the first Mercedes S-Class

For the last time, seagull wing designer Friedrich Geiger was responsible for the overall development of the W 116 from 1966. Once again he proved his passion for proportions and a good dose of zeitgeist “in screaming distance behind fashion”. She dresses the Republic of Bonn and its representatives with timeless elegance.
Mercedes 350 SE (W 116)

This is how the driver sat in the then-largest Mercedes. As usual, even backrest adjustments come at an additional cost.

For the first time there is help from the computer

For the first time, my colleague Computer helped with the design. The electronic feeler scans the stylist’s 1:5 model lengthwise, crosswise, and horizontally. The digital data is then fed into perforated tape, which is then fed into a drawing machine.

Mercedes 280 S (W 116)
Comfortable and warm: by connecting the heating ducts, air flows through the doors of the S-Class and envelops passengers in a cocoon of warm air.


Technically, lots of individual actions add to the leap forward. The engine is more (eight cylinder) or less (six cylinder) old friend.
Starting with the base duo of the 280 S/SE and the V8 of the 350 SE. As specialist magazines note, their driving performance “cannot be classified as a rocket engine”. That should be a critique: He toppled Stuttgart’s new upper class. 1975 at the latest, when the turbo came under 116 engines: 6.9 with 286 hp.

Trick saves 0.4 m turning circle

But sheer power isn’t a technical trick – the front suspension, on the other hand, is. The W 116 inherits it from the experimental vehicle C 111. Because the wheels tilt to the side with full steering lock like a Citroën duck, the turning circle is reduced by 0.4 meters despite its larger dimensions.
50 years Mercedes S-Class W 116

There’s even an S-Class station wagon in the series: British trainer builder Crayford dispatches about 100 monster carriers.


The W 116 took over the rear axle from the mid-range “Stroke 8” model presented in 1968. Since the transition from the Pleistocene swing axle to the modern-day semi-trailer arm didn’t want to be too flashy, Mercedes was talking about a “diagonal swing axle”, which was not too cared for by customers. The main thing is that the rear wheel bends during braking and the rear wanders out when cornering is history.

Luxury class redefined

The interior is more user-friendly and, despite the increased plastic proportions, triggers a new level of comfort: through the connection to the heating ducts, air also flows through the doors and encloses passengers in a pleasantly warm cocoon of air.

Mercedes 450 SEL 6.9 (W 116)

Ultimate pleasure on the top model 450 SEL 6.9: The boring 6.9-liter V8 makes 286 hp – and drinks like a black hole.


A feat accomplished by the W 116 50 years ago: it changed the benchmark in the luxury class not just for one model generation, but for decades. It will be a long time since cars will drive in a safer, more comfortable and easier way. So do not be surprised if the term “S-Class” has become synonymous with automotive luxury.