In 1979, the W126 series of flagship vehicles under the Mercedes Benz S-Class was released as a replacement to the W116. This paved the way to the introduction of new vehicles, including the Mercedes Benz 300SE. Models under this range came with straight-6, V8, and turbo diesel engines. This range was a big leap forward from its predecessor. The S-Class lineup was not only more powerful but was also designed to be more aerodynamic and fuel-efficient. It came out with a new style that would be the inspiration for the design of other Mercedes Benz vehicles. Some of the safety innovations featured in this line included seatbelt tensioners. The W126 lasted for 12 years, produced between 1979 and 1991. With over a decade-long existence in the market, this series became the longest-lived S-Class generation.
1979: W126 premiere
Although the W126 was launched in the latter part of the decade, it had long been conceived. The plan for the W116 successor had been started in 1973. The project aimed to improve the ride quality, fuel efficiency, and vehicle handling of the next generation S-Class to cement its status as world leader in the luxury sedan segment. Enhanced fuel efficiency ratings came in handy for the 1970s oil crisis. Even V8-powered S-Class models were made more fuel-efficient.
The auto body was made more aerodynamic using lighter materials and alloys mixed with thorough wind tunnel testing. The decreased overall drag also led to lower fuel consumption. Along with this, the top speed was increased. The design included a sleeker auto body. After six years, the design for the W126 was finally completed. The series was unveiled at Frankfurt's International Motor Show in 1979.
1985: Mercedes Benz 300SE launch
The redesign for W126 models were done several years after the Energy Program of the Mercedes Benz was introduced. The updated models were later unveiled in 1985 at the International Motor Show at Frankfurt. Some of the remarkable changes could be seen on the bumpers, side covers, and other visual features. Six-cylinder engines and 4.2L and 5.6L V8 engines were added to the upgraded engine variations.
Variants under the W126 series included the SE (standard wheelbase), SEL (long wheelbase), SEC (coupe), and diesel (SD/SDL). The range included the models 280, 300, 380, and 500 based on their engine size. After the S-Class was refreshed, the lineup included the 260, 300, 350, 420, 500, and 560 models. In 1985, the Mercedes Benz 300SE was produced. Production lasted through 1991.
The W126 series models featured a good set of safety, comfort, and technological features as standard or options. These features were a novelty back in the 1980s. Later on, these were adopted by more modern vehicles. The W126, with its various models, became known for its durability, making it quite an attractive option.
Eventually, the series ceased production in 1991 after it was replaced by the W140. Given the huge sales of its different body styles, the series was highly acclaimed as one of the most popular S-Class models.