The Mercedes Benz 500SEL was introduced under the W126 series of the S-Class. Aside from saloons, this range of luxury vehicles also includes coupes in its lineup. Its variants include the SE (standard wheelbase), SEL (long wheelbase), SEC (coupe), and SD/SDL (diesel models). The W126 not only came out with more models but also with better features. Compared to its predecessor, the W116 series, it was packed with more power and was more fuel efficient and more aerodynamic as well. It also came equipped with great safety features and good drivetrain technologies. True to the Mercedes Benz tradition, it combined comfort and luxury in its design. It was also highly recognized for its durability. Production of the W126 S-Class lasted from 1979 to 1991. Worldwide, it hit a total sales volume of more than 890,900. It was one of the most successful lines of luxury vehicles by Mercedes Benz.
Late 1970s: The W126 S-Class
The W126 S-Class range was one of the most comprehensive in the luxury automobile league. The aesthetics of its saloon and coupe won over a good number of luxury vehicle enthusiasts and Mercedes Benz fans. The design created a good mix of elegance and authority, so its no wonder that models under the W126 range had strong road presence. In fact, the design used in this family inspired the style of future Benz models and vehicles from other auto brands. It was able to set some standards in automotive engineering and safety. The W126 had an impressive record for aerodynamic efficiency (0.36 Cd) in the latter part of the 1970s. It's also known for its safety standards and for its solid structural design and construction. This line of vehicles came with ABS and SRS Airbag systems as optional features.
Although launched in 1979, the design of the W126 S-Class had been in the making since 1972. It took years of research to finally come up with a design for the new generation S-Class that would replace the W116. The W126 was meant to be the best luxury car series in the world for the next decade. Initially, it launched a series of saloon models until the coupe joined the S-Class range a few years later.
Early 1980s to 1990s: The Mercedes Benz 500SEL
The demand for the 500SEL in the US resulted in a large grey market. In the earlier part of the 1980s, about 22,000 units of grey market Mercedes Benz were sold every year. This included the 500SEL.
Over the years, several features were included in the Mercedes Benz 500SEL. From 1985, the driver side airbag was no longer an optional feature; it became a standard. The passenger side airbag, which was introduced in 1987, became a standard for 1991 models. The W126 also adopted the self-leveling hydropneumatic suspension of the W116 450SEL 6.9. Another standard feature on flagship 500SEL models was the two-way powered, dual-stage heated rear Chesterfield bench seat with four-way manually adjustable rear headrests.