Whether it the name or the three-spoke roundel, Mercedes Benz is a name that evokes images of high luxury and unmistakable class. Few brands and marquees in the world can even come close to the mystique that the German manufacturing giant carries around with it. The S-Class represents the finest that the company can offer—these are their flagships that lead the charge in Mercedes Benz’s bid for true dominance. The S500 is more a milestone than anything else but, in itself, embodies an important step forward for the company and the car.
1979-1991: Midway to Success
The S500 has an amazing pedigree preceding it. The car that came before it—the W126—was the first luxury car to win the prestigious Car of the Year award from Wheels Magazine in 1981. By this point in the S-class’ history, the car was taking shape into what would be the look most associated with Mercedes Benz—wide grille, prominent roundel, quadruple headlight, sleek lines from front to back, slightly boxy, yet still classy.
This Benz also featured the modern airbag as it is installed today as an additional bit of safety for the company’s valued customers. Other firsts with the W126 were passenger-side airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners, and greater traction control. Within the cabin, luxuries like additional courtesy and reading lights, heated seats, advanced climate control, and more luxurious detailing only added to the car’s growing reputation.
The engine under hood was the Mercedes Benz 6.9-L 450SEL that it adopted from the previous generations. The suspension system, however, was updated to a more comfortable and stable hydropneumatic system that combined the best features of the separate standards. A more efficient and effective cruise control system was introduced as well and became standard by 1991. By the time the S500 would debut the year after, the stage had been set for an amazing milestone.
1992-2005: The Milestone
The year 1991 saw an amazing upgrade to the W126 which would eventually transform it into the S500. This milestone was marked by a growth in the S-Class’s proportions and the addition of innovative new technology. The overall look of the S500 differed only slightly from its predecessors but it was enough to make it stand out. Basically what Mercedes Benz did was to retain the basic “look” that people were used to and sculpt it a little to modernize it.
In terms of technology, innovations introduced included double-pane window glazing, a self-closing boot lid and doors, electric windows with anti-jamming features, and rear parking markers. All of these were not as impressive as the heating system that could function despite the engine being closed. In 1999, to keep up with changes of the decade, the S500 got an even sleeker, shaper look while carrying over all the technologies that worked.
Airmatic air-suspension was added to provide consumers with even greater comfort and luxury, while the effective 4MATIC all-wheel drive system offered more efficient control. The S500, before getting a small rename in 2005, would sport a powerful 5.0-L, 306-horsepower V8 engine, setting the stage that the future flagships could build upon.