The Mercedes Benz S-Class: automobile comfort of the highest standard
The Mercedes‑Benz S‑Class and its predecessor model series have always stood for precisely this to a particularly high degree. Even the Mercedes‑Simplex 60 hp from 1903 documents this high standard of comfort. Emil Jellinek, successful businessman and father of the Mercedes brand’s eponym had a long-distance saloon mounted on the chassis of the new top model of the Stuttgart brand for his own personal use. The comfort of the vehicle is not only reflected in the engine output of 60 hp (44 kW) which at the time was a superior achievement, but also in the spacious passenger compartment in which the occupants sat on comfortable seats upholstered with the very finest brocade.
The S‑Class’ complete ancestral line begins after the Second World War. Initially it was the two Mercedes‑Benz models 220 (W 187) and 300 (W 186), both presented in 1951, that again set standards with regard to comfort in the luxury segment. At the same time the S‑Class continued the tradition of luxurious vehicles from the Mercedes‑Benz brand and its predecessor brands. This continuity illustrates how well the engineers of each period have recognised and fulfilled the comfort requirements of customers.
But what is it exactly that makes an automobile particularly comfortable? As important the feeling of comfort is to the driver and passengers, it is still difficult to measure and express in an absolute, measurable value.
An examination of the definition of comfort
The human perception of comfort is made up of various factors such as a feeling of safety, good driving characteristics, sufficient performance, a high degree of ergonomics, and an impression of excellent quality. Furthermore, reduced fatigue, the interior climate, and clarity with regard to the operation of increasingly complex vehicle systems influence the perception of comfort. Ride comfort, that is the harmony between the moving automobile and the road, is a particularly strong constant in Mercedes‑Benz vehicles.
The 220 (W 187) and 300 (W 186) models, presented in 1951, were praised in contemporary driving tests for their extremely comfortable driving characteristics. In the generations of the S‑Class that followed, the engineers continued to increase this high level of comfort with the introduction of new innovations: for example the single-joint swing axle in the 220 “Ponton” model (W 180) with self-supporting chassis-body structure, presented in 1954, offered a previously unknown degree of driving comfort and at the same time increased driving safety. Furthermore, the so-called subframe which carries the engine and front wheels was decoupled from the body by generously designed rubber bushes which further reduced vibration in the vehicle interior.
In the years that followed, innovations such as air suspension (incorporated in the “fintail” model series W 112 as from 1963), a hydropneumatic suspension with a self-levelling system (in the 450 SEL 6.9 of the W 116 as from 1975), the Adaptive Damping System ADS (W/V 140) and Active Body Control (standard in the S 600 of the W/V 220 model series) contributed to a higher standard of driving comfort. Many of the solutions first premiered as standard or special equipment in the S‑Class before finding their way into the other vehicle segments.
The automobile: the driver’s partner
Driving comfort also means that the automobile plays a partner-like assisting role for the driver. The relevant functions range from automatic transmission to modern support systems as inherent elements of the integrated safety provided by Mercedes‑Benz.
From this perspective, the evolution phases of the S‑Class include for example the hydraulic automatic “Hydrak” clutch (W 180, as from 1957), the electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission (W/V 140, as from 1995) and the 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission with an electronic control system and the DIRECT SELECT steering wheel gearshift (W/V 221, as from 2005).
Cruise control has been available as an option since its introduction in 1975 in the S‑Class of the W 116 model series. In 1995, PARKTRONIC, the electronic parking aid, and the Auto Pilot System (APS) for navigation premiered in the W/V 140 model series followed by LINGUATRONIC, the voice-operated control system in 1996. COMAND, the control and display system with a dynamic navigation system and KEYLESS-GO an access and drive authorisation system without keys were launched in the W/V 220 model series in 1998.
The S‑Class of the W/V 221 model series with systems such as the further-developed adaptive cruise control DISTRONIC PLUS which brakes the vehicle to a standstill in critical situations illustrates how innovative technology is increasing the importance of the car in its role as a partner for the driver. The SPLITVIEW display (as from 2009) offers a new optical interface for the interactive services provided by COMAND Online, which simultaneously displays different contents on the screen for the driver and passengers. As a result, the driver can use the navigation system whilst the front passenger uses the Internet.
Daimler AG regularly shows the future of comfortable vehicle operation in visionary research vehicles whose functions are often launched in standard production together with the S‑Class. In 2011, for example, the F 125! fascinated with the “@yourCOMAND” telematics system which is controlled by gestures and voice.
Climate and ergonomics
Personal wellbeing is an emotion which particularly contributes to the perception of comfort. That is why engineers have always worked at improving the standard of climate and ergonomics in every generation of the S‑Class. As a result the Mercedes‑Benz models in the luxury segment offered a heating system with a blower as early as 1951 – which at the time was far from being the rule. This comfort equipment was even standard in the 300 model – the “Adenauer-Mercedes” (W 186) – and was available as an option for the smaller 220 (W 187) model. In the 220 (W 180) “Ponton” model with self-supporting chassis-body structure presented in 1954 it was possible to individually regulate the driver’s and front passenger’s heating. As of 1958 customers who purchased the 300 (W 189) model could order an air conditioning system – then known as a “cooling system” if required. By the time, the new generation of S‑Class was launched in 1991 (W/V 140), technology had further developed and included automatic climate control with an activated charcoal filter and CO/NOX-sensitive sensors. Finally in 1998, the W/V 220 model series offered multi-zone automatic climate control with individual control at each seat depending on the sun’s position as well as luxury seats with ventilation and dynamic multicontour backrest – as an optional extra.
A high degree of ergonomics is a further key to comfort. Here, the Mercedes‑Benz models in the high-end and luxury segment began to set priorities with intelligent interior design at a very early stage – for example with the self-supporting chassis-body structure of the Mercedes‑Benz 220 “Ponton” (W 180) from 1954 and a version with a longer wheelbase, first implemented in 1963 in the “fintail” Mercedes 300 SE from the W 112 model series. Innovations ranging from the electrically adjustable steering column in the W/V 126 model series (as from 1985) to the dynamic multicontour front seats with extended massage function in the W/V 221 (as from 2005) mark the path of development as the car is adapted to perfectly match the driver’s requirements.
Travelling with the greatest degree of comfort – that is the leitmotif throughout the history of the S‑Class since the very beginnings of this extraordinary family of models from Mercedes‑Benz. And the technically excellent future of the S‑Class continues to build on this legacy with new innovations.
Comfort highlights in the S‑Class and its predecessor model series
The Mercedes‑Benz S‑Class and its predecessor model series have always been pioneers of innovative automobile technology. Repeatedly they have brought improvements onto the market which have then found acceptance throughout. The following is a short overview of the comfort-relevant features in the individual model series.
Mercedes‑Simplex 60 hp (1903 to 1905)
- Cutting-edge high-performance engine: large-displacement four-cylinder engine with overhead inlet valves for superior performance
- A spacious body with comfortable padded seats and top-quality fabric covers
Mercedes-Benz Nürburg, W 08 (1928 to 1933)
- First Mercedes-Benz series passenger car with an eight-cylinder engine
- Luxurious and spacious Pullman body
- High-speed transmission system as special equipment (as from 1931, in conjunction with increased cubic capacity)
Mercedes-Benz 770 “Super Mercedes”, W 07, W 150 (1930 to 1943)
- First series production car with an eight-cylinder supercharged engine
- High-speed transmission system (five-speed manual transmission as from 1938)
- De Dion rear axle (as from 1938)
Mercedes-Benz 320, W 142 (1937 to 1942)
- All-synchromesh four-speed transmission (with remote action gear as from 1939)
- Pullman Saloon (series production with exterior case for luggage as from 1939)
Mercedes-Benz 300, W 186 and W 189 (1951 to 1962)
- Cutting-edge six-cylinder engine with overhead camshaft
- Electrically-operated torsion bar suspension to compensate the height under heavy loads
- Heating system with blower as standard
- Air conditioning system as special equipment (as from 1958)
- Power-assisted steering as special equipment (as from 1958)
Mercedes-Benz 220, W 187 (1951 to 1954)
- Cutting-edge six-cylinder engine with overhead camshaft
- Heating system with blower as an option
Mercedes-Benz 220 /220 S/220 SE, W 180/W 128 (1954 to 1959)
- Increased spatial comfort due to modern Ponton shape
- Front suspension subframe
- Single-joint swing axle with low centre of rotation
- Heating system with blower as standard, individually regulated for driver and front passenger
- Hydraulic automatic “Hydrak” clutch as special equipment (as from 1957)
Mercedes-Benz 220 to 300 SE long, W 111/W 112 (1959 to 1965)
- Four-speed automatic transmission (as from 1961)
- Air suspension (300 SE, as from 1961)
- Long version available (300 SE, as from 1963)
- Central locking as special equipment (300 SE long)
Mercedes-Benz 600, W 100 (1963 to 1981)
- Powerful, large-displacement V8 engine
- Four-speed automatic transmission
- Air suspension
- Power-assisted steering
- Convenience hydraulic system for seat adjustment, opening and closing doors, windows and the boot
- Electronically controlled heating and ventilation system
Mercedes-Benz 250 S to 300 SEL 6.3, W 108/W 109 (1965 to 1972)
- Hydropneumatic compensating spring on rear axle
- Air suspension (300 SEL, 300 SEL 6.3, 300 SEL 3.5)
- Top-of-the-range 300 SEL 6.3 with powerful V8 engine with an output of 250 hp (184 kW), and sports car performance (as from 1968)
Mercedes-Benz S‑Class W 116 model series (1972 from 1980)
- Dirt-deflecting tail lights, dirt-deflecting side windows
- Cruise control as special equipment (as from 1975)
- Double wishbone front axle with zero scrub radius
- Coupled-link axle with anti-squat control (450 SE, 450 SEL, 450 SEL 6.9)
- Automatic transmission with torque converter as special equipment (standard on 450 SE, 450 SEL, 450 SEL 6.9)
- Self-levelling hydropneumatic suspension (450 SEL 6.9, as from 1975)
Mercedes-Benz S‑Class W/V 126 model (1979 to 1991)
- Electrically adjustable steering column as special equipment (as from 1985)
- Automatic limited-slip differential as special equipment for the six-cylinder models (as from 1985)
- Acceleration skid control system ASR as special equipment for V8 models (as from 1985)
Mercedes-Benz S-Class W/V 140 model series (1991 to 1998)
- First Mercedes‑Benz standard production passenger car with a twelve-cylinder engine; then the brand’s most powerful passenger car engine ever (600 SE, 600 SEL)
- Electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission (standard for V8 and V12 models, as from 1995)
- Speed-sensitive power steering
- Double-glazed side windows for maximum noise comfort
- Automatic climate control with activated charcoal filter and CO/NOX-sensitive sensors as standard (S 600) or as optional equipment
- Electrically folding exterior mirrors
- Power closing for doors and boot lid as special equipment
- Seat belts with automatic height adjustment
- Adaptive Damping System ADS as special equipment
- PARKTRONIC electronic parking aid as standard equipment (S 600, as from 1995) or as special equipment (as from 1995)
- Auto Pilot System APS navigation system as special equipment (as from 1995)
- TELE-AID emergency call system (as from 1997) as special equipment
- LINGUATRONIC voice-operated control system as special equipment (as from 1996)
- Xenon headlamps with dynamic headlamp range adjustment as special equipment (as from 1996)
Mercedes-Benz S‑Class W/V 220 model series (1998 to 2005)
- 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission with electronic control (S 430, S 500, as from 2004)
- AIRMATIC air suspension with electronically controlled Adaptive Damping System
- Active Body Control suspension as special equipment (standard in the S 600)
- Automatic headlamp mode
- COMAND control and display system with dynamic navigation system as special equipment
- Multi-zone automatic climate control with individual control at each seat depending on the sun’s position
- Luxury seats with ventilation and dynamic multicontour backrest as special equipment
- DISTRONIC adaptive cruise control as special equipment
- KEYLESS‑GO access and drive authorisation system as special equipment
- Bi-xenon headlamps with dynamic headlamp range adjustment as special equipment (as from 2002, standard in the S 600)
- 4MATIC all-wheel drive as special equipment (S 430, S 500, as from 2002)
Mercedes-Benz S‑Class W/V 221 model series (2005 to 2013)
- 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission with electronic control and DIRECT SELECT steering wheel gearshift
- Active Body Control ABC suspension with crosswind stabilisation as special equipment (standard in the S 600)
- ADAPTIVE BRAKE brake system
- Further development of DISTRONIC PLUS adaptive cruise control (with braking to a standstill) as special equipment
- Further developed COMAND system with controller on the transmission tunnel
- SPLITVIEW display as special equipment (as from 2009)
- Parking Assist as special equipment
- Active Night View Assist as special equipment
- Adaptive Full Beam Assist as special equipment (as from 2009)
- Speed Limit Assist as special equipment (as from 2009)
- Dynamic multicontour seats with new massage function
- Parking brake with electronic assistance
Credits: Daimler AG
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