1 Jun 1973
MERCEDES-BENZ has been selling large luxury cars with the letter ‘S’ in their name since the “fin-tailed” models of the late 1950s.
These were the 1959 W111 and (from ’61) the closely related W112 six-cylinder cars, followed up in 1965 by the W108/W109 V8-engined models.
But the series really made its mark with the W116 of 1973, bringing in sleek modern styling, leading crash-test abilities and advanced engineering and aerodynamics.
This car was also the first production vehicle with a double-wishbone front suspension with zero-offset steering and anti-dive control capabilities.
Other innovations included air-conditioning, central locking, a headlight wipe/wash system, and self-clean tail-lights.
The carburettor 119kW/226Nm 2.7-litre OHC in-line six-cylinder engine powered the 280S until ’76 and, in fuel-injected 136kW/238Nm guise, the ’79-’80 280SE. The gearbox was a four-speed automatic.
A 147kW/286Nm 3.5-litre fuel-injected SOHC V8 motivated the 350SE until its discontinuation in 1976, while three 450 models were released: the 165kW/370Nm 4.5-litre fuel-injected OHC V8 450SE, longer-wheelbase (by 100mm) 450SEL and – from December ’78 – the flagship 450SEL 6.9, powered by a 198kW/510Nm 6.8-litre fuel-injected OHC V8. It also had (troublesome) air suspension.
But arguably the biggest technical innovation the W116 introduced to the world was anti-lock brakes from late 1978.
Developed in collaboration with Robert Bosch AG, it brought unrestricted steering response since the wheels were not allowed to lock-up during hard braking.
Daimler-Benz produced 473,035 W116 models between 1972 and 1980.