Mercedes-Benz S-Class: A history of firsts

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It’s new S-Class day. The über-Benz arrives packed with innovative technology to make driving easier, safer, swifter and more luxurious. Just as it has always done, as you can see from this brief history of S-Class firsts.

1972 W116

Wikimedia Commons

By today’s standards the original W116 S-Class is hardly a pinnacle of safety, but back in 1972 its padded steering wheel and window surrounds, together with a rainwater-draining windscreen design were all innovations.

1978 W126

Wikimedia Commons

The W126 wasn’t the first car to have an ABS (that honor goes to the Jensen FF) but it was the first car to introduce reliable ABS. In 1981 Mercedes added to the safety measures with a standard-fit driver’s airbag, and seatbelt pre-tensioners.

1991 W140

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The S-Class of 1991 brought ESP (Electronic Stability Program) which utilized the ABS system to brake individual wheels and contain a skid should the big Benz get out of control. In 1996 Brake Assist was added, which boosted pressure in the system if the car detected an emergency stop, after Mercedes’ engineers discovered that people often just don’t press the pedal hard enough to avoid a collision.

1998 W220/221

W220 Mercedes-Benz S 600 lang (W 220): Die Baureihe W 220 wird seit 1998 gebaut.
Daimler AG

By now Mercedes had loaded the S-Class with an array of sensors to make driving more relaxing, prevent accidents and, should that fail, make the car even safer in a shunt. In 1998 Distronic adaptive cruise control was offered, which would maintain a safe distance from the car in front on highways. In 2002 the first iteration of Pre-Safe was fitted. If sensors detected an accident, the car would close its windows and sunroof, and even adjust the seats so that airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioners would be more effective. 2005 saw the introduction of night vision, which may not have been a Mercedes invention, but having the display within the instrument panel made it more useful than others.

2013 W222

Daimler AG

The outgoing S-Class came with a whole host of further comfort and safety systems. At launch it was the first car to feature all-LED lighting, inside and out. It boasted heated massage seats, a perfume dispenser, and a road surface scan system to prepare the prime the suspension for any bumps ahead. In 2018 the W222 was upgraded with Magic Body Control proactive suspension, and Energizing Comfort Control which brought together mood lighting, music, climate control and the scent dispenser with a range of programs to boost your mood with a multi-sensory experience. Fancy.

To find out what the all-new S-Class has in store you can watch the live reveal at 8 am EST.

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