Mercedes-Benz W140

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Mercedes-Benz W140
Mercedes-Benz S320 sedan
ManufacturerDaimler-Benz (1991-1998)
DaimlerChrysler (1998-1999)
432,732 built[1]
Saloon: 406,710
Coupé: 26,022
AssemblyStuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
PredecessorMercedes-Benz W126
SuccessorMercedes-Benz W220
Mercedes-Benz C215
ClassFull-size Luxury car
Body style(s)2-door coupé
4-door sedan
LayoutFR layout
Transmission(s)4-speed 4G-TRONIC automatic
5-speed 5G-TRONIC automatic
6-speed manual
  • 3040–3139 mm (119.7–123.6 in)
  • 2944 mm (115.9 in)
  • 5113 mm (201.3 in)−5213 mm (205.2 in)
  • 201.3 in (5113 mm)
  • 1886 mm (74.3 in)
  • 74.6 in (1895 mm)
  • 1486 mm (58.5 in)
  • 56.2 in (1427 mm)
Curb weightSedan
  • 1880 kg (4145 lb)−2190 kg (4828 lb)
  • 2060 kg (4542 lb)−2240 kg (4938 lb)
ManualService Manual
For a complete overview of all S-Class models see Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

The Mercedes-Benz W140 was a series of flagship vehicles manufactured by the German automotive marque Mercedes-Benz. The car premiered at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1991, with the first examples rolling off the production line on August 6, 1991. Short (SE) and long (SEL) wheelbase sedans were offered initially, as well as the coupé (SEC) body style from January 1992. Like all Mercedes-Benz lines, the W140 S-Class was rationalized in late 1993 using the new "letter-first" nomenclature, dropping the named distinction between body styles. The SE/SEL/SEC cars were renamed the S-Class, with alphanumerical designations inverted. For example the both 500SE and 500SEL became S500 regardless of wheelbase length. In 1996 the coupé models following a mid-life update where separated into the CL-class. The W140 series S-Class was superseded by the W220 S-Class in 1999 after an eight year production run, the coupé by the C215 CL-Class for model year 2000.


As with its predecessor, the W140 was the first of the "next generation" of Mercedes-Benz models to feature the company's new design theme. The W140 introduced new innovations such as double-pane window glazing , self-closing doors and boot lid, electric windows which lowered back down upon encountering an obstruction, rear-parking markers which rose from the rear wings (discontinued on later vehicles, and replaced with sonar-assisted parking) and a heating system which emitted warm air after the engine was turned off. The vehicle is believed to have cost Mercedes-Benz over $1 billion to develop.

For details like this, the W140 is often known as the last Mercedes to be "overengineered," a Mercedes trait that was costing the company in product delays and overbudgeting. For the consumer, the W140 cost a considerable 25 percent more than its predecessor, the W126. In addition, the intense pressure from Infiniti and Lexus led to adding more features and options as to set the W140 apart from the rest and to justify the higher price.

Pre-1994 facelift Sedan
1993 Mercedes-Benz 600SEC
1999 Mercedes-Benz S600 featuring the flagship V12 engine
1999 Mercedes-Benz CL500

The W140 was to feature air suspension as an option, but Mercedes was still perfecting the technology and chose to launch air-suspension in the next generation S-Class in 2000. Following the mid-year facelift in 1994, Mercedes-Benz made Electronic Stability Control an optional fixture to both sedan and coupé body styles in the W140 range. Both the sedan and coupé body styles were equipped with Acceleration Slip Regulation (ASR) as a standard feature.

Like its predecessor, the car was available in two wheelbase lengths (short W140 and long V140) along with the C140 coupé. In 1992, a new 6 litre 408 horsepower V12 engine joined the lineup for the first time with the 600SE, 600SEL and 600SEC. A "V12" badge was affixed to the C-pillar.

In 1993, the 408 horsepower V12 engine was slightly detuned to 389 horsepower to comply with tighter emission control regulations in the United States and Europe. The V8 models were tuned down from 322 horsepower to 315 horsepower.

The W140 S600 was available with a leather dashboard and a suede headliner, unlike the V8 and inline 6-cylinder models. In 1994 the S600 also came with a wood/leather steering wheel, wood/leather gear shifter, wood rear ashtray covers, and two tone leather seating – further distinctions from its lower rung siblings.

Following the new Mercedes-Benz tradition of mid-life facelifts (starting with the W126 in 1986), the W140 received a minor facelift in 1994. The clear turn signal indicator lenses on the front were the most obvious change, as was the grille including a new and distinctive one for S600's. Headlamps were fitted with separate low H7, H1 fog, and high H1 beam reflectors in 1995, pre 1995 used an H4 bulb and H3 for the fog lamp. In 1997 the two tone exterior bumpers were painted to match the upper portions of the vehicles and the rear indicator lenses became clear.

Height of the W140 production models varied between years (1992-94 W140 Sedan: 58.7 in; 1992-94 V140 Sedan: 58.9 in; 1995-96 W140 Sedan: 58.4 in; 1995-99 V140 Sedan: 58.3 in; C140 Coupe: 56.7 in; 1997-99 W140 Sedan: 58.5 in).

Princess Diana's death

It has been noted that Diana, Princess of Wales died while travelling in a Mercedes-Benz S280 (W140), and it was an unfortunate side-effect of her high-profile death that the Mercedes' safety record was called into question. However, it is important to note that all of the car in question's safety systems functioned as designed, expanding both drivers' and passenger airbags and saving the life of Trevor Rees-Jones, Dodi Al-Fayed's bodyguard, who benefited from the front-passenger airbag. The fact that three of the car's four occupants were killed in the crash should be attributed more to the high speed of the vehicle, the intoxication of the driver and the fact that three of the four of the occupants were not wearing a seatbelts(only the suvivor). The Mercedes safety systems were circumvented by the driver's and passengers' decisions.


Body style Chassis code (Cal.) Years Model Engine Notes No. Built[1]
sedan W140.134 1996–1998 S300‡ 3.0 LOM606 I6 Turbo-Diesel 7,583
1991–1996 300SD/S350‡ 3.5 L OM603 I6 Turbo-Diesel 20,518 1993–1998 300SE 2.8/S280‡ 2.8 L M104 I6 22,784
W140.032 1991–1993 300SE 3.2 L M104 I6 183,441
1991–1993 300SEL
1993–1998 S320
W140.042 1991–1993 400SE 5.0  L M119 V8 49,468
W140.043 1991–1993 400SEL 4.2 L M119 V8
1993–1998 S420
W140.051 1991–1993 500SEL 5.0 L M119 V8 87,006
1993–1999 S500
W140.057 1992–1993 600SEL 6.0 L M120 V12 35,910
1993–1999 S600
coupé W140.063 1994–1998 S420/CL420 5.0 L M119 V8 2,496
W140.070 1992–1993 500SEC 5.0 L M119 V8 14,953
1993–1999 S500/CL500
W140.076 1992–1993 600SEC 6.0 L M120 V12 8,573
1993–1999 S600/CL600
‡ Note: swb only (119.7 in), SEL and all other sedan models also lwb (123.6 in)



The W140 S-Class introduced several safety innovations which have since become commonplace among many vehicles.[2]

  • Braking system. The V8 and V12 W140 models distributed more braking power to the rear wheels, increasing stopping effectiveness. In 1996, the W140 received Brake Assist, which engaged during emergency maneuvers to boost braking power to maximum.
  • Electronic Stability Program (ESP) was introduced in 1996. ESP used on-board computers to improve vehicle handling response during difficult driving conditions. This was a Mercedes developed system, which has since been licensed to other manufacturers.
  • Side airbags and seat occupancy sensors were introduced in 1996.

Comfort and convenience

  • Double-paned soundproofed glass was a new S-Class innovation first fitted on the W140. This form of window glazing allowed for improved soundproofing, reduced condensation, and other insulation benefits.
  • Electrically-operated exterior mirrors could be folded at the flick of a switch to ease driving in narrow spaces.
  • 'Parameter steering' was a system which made low-speed driving easier by reducing the effort required to maneuver in speed-sensitive situations such as parking.
  • Rear-parking markers, or guide rods. These rods extended from the rear corners of the trunk lid when in reverse, providing the driver with a guideline for rear maneuvers. In 1995, this system was replaced by the sonar-based Parktronic system which measured the distance of the bumpers to nearby obstacles.
  • Rain-sensing windshield wipers.
  • Electrically-operated automatic-dimming inside rear-view mirror that tied into the seat and steering wheel memory (first introduced on the R129 SL convertible).
  • Orthopedic seats were an expensive option from the factory but consisted of several different air cushions in the seat that the user can inflate and deflate to find the perfect driving position.
  • Dual-zone climate control.
  • Reclining and heated rear seats (introduced with the W126 S-Class sedans).
  • The climate control sytem could be set to operate for 20 minutes after the engine had been turned off.

Drivetrain technologies

  • The W140 featured a newly-developed double wishbone front axle and a multi-link independent rear suspension.

tv nagation


Engine Cyl. Power Torque
2.8 24V I6 193 PS (190 hp/142 kW) 270 N·m (199 lb·ft)
3.2 24V I6 231 PS (228 hp/170 kW) 310 N·m (229 lb·ft)
3.2 24V I6 231 PS (228 hp/170 kW) 315 N·m (232 lb·ft)
4.2 32V V8 279 PS (275 hp/205 kW) 400 N·m (295 lb·ft)
4.2 32V V8 286 PS (282 hp/210 kW) 410 N·m (302 lb·ft)
5.0 32V V8 320 PS (316 hp/235 kW) 470 N·m (347 lb·ft)
5.0 32V V8 326 PS (322 hp/240 kW) 480 N·m (354 lb·ft)
6.0 48V V12 394 PS (389 hp/290 kW) 570 N·m (420 lb·ft)
6.0 48V V12 408 PS (402 hp/300 kW) 580 N·m (428 lb·ft)
3.5 12V TD I6 150 PS (148 hp/110 kW) 310 N·m (229 lb·ft)
3.0 24V TD I6 177 PS (175 hp/130 kW) 330 N·m (243 lb·ft)


Article citations

  1. 1.0 1.1 Kittler, Eberhard (2001). 'Deutsche Autos seit 1990, vol. 5. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3-613-02128-5. 
  2. Top Speed W140 profile

Model history

  1. Schlegelmilch, Rainer W.; Hartmut Lehbrink, Jochen Von Osterroth (November 2004). Mercedes. Könemann. ISBN 3-8331-1056-2. 
  2. Kevin Smith. "Mercedes-Benz 500SEC". Car and Driver (March 1993): 45–49. 
  3. William Jeanes. "Mercedes-Benz 300SE". Car and Driver (March 1993): 126–127. 

External links