Mercedes-Benz W116

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Mercedes-Benz W116
PredecessorMercedes-Benz W108
SuccessorMercedes-Benz W126
ClassFull-size Luxury car
Body style(s)4-door sedan
Engine(s)2.8L straight-6
3.5L V8
4.5L V8
6.9L V8
3.0L I5 turbodiesel
Transmission(s)3-speed automatic
4-speed automatic
4-speed manual
5-speed manual
ManualService Manual
For a complete overview of all S-Class models see Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

The Mercedes-Benz W116 was a series of flagship vehicles produced from 1972 through 1980. The W116 automobiles were the first Mercedes-Benz models to be officially called S-Class, although earlier sedan models had already unofficially been designated with the letter 'S' - for Sonderklasse or "special class."

The 'new' S-class generation development began just one year after the launch of the W108/09. It was subjected to numerous studies before it was fully matured to make its debut. This was the first Mercedes saloon to feature the brand new design idiom which was to be continued until 1993 when the 190 was discontinued, its new design was a dramatic leap forward with more masculine charismatic lines which combined to create a well rounded elegant yet sporty character. The overall basic design concept was actually inspired from the R107 SL roadster, especially the front and rear lights.

In true S-class tradition, this generation also patented world firsts such as the ABS system, turbocharged 3.0 diesel engine developed from the record breaking C111 and obviously the 6.9 which also featured hydro pneumatic suspension.

Production totaled 473,035 units. The W116 was succeeded by the W126 S-Class in 1979. The W116 was sold throughout Europe, America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Australia.


The entry level six cylinder 280S was the only model in the range to incorporate a carburetor.

In 1975, the W116 was upgraded with a new fuel injection system in order to comply with revised exhaust emission standards in European markets. A slight power reduction was a result of this update, but in 1978, a series of further engine upgrades restored original performance levels under the new fuel injection systems.

Chassis code Years Model Engine No. built[1]
W116.02 1973–1980 280 S sedan 2.8 L I6 122,848
W116.024 1973–1980 280 SE sedan 2.8 L I6 150,593
W116.025 1974–1980 280 SEL sedan 2.8 L I6 7,032
W116 1973–1980 350 SE sedan 3.5 L V8 51,100
W116 1973–1980 350 SEL sedan 3.5 L V8 4,266
W116.032 1973–1980 450 SE sedan 4.5 L V8 41,604
W116.033 1973–1980 450 SEL sedan 4.5 L V8 59,578
W116.036 1975–1980 450 SEL 6.9 6.9 L V8 7,380
W116.12 1978–1980 300 SD sedan 3.0 L I5 turbodiesel
(USA and Canada only)



The W116 S-Class incorporated a broad variety of Mercedes-Benz safety innovations.[2]

  • Anti-lock brakes were first featured on the W116 S-Class. This system, true to its name, prevents the wheels from locking while braking. The advantage of such a system is to improve steering control during hard braking situations, and to shorten brake distances.
  • Strengthened body structure. The W116 featured a more stable security passenger cell with a stiffened roof frame structure. High strength roof and door pillars, along with other reinforced zones, provided enhanced vehicle occupant protection.
  • Interior equipment safety features. A heavily padded dashboard, deformable switches and controls, and a four-spoke steering wheel with impact absorber and broad impact cushion aimed to reduce occupant injury during collisions.
  • The fuel tank was no longer fitted at the rear end, but was now placed above rear axle for added protection.
  • Wraparound turn signals made it easier to communicate with nearby drivers.


See also: Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9

The most notable W116 was the high-performance, limited-production 450 SEL 6.9. This 8-cylinder model boasted the largest engine installed in a postwar Mercedes-Benz up to that time. Every 450 SEL 6.9 featured a self-leveling hydropneumatic suspension, and offered the ABS anti-lock braking system as an option from 1978 onwards.


Interior of the W116 6.9.

The 450SEL was awarded European Car of the Year in 1974. In addition to its reputation as the Mercedes flagship model, the W116 had references in popular culture. For instance, the 300 SD was only available in North America with a turbocharged 5 cylinder diesel engine. The W116 has had also had an illustrious history with the silver screen, the most notable was the movie Ronin, a Milan Brown 450SEL 6.9 chasing the bad guys through parts of France. On the small screen, shows like Dallas (J.R. Ewing's silver-green 280SE), Knight Rider (450SEL) and the British MI5-based show The Professionals were the mainstay of the S-Class screentime.

The vehicle in the eight-minute short film C'était un rendez-vous, a no-holds-barred romp through the streets of 1976 Paris, was commonly believed to be a Ferrari 275 GTB due to the engine sound. A recent interview with the producer, Claude Lelouch, revealed that the camera-carrying vehicle was actually a 6.9L 450SEL 6.9, with sound dubbed over.


  1. Oswald, Werner (2003). Deutsche Autos 1945-1990, Band 4. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. pp. 80, 86. ISBN 3-613-02131-5. 
  2. W116 S-Class enthusiasts page
  3. Oswald, Werner (2001). Deutsche Autos 1945-1990, Band 4. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3-613-02131-5. 
  4. US prices: Mike Covello: Standard Catalog of Imported Cars 1946-2002, Krause Publication, Iola 2002, ISBN 0-87341-605-8, p. 538-541

External links