The first-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class is almost 50 years old!

Car reviews are a great way to find out things about a new vehicle you might be interested in. It’s also a great way to "get closer" to highly expensive luxury cars and supercar you can’t afford, and you may never get to see in the metal. But car reviews are even better when they’re about classic cars, especially when the vehicle in question is the first-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The folks over at Autogefuhl just put together a 30-minute video review of a 1979 version, and it will teach you everything you need to know about the first limousine that featured an "S-Class" badge.

Check Out This Video Review for the 1979 Mercedes S-Class W116
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Mercedes-Benz has been building full-size luxury cars since the 1950s. The first such model was introduced in 1954 as the W180, but it’s better known to the public as the Ponton. It was replaced in 1959 by the W111 (later updated to the W112), also known as the Fintail. In 1965, Mercedes-Benz introduced the W108, which remained in production until 1972. This was when the German company launched the W116; the first full-size sedan officially called the S-Class.

Developed for around three years, the W116 was considered a big leap forward and inspired all the other automobile lines that Mercedes-Benz offered at the time.

The first S-Class also introduced many safety innovations, including anti-lock brakes at all four corners, a high-strength body structure, crumple zones front and rear, a padded dashboard with deformable switches and controls, and a steering wheel with an impact-absorbing cushion.

The low-slung, elegant exterior was backed by a comfortable, luxurious interior, and a comfortable suspension setup. The first-gen S-Class was far more modern that the contemporary Cadillac and faster than the Rolls-Royce available at the time. However, the cabin wasn’t as opulent as 1970s Cadillacs and Rolls-Royces, even though the S-Class was notably more expensive than its American rival.

The S-Class was introduced with a variety of six-cylinder and V-8 engines.

The base model, the 280 S, was powered by a 2.7-liter inline-six rated at 158 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque. The 280 SE featured the same engine, but the power went up to 182 horses and 176 pound-feet. The V-8 models were available in 350 SE and 450 SE trims. These versions came with 197 horsepower and 211 pound-feet and 222 horses and 278 pound-feet, respectively. Their American counterparts were less powerful due to emission control devices that were mandatory at the time.

Check Out This Video Review for the 1979 Mercedes S-Class W116
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Mercedes introduced the most impressive version of the first S-Class, the 450 SEL 6.9, in 1975. Unlike other V-8 models, powered by 3.5-liter and 4.5-liter engines, this variant featured a massive 6.8-liter V-8. Rated at 282 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of twist, it was faster and more powerful than any other luxury car on the market. In the U.S., the 450 SEL 6.9 came with 250 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque. This sedan needed only 7.4 seconds to hit 62 mph on its way to a top speed of 140 mph. The Germans also offered a diesel version. Called the 300 SD, it was powered by a five-cylinder oil burner that generated 120 horses and 170 pound-feet in its most powerful version.

Brief Mercedes-Benz S-Class history

Check Out This Video Review for the 1979 Mercedes S-Class W116
- image 930486

Introduced in 1972, the first-generation S-Class remained in production until 1980. That’s when it was replaced by the more modern W126 generation. This generation spent even more years on the market, being phased out a full 11 years later, in 1991. The W126 was followed by the W140, a generation that also spawned a C140 coupe model. The third-gen S-Class reached the end of the line in 1998 when Mercedes-Benz introduced the W220 version. Larger and more advanced than its predecessor, the W220 remained in production until 2005, but Mercedes didn’t offer a coupe version. The S-Class was once again redesigned for 2006 through the W221 generation, which rolled out the assembly line for seven years, until 2013. The current sixth-gen model, also known as the W222, has been in production since 2013. This generation also marked the return of the coupe model, sold as the C217. The seventh-generation S-Class, codenamed the W223, is set to be unveiled in September 2020 and arrive into showrooms in 2021.

Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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