With the debut of the latest S-Class nearly a year ago, those who’ve made a habit out of buying the latest model at the earliest possible time have already done so. But there are a few versions that some captains of industry know won’t debut right away but are certainly worth waiting for. The S-Class Guard is one of those vehicles, and now in the second half of 2021 a new version is here to keep armor-piercing rounds from ruining the passengers’ day.
Say hello in your Eastern European language of choice to the Mercedes-Benz S680 Guard 4Matic, which will offer a VR10 level of ballistic protection to those who’ve been saving up for the past year to pay for it. The latest “heavy” S-Class will shrug off 7.62x54R rounds in addition to garden variety small arms, and some common grenade types as well. With 10-cm thick windows featuring a sandwich of ballistic glass and clear composites, outward visibility in the new Guard model is expected to be better than ever, which has been a decades-long challenge for the industry. The latest in runflat tires will also be on the menu, with Michelin PAX tires offering almost 20 miles of use after they’ve been punctured.
Plenty of weight—specifically over 9000 pounds—needs plenty of power, and for that the S680 Guard uses something that’s a true classic in the S-Class repertoire: a 6.0-liter V12, good for 604 hp and 612 lb-ft of torque. This will be among the last appearances of this engine, in addition to an armored S-Class Pullman that is surely in the works (and which you may want to wait for, if you need even more legroom or if you want to bring as many as four friends along).
And really, if you’re buying an S-Class Guard model, you’d probably make a fuss if a V12 wasn’t offered.
The price? A bit higher than it used to be in the 1990s, mostly because there’s now so much more technology packed into these cars today. $650,000 is about where the S680 Guard will start in Europe prior to any taxes on engine size, which are sure to be eye-watering. But the model won’t be offered stateside.
The S-Class Guard has been the gold standard of armored passenger cars for most of the past 30 years, with the W140-generation S-Class having effectively taken this concept mainstream; previous generations also received armored versions from coachbuilders and speciality firms. Since the 1990s, S-Class Guard models have only grown in popularity around the world, especially in the post-9/11 era, and have remained a trusted item even as many new players have entered the armored car field.
Even with a VR10 rating, we still have a feeling that the armored industry is largely defending against the threats of yesteryear: Bad guys with AK-47s are very 1996, at best, and those guys have known that AK rounds won’t do much against Guard models. These threats have generally been relatively well-addressed and defended against by German manufacturers’ in-house armoring divisions over the past 25 years, to their credit, and to a lesser degree the threat of shaped charges, which thankfully remain somewhat exotic and usually confined to actual war zones—places where the latest armored S-Class would probably not find itself too frequently, as a higher level of protection is needed.
Perhaps it’s also safe to say that the armored car industry has not had an Alfred Herrhausen-style wakeup call in the past decade, as it did in 1989 when the Deutsche Bank chairman was mortally wounded by the detonation of a sophisticated roadside device in Bad Homburg, forcing a rethinking of a number of engineering choices among the leading armored car makers and coachbuilders. Incidentally, Herrhausen was in an armored W126-generation S-Class when he was killed by a roadside bomb.
In that sense, the armor industry has been lucky, especially in the age of cheap commercial drones. But the industry wake-up call is still in the future, perhaps not too far over the horizon.
In any case, we’ll see a few other coachbuilders take a crack at the new S-Class, including Carat and Trasco, before the factory-armored Pullman Guard gets here. Start saving now.
Should Mercedes offer its armored Guard models stateside? Let us know in the comments below.
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