If you think you’re familiar enough with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class to have seen just about every modern variant of the past 40 years, from the W126 to the outgoing W222-generation sedan, think again. Mercedes produced many different variants for foreign markets, while coach-builders and armorers have hand-built special, low-volume models for very demanding customers. The lineups of the past few generations of Stuttgart’s flagship in the States, by comparison, can seem very abridged, with just a handful of versions of each generation.
Here are 15 from the modern history of the S-Class that we never received in the States.
Trasco Bremen, which had built armored Mercedes-Benz vehicles for years, fielded a W140 limousine stretched at the B-pillar before the factory W140 Pullman was introduced. Like the longer Pullman limousine, Trasco’s version offered a small middle row of rear-facing seats that could fold up and serve as footrests for the third row, forward-facing passengers. This visually quiet limousine was a popular personal business luxury model in Europe throughout the 1990s, and was offered with or without armored elements.
The S-Class had not been offered stateside with a diesel engine since the early W140s dropped the inline-six diesels, but the W221 generation cars brought diesels back to the U.S. The sole model offered was the S350 BlueTEC, powered by a 3.0-liter V6 diesel good for 240 hp and 445 lb-ft of torque. But elsewhere, Mercedes also offered the W221 S-Class with a turbocharged 2.1-liter inline-four diesel, badged as the S250 CDI and the S300 CDI. The S250 CDI served up 204 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, which was enough to move the sedan from 0 to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds in those countries that offered it. This wasn’t really a bare-bones version per se, with cloth interiors, but rather a variant for markets with high taxes based on displacement, and also those favoring interior accommodations over performance.
German coachbuilder Binz GmbH built a few examples of the W140-generation S-Class estate, finished in a very curious shade of teal. Binz tried to make the S-Class wagon a low-volume specialty model, but it seemed that customers were generally happy with the E-Class W124 and W210 wagons that were offered at the time. Still, Binz’s effort looks very factory and we wouldn’t mind finding one of these today.
This Belgian coachbuilder built a number of very cool limousines based on the W140-generation S-Class, but they weren’t simple stretches: Carat created all-new, rectangular rear passenger doors, redrew the shape of the C-pillar entirely and filled these limos with plenty of luxury items, including a drink cabinet and a partition for the rear cabin. The result was a very stealthy limo that didn’t really stand out in traffic unless you really looked at it and figured out how it was built. Finding one of these today is a tall order, even in Europe, but there are still a few around.
The W222 generation of the S-Class offered quite a variety of engine choices, as usual. But one of the engines that the U.S. never received was turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four 48V mild hybrid. Badged S320L, this S-Class was only available in long-wheelbase form contrary to what you would expect, so it was not really a bare bones model at all. The small gasoline engine with twin-scroll turbochargers and belt-driven 48 V starter-alternator (BSA), known internally as M264, made it a popular enough entry-level model China, and the performance didn’t really matter that much since you were probably a big shot in a large city, and your chauffeur couldn’t really open it up due to heavy traffic anyway.
That’s right: You could get the S-Class of the 1990s with a manual transmission… if you played your cards right. (Basically, you needed to move to Europe). The S280, powered by a 2.8-liter inline-six gasoline unit paired with a five-speed manual, though four- and five-speed automatics were also options on these models. If this sounds like a very base model complete with a cloth interior, that’s about right. Interestingly enough, while diesel inline-six engines were also on the menu, and the U.S. received some of them for a short period of time, the inline-six diesels were only offered with automatic transmissions. An earlier version of the W140 that also used the 2.8-liter inline-six was badged as the 300SE 2.8, and it’s one fo the rarer variants to encounter these days. In Europe, of course. But the S280 is a little more plentiful.
The W220-generation S-Class received a Pullman version from the factory, but individual armorers and coachbuilders also built their own limos based on the sedan. One such limo was offered by Fidelis Cloer’s armoring company in Germany, offering a B6/B7 level of ballistic protection — enough to withstand AK-47 rounds. But otherwise it was visually quiet on the outside, which is how its clients preferred it.
Bottrop-based German tuning house Brabus wasn’t just into faster Mercedes cars — it could also do luxury-focused projects like the W220 S-Class with a B-pillar stretch, outfitted inside like a mobile office with a computer screen, a table, a TV set and plenty of connectivity. Mobile internet was relatively new when the Brabus Business Sedan debuted, so this low-volume limo previewed a whole cottage industry of Sprinter models outfitted like mobile offices, which Brabus later exploited.
Reviving a nameplate used on the classic W100 model, Mercedes-Benz offered its own six-seat limousine based on the W140-generation S-Class starting in 1994. Intended mostly as a state limousine, the W140 Pullman featured a middle row of rear-facing seats and B7 ballistic protection was a popular option. It also had runflat tires, a roofline raised by a couple of inches, a V12 engine under hood and pretty much all of the options offered on the regular S-Class. Production was in the low hundreds of units, and of course each one was handmade over a period of months.
The existence of the C140 S-Class coupe permitted for a very obvious tuning possibility during the production run of the W140 S-Class sedan: Retrofitting the front fascia of the S-Class coupe to the sedan. The result was something you either loved or hated. We saw one of these in person in Spain, and it took a couple of minutes to figure out what we were looking at. Lorinser, being Lorinser, also added its own wheels and bodykit, in addition to a range of performance modifications, but the main course was the coupe front end.
Long before it became an in-house tuner, Affalterbach-based AMG created a wide variety of bodykits for the W126-generation S-Class. These included restyled bumpers, skirts, trunklid spoiler lips, wheels and other exterior design elements, in addition to performance modifications. Of course, AMG was much smaller at the time so their offerings were not available in Mercedes-Benz dealerships in the U.S. — that would come later. But if you wanted to make your W126 S-Class stand out, AMG had a thick list of options for your sedan.
After fairly predictable styling of the W140, W220 and W221-generation models, the Pullman returned in a new way with the debut of the W222 S-Class in 2014. This time around the model featured a redesigned rear compartment, and an insert at the B-pillar. The model effectively used the rear architecture of the Mercedes-Maybach sedan but added a middle row of rear-facing seats at the B-pillar. All hand-built, Pullman models are often armored, and the price for an armored version with all the options is around $1 million, while “thin-skinned” versions are usually priced at around half a million, depending on options.
That’s right: Mercedes-Benz built short-wheelbase versions of the W220, but it didn’t offer them in the U.S. Models like the S280 were offered in short-wheelbase form, powered by a 2.8-liter V6, while the S320 was powered by a 3.2-liter V6. The S350, meanwhile, was offered with a 3.7-liter gsoline V6 underhood. Sometimes we have to wonder if there was room in the U.S. for a very bargain-priced S-Class, built to German taxi specs, that could have cost as much as an E-Class. We think the answer is yes, but then who would buy well-optioned E-Class models in the U.S? Mercedes has tried to keep the three main sedans relatively far apart in terms of pricing, at least until recently, when very pricey AMG-tuned C-Class models have joined the menu. But in prior decades, there was very little price overlap.
Mercedes has generally kept factory-armored versions of the S-Class out of the U.S. market, citing low demand, and while its two predecessors made cameo appearances in North America, the W221 Guard model was not offered here at all. Wearing hundreds of pounds of armor and ballistic glass several inches thick the S-Class Guard model could shrug off most assault rifle rounds and grenades thrown under the body, and also could withstand multiple tire punctures thanks to its upgraded run-flat tires.
The S430 and the S500 may have been the main event in the U.S., but elsewhere in the world the W220 was offered with inline-six and V8 diesels. The base diesel model in the range was a S320 CDI, powered by a 3.2-liter inline six, offering 194 hp, while the S400 CDI offered a 4.0-liter diesel underhood, good for 247 hp. Both models got some small boosts in power later on, but for understandable reasons Mercedes did not offer diesels stateside, unlike with the previous-generation W140 S-Class, which for a short period of time was offered with diesels in the States.
Source: Read Full Article