The first official ‘ S-class’ model to be launched was the W116 series in 1972, although the flagship Mercedes-Benz saloon is an icon in its own right. It has a heritage stretching back nearly sixty years to the W180 so-called ‘Ponton’ launched in 1954.

Over its lifetime, the current model has had by far the widest choice of powertrains of any S-class.

These included V6 and V8s in both petrol and diesel forms as well as a bi-turbo V12 (used in the S 65 AMG). There was also a V6 petrol hybrid model available in some markets.  

Nearly all models were fitted with the new-generation 7G-Tronic autobox, though this did receive further tweaks in 2010 to counter criticism of its sometimes lethargic pick-up from rest. Four-wheel drive was available in some overseas markets, but was not offered on right-hand drive vehicles.

With the introduction of the S 350 Bluetec, Mercedes rolled out a number of innovative new options, including Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Attention Assist and Distronic Plus radar cruise control.

Top 5 Luxury

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  •  Kia Optima PHEV
    First Drive
    25 August 2016
    Plug-in hybrid Optima is a practical, tax-efficient PHEV that undercuts rivals and fulfils its main remit well, but keen drivers need not apply
  • Kia Optima Sportwagon
    First Drive
    25 August 2016
    New Kia estate looks the part, has good space and handles tidly, but its engine's flexibility and refinement let it down
  • Lamborghini Huracán LP610-4 Spyder
    First Drive
    24 August 2016
    Awful driving position aside, drop-top Huracán handles UK roads well. It's more dynamically rounded than its rangemates, but lacks rivals' handling bite
  • Porsche Panamera 4S Diesel
    First Drive
    23 August 2016
    Its predecessor may have been a bit limp, but the Porsche Panamera 4S Diesel is crushingly rapid and suitably luxurious
  • Car review
    23 August 2016
    Can the best sports coupé of the decade absorb a contentious new engine?