Everything you need to know about the most underrated generation of Mercedes-Benz S-Class


For decades, Mercedes-Benz built an enduring reputation for cost-no-object engineering, reliability, and tank-like build quality. Ask any diehard Silver Arrow enthusiast which model most epitomizes these philosophies, and fingers often point to the cultish W126 generation S-Class. Some even go as far as nominating the W123, the precursor to the current E-Class.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/05/13/mercedes-benz-w116-s-class-buyers-guide

A friend had one in Portland, Oregon, a Euro version. Impossible to drive in wet weather as it would spin it’s wheels and fishtail if you even looked at it crosswise.


I’ve had several 126’s, 123’s, and even 115’s over the years. My first Mercedes was a gift from an employer decades ago, a pristine 1988 420SEL; my dream car at the time. I’ve even had an over-heating, oil burning 350 SDL! It was a beautiful car, and I spent a ton of money on it before I found out the basic engine flaw and unloaded it.

But now I own this beautiful 116, a 1980 300SD. The article is right about the 126 being more refined. I was able to compare my “new” 116 with my then current '85 300SD, also a beautiful car, just before I sold it. The 126 was quieter and just seemed a little nicer overall. The 116 is about 400lbs heavier, and 4 inches longer and wider! And for some reason I never got quite the mileage in the 126. With the 116 I average about 25, and can consistently get 28mpg with over-filled tires and keeping the speed to 60 to 65.

But of the several 126’s I’ve owned, gas and diesel, and all wonderful cars, I prefer this 116 by far. I get a lot of comments, thumbs up, and even people stopping to look and talk to me about it. Even though I always thought the 126 was one of the prettiest cars ever designed, I have people tell me they think this one is much prettier. And fortunately, the previous two owners took impeccable care of it. All the rubber, the interior, and just about everything else seems almost new.

I can’t see myself ever selling this car. Thanks for the article. From a true fan.

1 Like

Tires make an incredible difference with these cars. Even compared to the ones that came with these cars, modern tire technology improves the handling of these cars in all weather by 10 fold.


Yeah but if you eliminate the wheels in, you also kill the fun!!


Darn phone, I meant wheelspin!!


I don’t get the draw to these cars. 'Merican Muscle makes the heart beat.
Ever smell one of these old MB’s…they have Euro-smell


Full disclosure: I own two and these cars are the last examples of MB “cost no object” production models. Fun to drive and solid as can be after 40 years. Not terribly expensive to maintain and with good support from MB Classic Center (and supplemented by EBay and other vendors) these cars will run for years without complaint. I believe they will appreciate and have no qualms about the dollars “invested” in my 6.9 and the 450SEL (both 1977s). Hope others will catch on to an affordable and luxurious classic in the W116. Happy motoring and thanks for an accurate, entertaining and educational article! jp


Really? You cannot possibly compare this car to a 1977 Chevy Caprice. American cars at the time were not even close to “muscle”. They were poorly built and drove terribly. The MB’s of the time were exceptional to drive and built with far better standards, certainly indicative of their price. That “Euro-smell” you speak of is quality materials of leather, carpet and plastic/vinyl that American cars could only dream of at the time, never mind build quality. This narrative that American cars were better looking or more exciting is pure baloney and you leave out a huge section of automotive history that will prove you wrong every time. Chevy use to have the slogan “Heartbeat of America”. If that were true at the time, America just had a heart attack.


1971 280 SE (W109?) used the S-Klasse name?

Further, Wikipedia article on Mercedes-Benz W108 states
“The Mercedes-Benz W108 and W109 are luxury cars produced by Mercedes-Benz from 1965 through to 1972 and 1973 in North America only. The line was an update of the predecessor W111 and W112 fintail sedans. The cars were successful in West Germany and in export markets”. (Must mean production in the BRD was discontinued in 1973 when the W1116 came out?)

North America only? The one I drove was the chauffered limosine for the CEO of a prestigious German industrial firm, given to him on his retirement, after which I bought it from his heirs.