Mercedes-Benz W126

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Mercedes-Benz W126/C126
1984 Mercedes-Benz 380SE (W126)
  • December 1979 – October 1991 (sedan)
  • September 1981 – October 1991 (coupé)
  • 1981–1991 (sedan, South Africa)
AssemblyGermany: Sindelfingen
Malaysia: Johor Bahru (OASB)[1]
South Africa: East London
DesignerBruno Sacco, Werner Breitschwerdt (sedan: 1975, 1976; coupe: 1977)
Body and chassis
ClassFull-size luxury car (F)
Grand tourer (C126)
Body style4-door sedan
2-door coupé (C126)
LayoutFR layout
RelatedMonteverdi Tiara
Transmission4-speed 4G-TRONIC automatic
4-speed manual
5-speed manual
WheelbaseSedan (SWB): 2,935 mm (115.6 in)
Sedan (LWB): 3,075 mm (121.1 in)
Coupe: 2,850 mm (112.2 in)
LengthSedan (SWB): 4,995–5,020 mm (196.7–197.6 in)
Sedan (LWB): 5,135–5,160 mm (202.2–203.1 in)
Coupe: 4,910–4,935 mm (193.3–194.3 in)
WidthSedan: 1,820 mm (71.7 in)
Coupe: 1,828 mm (72.0 in)
HeightSedan (SWB): 1,430–1,437 mm (56.3–56.6 in)
Sedan (LWB): 1,441 mm (56.7 in)
Coupe: 1,406 mm (55.4 in)
PredecessorMercedes-Benz W116 (sedan)
Mercedes-Benz C107 (coupé)
SuccessorMercedes-Benz W140
Mercedes-Benz C140 (coupé)

The Mercedes-Benz W126 is the company's internal designation for its second generation S-Class, manufactured in sedan/saloon (1979–1991) and coupé (1981–1990) models, succeeding the company's W116 range. Mercedes introduced the 2-door C126 coupé model, marketed as the SEC, in September 1981. This generation was the first S-Class to have separate chassis codes for standard and long wheelbases (W126 and V126) and for coupé (C126).

The long 12-year production (1979–1991) resulted in 818,063 sedans/saloons and 74,060 coupés being built, totaling 892,123. W126 is so far the most successful and the longest in production for S-Class.[2][3]


After the debut of W116 S-Class in 1972, Mercedes-Benz began preparing for the next generation S-Class in October 1973. The project, code-named "Project W126", aimed to provide an improved ride, better handling, and improved fuel efficiency. The oil crisis of 1973 and increasingly stringent emission and safety regulations in the United States had an important influence in developing the W126 for reduced emission and increased fuel efficiency.

The W126 design team, led by Mercedes-Benz's chief designer Bruno Sacco, aimed to design a more aerodynamic shape and retain the unmistakable S-Class design elements. The aerodynamic drag was reduced through lengthy wind tunnel testing and reshaping of front end and bumper along with hiding the wipers underneath the hood/bonnet for smoother flow. Reducing the weight was accomplished by extensive use of high-strength low-alloy (HSLA) sheet and polyurethane deformable material for bumpers and side claddings. The lighter alloy material was used for the heavily revised M116/M117 V8 engines for the reduced weight. Both had contributed to the reduction of fuel consumption by 10% as compared to its predecessor.[3]

After six years of development, the W126 was introduced at the IAA Frankfurt in September 1979.[4] At the introduction, S-Class was available in two wheelbase lengths (standard and long) and three petrol engine options with one six-cylinder inline engine and two V8 engines. The diesel engine option was introduced in September 1981 exclusively for the North American market.

At the 1981 IAA Frankfurt, a coupé version of S-Class, C126, was introduced with 380 SEC and 500 SEC. It was the first time that a coupé version was derived from S-Class chassis. At the same time, the "Energiekonzept" (Energy Concept) was introduced to improve the fuel efficiency of S-Class through engine revisions.

The W126 was revised in 1985 for 1986 model year. The revised "Second Series" model range was introduced at 1985 IAA Frankfurt with new six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines and the V8 petrol engines enlarged to 4.2 and 5.5 litres. The 5-litre V8 was carried over. The visual changes included the smoother bumpers and side claddings, revised "Gullydeckelfelge" (German for manhole-cover wheel rim) alloy wheels, and deeper front bumper with integrated air dam.

The W126 generation was replaced by the W140 in 1991.


Facelift Mercedes-Benz 560 SEL (V126)

From 1973 to 1975, Mercedes-Benz designers worked on the successor to the W116. After several design concept were presented, the final design for W126 was approved and frozen in 1976. The design work for coupé began immediately after the approval and was finalised in 1977.[5] Design patents were first filed on 3 March 1977 and later on 6 September 1977 at the United States Patent Office.[6]

Compared to its predecessor, the W116, the W126 featured improved aerodynamics with a drag coefficient of Cd 0.36 for the sedan/saloon and 0.34 for the coupés.[2]


Pre-facelift Mercedes-Benz W126 380SE (standard wheelbase version)
Facelift Mercedes-Benz 560SEL V126 (long-wheelbase version)
Pre-facelift Mercedes-Benz C126 SEC (coupe)
Pre-facelift Mercedes-Benz C126 SEC (coupe)
Facelift Mercedes-Benz C126 SEC (coupe)
Facelift Mercedes-Benz C126 SEC (coupe)

The pre-facelift model range (1979–1985 for sedan/saloon and 1982–1985 for coupé) included the 280S/SE/SEL, 300SD (North American market only), 380SE/SEL/SEC, and 500SE/SEL/SEC. The revised second series (1986–1991) with petrol engines included 260SE, 300SE/SEL, 420SE/SEL/SEC, 500SE/SEL/SEC, and 560SE/SEL/SEC. The diesel-engined facelift version for the North American market only included the 300SDL (the first diesel S-Class with long wheelbase) and then the 350SD/SDL (the first diesel S-Class to be available in both wheelbase lengths).


Late model W126 with Airbag, leather seats, and Burlwood interior wood trim. Left hand Drive.
  • Use of high-strength low-alloy (HSLA) sheet in its construction to reduce the weight without compromising the structural strength and integrity.
  • Anti-lock braking system (ABS) (first appeared in its predecessor, the W116) was standard on 500SEL and 500SEC and optional for the rest of model range until 1985. The ABS eventually became standard for the entire model range during the second series (1986-1991).
  • Seat Belt Pretensioners enabled all seat belts (with exception of rear centre shoulder belt on sedan/saloon) to tighten when the car sensed conditions that could lead to an accident such as sudden, forceful braking or sudden deceleration during the collision.[2]
  • Crumple zones front and rear which absorbed impact energies, reducing passenger injury.
  • Fluted taillamps, the design pioneered on the R107/C107, was carried over. The fluted design maintains the visibility of taillamps when the dirt accumulates on the outer edges.
  • Driver's airbags were introduced in 1981 as an extra-cost option for all models and engines. From September 1987 on, the passenger's airbags were added as extra-cost option for the 1988 model year. The consumers could choose either driver's airbag only or driver's and passenger's airbags. For the US market, the driver's airbags were standard from 1987 onward due to the federal regulations; the passenger's airbags were extra cost option until 1989 when they became standard for models with V8 engines only and 1991 for the rest of model range.
  • Traction control system (TCS), also known as Acceleration Slip Regulation (ASR), to prevent wheelspin (a Mercedes-Benz first). This feature was available on European models only from 1989 and 1991 and on North American models (560 SEL and 560 SEC) for 1991 only.
  • A third brake lamp in the centre of rear windscreen was federally mandated in the United States from 1986 model year on. In some markets, it was offered as standard or extra-cost option.

Comfort and convenience[edit]

Early model W126 without airbag, MB-Tex seats, and Zebrano interior wood trim. Right Hand Drive.
  • Courtesy lights on the underside of the doors, to enable the occupant to see the ground when exiting the vehicle at night.
  • Rear reading lamps were fitted to the C-pillar enabling rear passengers to read or work at night without distracting the driver. Extra cost options for the rear seat passengers were: individually adjusted seat heaters (never offered in coupé models during its entire production run); bench seat that can move forward and back electrically by 10 cm (long wheelbase models only); foot rests; from 1987 on, rear windscreen window shades that are electrically raised and lowered by switch on centre console; and the back of front seats are contoured as to give more legroom.
  • From 1979 to 1984, the driver and front passenger seat heaters were separate extra-cost options. From 1985 to 1991, both driver and front passenger seat heaters were offered as a single extra-cost option.
  • Beginning with 1985 model year, the rear individual seats and centre console as appeared in coupé model could be fitted to the long wheelbase models if the owner desires, giving the car a 2+2 seating format. The individual seat is electrically adjustable by moving forward and back only.
  • An optional fully automatic climate control system that used an interior temperature sensor to more accurately climatise the cabin. This sensor was mounted overhead (near the sunroof switch) so that when the roof was open, the sensor would detect cool air-flow and call upon the system to adjust heat flow accordingly.
  • Exterior temperature sensor with LCD display set in main instrument console below the speedometer to inform the driver of exterior conditions. This was delineated in Fahrenheit for US-market cars and in Celsius for the rest of the world.
  • Due to the B-pillar moving further back in the coupé models with longer doors, Mercedes-Benz developed the world's first seat belt presenters. When the doors are closed and the motor started, the presenters extend the shoulder anchor points forward to the driver and front passenger by about 30 cm. This facilitates easier reach and grab of seat belts. Once the seat belts are anchored or after 30 seconds, the presenters descended back into the B-pillar.
  • W126 premiered the power seat control, a first for Mercedes-Benz. Instead of placing the toggle or button switches with same shapes in the hard to reach or see areas, Mercedes-Benz developed the haptic switches in shape of a seat: one switch resembling the seat back for adjusting the seat back; another switch resembling the seat for moving the seat forward and back as well as raising and lowering. The two memory function buttons allow the front occupants to set and select their preferred positions accordingly. After the 17-year patent expired, this design was widely copied by other manufacturers in the late 1990s. Another first for Mercedes-Benz is an electrically adjustable steering column that extends and contracts by toggle switch underneath the steering column. The steering column position can be stored in the driver's side memory function along with the preferred seat position.
  • W126 was first from Mercedes-Benz to have the theft deterrent system as option installed at the factory. EDW (Einbruch-Diebstahl-Warnanlage, break-in theft alarm system) can emit the alarm sound and immobilise several components (radio, brakes, ignition lock, and a few others) if the car was being towed away or if any of hood/bonnet, trunk/boot, doors were forcibly opened. From 1984 on for the models with central locking system, the owner can turn the front door lock further to bolt the doors as to make them very difficult to be forcibly opened. The owner can order the separate bolt system for the trunk/bolt, making it equally difficult to pry the trunk/boot open. They require a special key with red dot.

Drivetrain technologies[edit]

The four-speed automatic transmission had a new topographical sensor that improved the drivability by monitoring the vehicle's position (flat surface, incline, or decline) and the position of throttle pedal. This prevents the unintended acceleration when coasting downhill without the frequent braking to maintain the speed. The Second Series has a "hill-hold" feature that prevents the vehicle from rolling back suddenly when disengaging the brake and engaging the throttle pedals at the steep incline. The transmission in European models has a S/W switch to allow the start in either first (Standard) or second (Winter) gear respectively. The "Second Series" changed the S/W to S/E for Economy. The topographical sensor also offers a better driving experience with cruise control by adjusting the throttle smoothly and automatically without sudden lurching or decelerating when maintaining the desired speed.

The W126 carried forward the self-leveling hydropneumatic suspension of the W116 450SEL 6.9 model. Like the W116 and W123, the rear-wheel hydropneumatic suspension system was offered in W126 as an option. The updated version was called HPF II (short for Hydropneumatische Federung) was available from 1981 to 1985 (on the 380SEL and 500SEL) and very briefly on the 500SE in 1985. The self-leveling technology responds to changes in weight distribution (passengers, luggage, fuel...) and was therefore less applicable in shorter wheelbase models.

For the "Second Series" (1986-1991), the hydropneumatic suspension was heavily redesigned and named HPF III. The HPF III automatically lowers the chassis by 24 mm when the vehicle is travelled at least 120 km/h for improved aerodynamic flow and better high speed stability. The system adjusts the damping rate from soft to hard based on speed and road condition for extra comfort and better drivability. Additionally, the driver can select to raise the car by 35 mm if travelling over coarse-surfaced road (only up to 80 km/h). From 1986 to 1990, the HPF III option was available in 420SEL, 500SEL, 560SE, and 560SEL. For the final year of production, HPF III was available in longer wheelbase only (420SEL, 500SEL, and 560SEL). Due to its complexity and tendency to fail catastrophically, HPF III was very difficult to service and was often, at the owner's request, removed and replaced with coil springs and shock absorbers from models without hydropneumatic suspension system.[7]

At the 1983 IAA, Mercedes-Benz introduced Reiserechner ("Trip calculator"), its first trip computer option, in W126 for the 1984 model year.[8] The trip computer has a rectangular control panel on the centre console between the power window switches and the round information panel in the instrument clusters. A panel occupies the gauge cluster formerly used by tachometer, which moved to the left gauge cluster, sharing with oil, fuel, and temperature gauges. The information panel contains a large horizontal LCD display in the middle. Each of four sections has three arrows, illuminating the driver's selection. The upper left section is ZEIT (time); the upper right, WEG (route); lower left, GESCHW. (GESCHWINDIGKEIT, speed); lower right, VEBR. (VERBRAUCH, fuel consumption). The control panel has a large raised cross in the middle, dividing the panel into four corresponding sections of two buttons each in a four-by-two grid. The haptic touch allows the driver to feel his way around the control buttons without taking his eyes off the road: a typical Mercedes-Benz safety consideration. The four buttons in the middle allow the driver to select ZEIT, WEG, GESCHW., or VEBR.: the selection of their subfunctions is cycled through by pressing the button a few times. Two buttons on left side are for selecting short distance (K = KURZSTRECKENBETRIEB) and activation for inputting the number (P = PROGRAMMIERTASTE). Two buttons on right side are for selecting long distance (L = LANGSTRECKENBETRIEB) and deactivation of inputting the number (E = EINGABEABSCHLUẞTASTE). The top row of buttons (K, upper-left section, upper-right section, and L) has input of 1000, 100, 10, and 1, which are activated by pressing P and deactivated by E. The option was dropped in W126 a few years later due to its complexity of configuring the trip computer, requiring an accompanying 18-page instruction handbook to understand its operation, and due to the frequent failure of its control panel buttons.


First Series (1979-1985)

At the introduction in September 1979, the 2.8-litre DOHC six-cylinder inline M110 engine for 280S/SE/SEL was carried over from W116. The revised M116/M117 V8 engines had a significant innovation: aluminium block without iron sleeves as found in the competitors’ engines. Mercedes-Benz developed a special silicon coating as to harden the cylinder liners against excessive wear and tear. The V8 engines were offered in two sizes: 3.8 litres (M116) and 5 litres (M117). The M116 V8 engine had a single timing chain while the M117 V8 engine had double timing chains. The frequent mechanical failure of single timing chain in M116 V8 engine was addressed in 1982 by switching to double timing chains from M117 V8 engine.

The smaller of the two V8 engines was initially the only one offered in the US market, to help meet Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements. The 380SEL earned a poor customer perception in the United States as being severely underpowered and due to mechanical issues with the single timing chain. The 380SEL for the US market took 11 seconds to reach 60 mph (97 km/h) from standstill and had top speed of 117 mph (188 km/h).[9][10] The severe performance shortcoming of W126 with V8 engine was addressed by introducing more powerful 500SEL/SEC in 1984.

The S-Class coupé was fitted with V8 engines only for the first time.

The 3.0-litre five-cylinder inline OM617 diesel engine was carried over from W116 with same performance. The diesel engines were again never offered in the markets outside United States and Canada.

This discrepancy was not addressed until 1994 when the W140 S350 Turbodiesel was introduced in Europe.

In 1981, Mercedes-Benz introduced the Energiekonzept ("Energy Concept") programme in reducing the fuel consumption. This programme revised the combustion chambers and piston heads with lower compression ratio in the V8 engines. This revision caused further drop in engine performance.

Second Series (1986-1991)

For the second series introduced in September 1985, the engine range was extensively revised with new six-cylinder inline engines and enlarged V8 engines. Only 5.0-litre M117 V8 was carried over from the first series, expanding the V8 engine range to three.

The revised engine range focused more on reducing pollution and fuel consumption even further. For the first time, the customers outside US and Canadian markets could choose the models with or without catalysators. The models without catalysators can be retrofitted with catalysators at later date if the customers choose to: this retrofit method is called RÜF (Rückrüstfahrzeug — loosely translated as retrofit vehicle). The RÜF models had a mechanical switch in the engine bay to be operated by owners for running on lead or lead-free fuels, a necessary feature for driving outside Germany or in areas within Germany where the lead-free fuel wasn't widespread yet. In 1990, all engines were fitted with catalysators only and the mechanical switch eliminated.

The new six-cylinder inline M103 engine had a single overhead camshaft and electronic-mechanical fuel injection and was available in two sizes: 2.6 and 3.0 litres. The carburetted engine fitted to 280S was eliminated, marking the end of carburetted engines for S-Class, and replaced with fuel-injected engines for 260 and 300.

For the V8 engines, the M116 was bored out to 4.2 litres from 3.8 litres for the 420 (M116) while the 5.0-litre V8 for 500 (M117) was carried over. A new 5.5 litre engine was introduced for the 560 (M117) which was accomplished by stroking the 5l with a new crank shaft. The V8 engines were fitted with new electronic ignition system and Bosch KE-Jetronic electronic-mechanical fuel injection system, first appeared in W201 190E. The revised V8 engines except 5.0-litre version had slight performance increase.

The most powerful engine ever fitted to W126 S-Class was 5.5-litre V8, putting out 221 kW (300 PS, 296 bhp). This engine, classified as ECE-Variante (German name), has higher compression ratio of 10:1 and cannot be retrofitted with catalysator at later date. In September 1986, the ECE-Variante was superseded by RÜF-Variante, which retains the same horsepower figure without catalysator and lower figure if retrofitted with catalysator at later date. In 1990, the power of the 560SEL was reduced to 200 kW (272 PS; 268 bhp).

For the US and Canadian markets, a new 3.0-litre six-cylinder inline OM603 diesel engine was introduced, replacing five-cylinder engine with same displacement. It was a first six-cylinder passenger diesel engine by Mercedes-Benz. This new engine was available in long wheelbase version only, 300SDL, for the first time. For California, the diesel engines were fitted with diesel particulate filter, a world's first for the passenger car. The new engine had an ill-gotten reputation for higher percentage of aluminium cylinder head failure due to poor placement of diesel particulate filter and due to the erosion of head gasket, allowing cooling fluid to seep in the cylinders. However, they failed to perform as designed and were removed from the engines. For 1988, the engine was revised to correct the issues and move the particulate filter further away from the engine. In 1990, the same engine was bored out to 3.5 litres as to compensate for reduced performance due to stricter emission regulations. The bored out 3.5-litre version did not have any of aforementioned issues other than some units experiencing the unexplained erosion of head gasket. The 3.5-litre version was available in both standard and long wheelbases (350SD and 350SDL).


First Series (1979–1985)

The automatic transmission had four speeds with direct drive in the fourth gear for the entire run from 1979 to 1991. The 280S/SE/SEL had 4-speed manual transmission as standard with 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic transmissions as extra-cost options.

The manual transmission was not fitted to the V8 engines during the first series.

U.S. models, including the 300SD Turbodiesel, had automatic transmission as sole transmission choice.

Second Series (1985-1991)

From 1986 onward, the automatic transmission was revised to include the option of selecting S (Standard) and E (Economy) shifting points. The models, 260SE, 300SE, and 300SEL were fitted with standard 5-speed manual and optional extra-cost 4-speed automatic transmissions. For one year from September 1986 to June 1987, extra cost automatic transmission option wasn't offered for 260SE and 300SE. The customers ordering 420SE could choose either 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission.

U.S. models had automatic transmission as sole transmission choice.

U.S. Grey Market[edit]

Grey-market Mercedes-Benz 500 SE

When the W126 was introduced in the United States in September 1980, Mercedes-Benz offered the smaller 3.8-litre V8 engine only as to avoid the gas guzzler penalty under Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations. However, the American consumers found 380SEL severely underpowered with slow acceleration (0–60 mph in 11 seconds) and lower top speed of 117 mph (188 km/h).

As the fear of oil crisis waned in 1982, the American consumers demanded the more powerful S-Class models, and grey importers brought the S-Class with 5-litre V8 engines to the United States and modified them to meet US FMVSS and EPA regulations. The smaller-engined 280 S-Class was also imported, offering significant savings over the V8 models. The W126 was a major part of this parallel market, with 22,000 imported in a segment that hit 66,900 cars in 1985, the biggest year for grey imports.[11]

Consequently, Mercedes-Benz added 500SEL/500SEC to the American model range for 1984 model year as to countereffect the grey imports while 3.8-litre V8 engine remained in 380SE (standard wheelbase only) and 380SL.[12]

In 1988, an intense lobbying effort by Mercedes-Benz and other foreign manufacturers led U.S. Congress to eliminate this consumer option and revise the rules for registered importers.[13]

Special variants[edit]

1989 Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC 5.6 AMG 'Wide Body'
  • Mercedes-Benz W126 six-door stretch limousine
    Although it hadn't yet merged with Mercedes-Benz, "pre-merger" AMG offered body kits for all W126 models, as well as a "wide body" kit for the coupé. The "wide body" cars were fitted with distinctive AMG-designed front and rear fenders and door panels that allowed much wider wheels and tires to be fitted. AMG also offered engine modifications with displacements of 5.0, 5.6, and 6.0-liters. The most famous and rarest was the DOHC 6.0-liter engine, based on the original 117.968 engine. Some of options offered were Gleason Torsen differential in various ratios, manual transmission (extremely rare), and various TV/radio consoles.
  • Trasco Bremen offered a stretch limousine version called the "1000SEL".[14]
  • A variety of coachbuilders offered convertibles based on the SEC (coupé) model. Caruna of Switzerland also offered a full four-door convertible based on the SEL (but using the SE's shorter rear doors). One of these (a blue one) still belongs to Dutch Royal Family, who use it at their resort in Porto Ercole, Italy.[15]
  • A coachbuilder, Caro International, built an estate/station wagon version of W126 S-Class called 560TEL.[16]
  • Guard, specially modified W126 S-Class models were produced for the transport of dignitaries and world leaders. Among the modifications made included a wheelbase stretch, bulletproof glass, and armored body panels.


Two AMG-modified 500SEC cars raced at the 1989 24 Hours of Spa. Both cars failed to finish, with one suffering gearbox issues, while the other had issues with the rear axle.[17]



The W126 series was the highest volume S-Class on record in terms of production. Three armoured 560SEL ordered by Saddam Hussein had a series of pipes shooting flames out of the sides.[21]

A limited number of W126 continued to be produced in South Africa until 1993(?), two years after the introduction of W140 S-Class. No figures were given for South African production. Nelson Mandela was given a commemorative model, a red 1990 500SE.[22][23]

Technical data[edit]

First Series, 1979-1985
Model Chassis Years Configuration Displacement Fuel Delivery Power Torque Curb Weight (kg) 0–100 km/h (0-62 mph) Top Speed (km/h) Fuel Consumption Units
Petrol Engines
280S W126.021 09/1979 – 08/1985 (M 110.924) Inline 6 2746 cc Carburetor 115 kW (156 PS; 154 bhp) 223 N⋅m (164 lb⋅ft) 1560 11 seconds 200 km/h (124 mph) 15.1 L/100 km (15.6 mpg‑US) 42,996
280SE W126.022 (M 110.989) Inline 6 Fuel Injection 136 kW (185 PS; 182 bhp) 240 N⋅m (177 lb⋅ft) 1560 10 seconds 210 km/h (130 mph) 15.6 L/100 km (15.1 mpg‑US) 133,955
280SEL W126.023 1590 20,655
380SE W126.032 09/1979 – 08/1981 (M116.963) V8 3818 cc Fuel Injection 160 kW (218 PS; 215 bhp) 223 N⋅m (164 lb⋅ft) 1595 9.8 seconds 210 km/h (130 mph) 17.5 L/100 km (13.4 mpg‑US) 58,239
09/1981 – 08/1985 150 kW (204 PS; 201 bhp) 223 N⋅m (164 lb⋅ft) 9.6 seconds
380SEL W126.033 09/1979 – 08/1981 160 kW (218 PS; 215 bhp) 229 N⋅m (169 lb⋅ft) 1625 9.8 seconds 215 km/h (134 mph) 27,014
09/1981 – 08/1985 150 kW (204 PS; 201 bhp) 315 N⋅m (232 lb⋅ft) 9.6 seconds 205 km/h (127 mph)
380SEC W126.043 09/1981 – 08/1985 150 kW (204 PS; 201 bhp) 315 N⋅m (232 lb⋅ft) 1585 9.6 seconds 210 km/h (130 mph) 11,267
500SE W126.036 09/1979 – 08/1981 (M117.963) V8 4973 cc Fuel Injection 177 kW (241 PS; 237 bhp) 402 N⋅m (296 lb⋅ft) 1620 8.1 seconds 210 km/h (130 mph) 18.5 L/100 km (12.7 mpg‑US) 33,418 (1979 – 1991)
09/1981 – 08/1985 170 kW (231 PS; 228 bhp) 405 N⋅m (299 lb⋅ft) 8.0 seconds 210 km/h (130 mph)
500SEL W126.037 09/1979 – 08/1981 177 kW (241 PS; 237 bhp) 402 N⋅m (296 lb⋅ft) 1650 8.1 seconds 215 km/h (134 mph) 72,733 (1979 – 1991)
09/1981 – 08/1985 170 kW (231 PS; 228 bhp) 405 N⋅m (299 lb⋅ft) 8.0 seconds 205 km/h (127 mph)
500SEC W126.044 09/1981 – 08/1985 170 kW (231 PS; 228 bhp) 405 N⋅m (299 lb⋅ft) 1610 8.0 seconds 210 km/h (130 mph) 30,184 (1981 - 1991)
Diesel Engines (US, Canada, and Japan Only)
300SD W126.120 09/1979 – 10/1982 (OM 617.951) Inline 5 2998 cc Turbocharged
Fuel Injection
89 kW (121 PS; 119 bhp) 250 N⋅m (184 lb⋅ft) 1620 15.2 seconds 175 km/h (109 mph) 12.4 L/100 km (19.0 mpg‑US) 78,725
10/1982 – 08/1985 92 kW (125 PS; 123 bhp) 250 N⋅m (184 lb⋅ft)
Second Series, 1986-1991
Model Chassis Years Configuration Displacement Fuel Delivery Power Torque Curb Weight (kg) 0–100 km/h (0-62 mph) Top Speed (km/h) Fuel Consumption Units
Petrol Engines (Second Series, 1986 – 1991)
260SE W126.020 09/1985 – 02/1989 (M 103.940) Inline 6 2599 cc Fuel Injection 124 kW (169 PS; 166 bhp) RÜF 228 N⋅m (168 lb⋅ft) RÜF 1570 10.5 seconds 205 km/h (127 mph) 10.3–10.7 L/100 km (23–22 mpg‑US) 20,836
09/1985 – 10/1991 118 kW (160 PS; 158 bhp) CAT 220 N⋅m (162 lb⋅ft) CAT 11 seconds 200 km/h (124 mph)
300SE W126.024 09/1985 – 02/1989 (M 103.980) Inline 6 2960 cc Fuel Injection 140 kW (190 PS; 188 bhp) RÜF 260 N⋅m (192 lb⋅ft) RÜF 1570 9.1 seconds 205 km/h (127 mph) 105,422
09/1985 – 10/1991 132 kW (179 PS; 177 bhp) CAT 255 N⋅m (188 lb⋅ft) CAT 9.3 seconds 200 km/h (124 mph)
300SEL W126.025 09/1985 – 02/1989 140 kW (190 PS; 188 bhp) RÜF 260 N⋅m (192 lb⋅ft) RÜF 1590 9.1 seconds 205 km/h (127 mph) 40,956
09/1985 – 10/1991 132 kW (179 PS; 177 bhp) CAT 255 N⋅m (188 lb⋅ft) CAT 9.3 seconds 200 km/h (124 mph)
420SE W126.034 09/1985 – 05/1987 (M 116.965) V8 4196 cc Fuel Injection 160 kW (218 PS; 215 bhp) RÜF 300 N⋅m (221 lb⋅ft) RÜF 1620 8.3 seconds 218 km/h (135 mph) 11.5–11.9 L/100 km (20.5–19.8 mpg‑US) 13,996
06/1987 – 12/1989 170 kW (231 PS; 228 bhp) RÜF 335 N⋅m (247 lb⋅ft) RÜF 8.2 seconds 220 km/h (137 mph)
09/1985 – 08/1987 150 kW (204 PS; 201 bhp) CAT 310 N⋅m (229 lb⋅ft) CAT 8.7 seconds 218 km/h (135 mph)
09/1987 – 10/1991 165 kW (224 PS; 221 bhp) CAT 325 N⋅m (240 lb⋅ft) CAT 8.5 seconds 220 km/h (137 mph)
420SEL W126.035 09/1985 – 05/1987 160 kW (218 PS; 215 bhp) RÜF 300 N⋅m (221 lb⋅ft) RÜF 1650 8.3 seconds 218 km/h (135 mph) 74,017
06/1987 – 12/1989 170 kW (231 PS; 228 bhp) RÜF 335 N⋅m (247 lb⋅ft) RÜF 8.2 seconds 220 km/h (137 mph)
09/1985 – 08/1987 150 kW (204 PS; 201 bhp) CAT 310 N⋅m (229 lb⋅ft) CAT 8.7 seconds 218 km/h (135 mph)
09/1987 – 10/1991 165 kW (224 PS; 221 bhp) CAT 325 N⋅m (240 lb⋅ft) CAT 8.5 seconds 220 km/h (137 mph)
420SEC W126.046 09/1985 – 05/1987 160 kW (218 PS; 215 bhp) RÜF 300 N⋅m (221 lb⋅ft) RÜF 1640 8.3 seconds 218 km/h (135 mph) 3,680
06/1987 – 12/1989 170 kW (231 PS; 228 bhp) RÜF 335 N⋅m (247 lb⋅ft) RÜF 8.2 seconds 220 km/h (137 mph)
09/1985 – 08/1987 150 kW (204 PS; 201 bhp) CAT 310 N⋅m (229 lb⋅ft) CAT 8.7 seconds 218 km/h (135 mph)
09/1987 – 10/1991 165 kW (224 PS; 221 bhp) CAT 325 N⋅m (240 lb⋅ft) CAT 8.5 seconds 220 km/h (137 mph)
500SE W126.036 09/1985 – 05/1987 (M 117.965) V8 4973 cc Fuel Injection 180 kW (245 PS; 241 bhp) RÜF 400 N⋅m (295 lb⋅ft) RÜF 1620 7.6 seconds 230 km/h (143 mph) 12.0–12.5 L/100 km (19.6–18.8 mpg‑US) 33,418
(1979 – 1991)
06/1987 – 12/1989 195 kW (265 PS; 261 bhp) RÜF 405 N⋅m (299 lb⋅ft) RÜF 7.3 seconds 235 km/h (146 mph)
09/1985 – 08/1987 164 kW (223 PS; 220 bhp) CAT 365 N⋅m (269 lb⋅ft) CAT 8.0 seconds 220 km/h (137 mph)
09/1987 – 10/1991 185 kW (252 PS; 248 bhp) CAT 390 N⋅m (288 lb⋅ft) CAT 7.5 seconds 230 km/h (143 mph)
500SEL W126.037 09/1985 – 05/1987 180 kW (245 PS; 241 bhp) RÜF 400 N⋅m (295 lb⋅ft) RÜF 1650 7.6 seconds 230 km/h (143 mph) 72,733
(1980 – 1991)
06/1987 – 12/1989 195 kW (265 PS; 261 bhp) RÜF 405 N⋅m (299 lb⋅ft) RÜF 7.3 seconds 235 km/h (146 mph)
09/1985 – 08/1987 164 kW (223 PS; 220 bhp) CAT 365 N⋅m (269 lb⋅ft) CAT 8.0 seconds 220 km/h (137 mph)
09/1987 – 10/1991 185 kW (252 PS; 248 bhp) CAT 390 N⋅m (288 lb⋅ft) CAT 7.5 seconds 230 km/h (143 mph)
500SEC W126.044 09/1985 – 05/1987 180 kW (245 PS; 241 bhp) RÜF 400 N⋅m (295 lb⋅ft) RÜF 1640 7.6 seconds 230 km/h (143 mph) 30,184
(1980 – 1991)
06/1987 – 12/1989 195 kW (265 PS; 261 bhp) RÜF 405 N⋅m (299 lb⋅ft) RÜF 7.3 seconds 235 km/h (146 mph)
09/1985 – 08/1987 164 kW (223 PS; 220 bhp) CAT 365 N⋅m (269 lb⋅ft) CAT 8.0 seconds 220 km/h (137 mph)
09/1987 – 10/1991 185 kW (252 PS; 248 bhp) CAT 390 N⋅m (288 lb⋅ft) CAT 7.5 seconds 230 km/h (143 mph)
560SE W126.038 09/1988 – 12/1989 (M 117.968) V8 5547 cc Fuel Injection 220 kW (299 PS; 295 bhp) RÜF 455 N⋅m (336 lb⋅ft) RÜF 1800 6.9 seconds 250 km/h (155 mph) 13.6 L/100 km (17.3 mpg‑US) 1,252
09/1988 – 10/1991 205 kW (279 PS; 275 bhp) CAT 430 N⋅m (317 lb⋅ft) CAT 7.2 seconds 242 km/h (150 mph)
560SEL W126.039 09/1985 – 08/1986 220 kW (299 PS; 295 bhp) ECE 455 N⋅m (336 lb⋅ft) ECE 1830 6.9 seconds 250 km/h (155 mph) 75,071
09/1985 – 08/1987 200 kW (272 PS; 268 bhp) RÜF 430 N⋅m (317 lb⋅ft) RÜF 7.3 seconds 235 km/h (146 mph)
06/1987 – 12/1989 220 kW (299 PS; 295 bhp) RÜF 455 N⋅m (336 lb⋅ft) RÜF 6.9 seconds 250 km/h (155 mph)
09/1985 – 08/1987 178 kW (242 PS; 239 bhp) CAT 390 N⋅m (288 lb⋅ft) CAT 7.6 seconds 228 km/h (142 mph)
09/1987 – 10/1991 205 kW (279 PS; 275 bhp) CAT 430 N⋅m (317 lb⋅ft) CAT 7.2 seconds 242 km/h (150 mph)
560SEC W126.045 09/1985 – 08/1986 220 kW (299 PS; 295 bhp) ECE 455 N⋅m (336 lb⋅ft) ECE 1820 6.9 seconds 250 km/h (155 mph) 28,929
09/1985 – 08/1987 200 kW (272 PS; 268 bhp) RÜF 430 N⋅m (317 lb⋅ft) RÜF 7.3 seconds 238 km/h (148 mph)
06/1987 – 12/1989 220 kW (299 PS; 295 bhp) RÜF 455 N⋅m (336 lb⋅ft) RÜF 6.9 seconds 250 km/h (155 mph)
09/1985 – 08/1987 178 kW (242 PS; 239 bhp) CAT 390 N⋅m (288 lb⋅ft) CAT 7.6 seconds 228 km/h (142 mph)
09/1987 – 10/1991 205 kW (279 PS; 275 bhp) CAT 430 N⋅m (317 lb⋅ft) CAT 7.2 seconds 242 km/h (150 mph)
Diesel Engines (US and Canada Only)
300SDL W126.125 02/1985 – 09/1987 (OM 603.961) Inline 6 2996 cc Turbocharged
Fuel Injection
107 kW (145 PS; 143 bhp) 273 N⋅m (201 lb⋅ft) 1750 12.5 seconds 175 km/h (109 mph) 12.4 L/100 km (19.0 mpg‑US) 13,830
350SD W126.134 06/1990 – 08/1991 (OM 603.97x) Inline 6 3449 cc Turbocharged
Fuel Injection
100 kW (136 PS; 134 bhp) 310 N⋅m (229 lb⋅ft) 1770 13.0 seconds 175 km/h (109 mph) 12.4 L/100 km (19.0 mpg‑US) 2,066
350SDL W126.135 1790 2,925

Dimensions and weight[edit]

Body style Wheelbase Length Width Height Curb weight
Sedan (short-wheelbase) 2,935 mm (115.6 in) 4,995–5,020 mm (196.7–197.6 in) 1,820 mm (71.7 in) 1,430–1,437 mm (56.3–56.6 in) 1,600 kg (3,527 lb)
Sedan (long-wheelbase) 3,075 mm (121.1 in) 5,135–5,160 mm (202.2–203.1 in) 1,820 mm (71.7 in) 1,441 mm (56.7 in) 1,600 kg (3,527 lb)
Coupe 2,850 mm (112.2 in) 4,910–4,935 mm (193.3–194.3 in) 1,828 mm (72.0 in) 1,406 mm (55.4 in) 1,610 kg (3,549 lb)




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  • Alder, Trevor (1996). Mercedes-Benz S-Class Saloons, 1972–91: Road Tests & Articles. Transport Source Books. ASIN B005U5LANQ.
  • Barrett, Frank (1998). Illustrated Buyer's Guide Mercedes-Benz. Motorbooks International Illustrated Buyer's Guide series (2nd ed.). Osceola, WI, USA: MBI Publishing. ISBN 0-7603-0451-3.
  • Clarke, R.M., ed. (1987). On Mercedes 1980-1987. Road & Track Series. Cobham, Surrey, UK: Brooklands Books. ISBN 1869826434.
  • ——————, ed. (2001). Mercedes S-Class Limited Edition Extra 1980–91. Road Test Series. Cobham, Surrey, UK: Brooklands Books. ISBN 1855205815.
  • ——————, ed. (2007). Mercedes AMG Gold Portfolio 1983-1999. Road Test Portfolio Series. Cobham, Surrey, UK: Brooklands Books. ISBN 978-1-85520-745-5.
  • Engelen, Günter (2002). Mercedes-Benz Personenwagen [Mercedes-Benz Passenger Cars] (in German). Vol. Band 3: Seit 1986 [Volume 3: Since 1986]. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3613021692.
  • Greene, Nik (2019). Mercedes-Benz W126 S-Class 1979-1991. Ramsbury, Marlborough, UK: The Crowood Press. ISBN 9781785005411.
  • Häußermann, Martin (2006). Mercedes-Benz S-Class: The brochures since 1952. Archive edition of the DaimlerChrysler Group Archive. Bielefeld, Germany: Delius Klasing. ISBN 3-7688-1720-2.
  • Häußermann, Martin (2006). Mercedes-Benz – The Large Coupés: The brochures since 1951. Archive edition of the DaimlerChrysler Group Archive. Bielefeld, Germany: Delius Klasing. ISBN 3-7688-1833-0.
  • Hofner, Heribert (1997). Die S-Klasse von Mercedes-Benz: von der Kultur des Fahrens [The S-Class from Mercedes-Benz: from the culture of driving] (in German). Augsburg: Bechtermünz Verlag. ISBN 3860475894.
  • ———————; Schrader, Halwart (2005). Mercedes-Benz Automobile [Mercedes-Benz Automobiles] (in German). Vol. Band 2: von 1964 bis heute [Volume 2: from 1964 to today]. Königswinter, Germany: Heel Verlag. ISBN 3898804194.
  • ———————; Lange, Hans-Peter; Commertz, Stefan (2018). Mercedes-Benz W 126: Die S-Klasse - das beste Auto der Welt [Mercedes-Benz W 126: The S-Class - the best car in the world] (in German). Königswinter, Germany: Heel Verlag. ISBN 9783958435575.
  • Howard, Geoffrey (1984). Mercedes Benz S-Class and the 190 16E. High Performance Series. London: Cadogan Publications. ISBN 0947754083.
  • Kittler, Eberhard (2002). Mercedes-Benz. Typenkompass series (in German). Vol. Band 2. Personenwagen seit 1976 [Volume 2. Passenger Cars since 1976]. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3-613-02209-5.
  • Lange, Matthias (2012). Die 126er Codes – jetzt entschlüsselt: Die S-Klasse von 1979 bis 1991 [The 126er Codes – now uncrypted: The S-Class from 1979 to 1991] (in German). Bonn: Mercedes-Benz Interessengemeinschaft. ISBN 9783981509007.
  • Larimer, Fred (2004). Mercedes-Benz Buyer's Guide: Roadsters, Coupes, and Convertibles. St. Paul, MN, USA: MBI Publishing. ISBN 0760318115.
  • Meredith, Laurence (2003). Mercedes-Benz Saloons: The Classic Models of the 1960s and 1970s. Crowood AutoClassic Series. Ramsbury, Marlborough, UK: The Crowood Press. ISBN 1861265182.
  • Niemann, Harry (2006). Personenwagen von Mercedes-Benz: Automobillegenden und Geschichten seit 1886 [Passenger Cars from Mercedes-Benz: Automobile Legends and Stories since 1886] (in German). Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3613025965.
  • Oswald, Werner [in German] (2001). Deutsche Autos [German Cars] (in German). Vol. Band [Volume] 4: 1945–1990 Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche und andere [and others]. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3613021315.
  • ——————— (2001). Mercedes-Benz Personenwagen [Mercedes-Benz Passenger Cars] (in German). Vol. Band 2: 1945–1985 [Volume 2: 1945–1985]. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3613021684.
  • Pitt, Colin, ed. (2002). Mercedes-Benz W126 W140 W220. Hockley, Essex, UK: Unique Motor Books. ISBN 1841555150.
  • Röcke, Matthias (1991). Das große Mercedes-S-Klasse-Buch: alle Modellreihen von W 108 bis W 140 (1965 bis heute) [The Big Mercedes S-Class Book: all model codes from W 108 to W 140 (1965 to today)] (in German). Königswinter, Germany: Heel Verlag. ISBN 3-89365-234-5.
  • Röcke, Matthias (2003). Das neue große Mercedes-S-Klasse-Buch [The New Big Mercedes S-Class Book] (in German). Königswinter, Germany: Heel Verlag. ISBN 3-89880-158-6.
  • Schlegelmilch, Rainer W. [in German]; Lehbrink, Hartmut; von Osterroth, Jochen (2013). Mercedes (revised ed.). Königswinter, Germany: Ullmann Publishing. ISBN 978-3-8480-0267-2.
  • Staud, René (photographs); Lewandowski, Jürgen (text) (2016). Mercedes-Benz: The Grand Cabrios & Coupes. Kempen, Germany: teNeues. ISBN 9783832732936.
  • Storz, Alexander Franc (2013). Mercedes-Benz S-Klasse: Baureihe W 126 1979–1991. Schrader-Typen-Chronik series (in German). Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 9783613035812.
  • Taylor, James (1994). Mercedes-Benz since 1945: A Collector's Guide. Vol. 4: The 1980s. Croydon, UK: Motor Racing Publications. pp. 8–40, 109, 112. ISBN 0-947981-77-2.
  • Taylor, James (2009). Mercedes-Benz: Cars of the 1990s. Crowood AutoClassic Series. Ramsbury, Marlborough, UK: The Crowood Press. pp. 9–16, 32–35. ISBN 978-1-84797-096-1.
  • Taylor, James (2014). Mercedes-Benz S-Class 1972-2013. Ramsbury, Marlborough, UK: The Crowood Press. ISBN 978-1-84797-595-9.
  • Vieweg, Christof (2000). Alles über die Mercedes-Benz-S-Klasse [Everything about the Mercedes-Benz S-Class]. Technik transparent series. Stuttgart: DaimlerChrysler. ISBN 3932786041.
  • Zoporowski, Tobias; Parish, Julian (2019). Mercedes-Benz S-Class: W126-series 1979 to 1991. Essential Buyer's Guide Veloce series. Dorchester, Dorset, UK: Veloce Publishing. ISBN 9781787114029.

Workshop manuals[edit]

  • Greene, Nik (2018). Buying and Maintaining a 126 S-Class Mercedes. Ramsbury, Marlborough, UK: The Crowood Press. ISBN 9781785002441.
  • Mellon, Thomas A, ed. (2001). Mercedes: Coupes/Sedans/Wagons, 1974-84 Repair Manual. Chilton Total Car Care Series. Radnor, PA, USA: Chilton; Sparkford, UK: Haynes Publishing. ISBN 0-8019-9076-9.
  • Mercedes S-Klasse 280 S / 280 SE / 380 S / 500 SE. Reparaturanleitung series, Band 662. (in German). Zug, Switzerland: Verlag Bucheli. 2002. ISBN 9783716815854.
  • Mercedes S-Klasse Serie W126 ab September 79. Reparaturanleitung series, Band 929/930. (in German). Zug, Switzerland: Verlag Bucheli. 2012. ISBN 9783716817582.
  • Mercedes-Benz Technical Companion. Cambridge, MA, USA: Bentley Publishers. 2005. ISBN 978-0-8376-1033-7.

External links[edit]