Mercedes-Benz S-Class (1991 – 1999) Review

Mercedes-Benz S-Class (1991 – 1999) At A Glance


+Magnificently refined, luxurious and roomy, handles well for such a large car and cruises in hushed comfort, very well built.

-Feels very bulky on urban streets, heavy tyre wear.

Te Mercedes-Benz S-Class may have reached its technical peak in 1991 with the W140 generation. Here we had a car that introduced several new innovations when launched, such as double-glazed side glass and self-closing doors. Of course, the technology went further than that, with the boffins at Mercedes-Benz (and more correctly, Bosch) also coming up with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution - a system that distributed more braking power to the rear wheels, increasing stopping effectiveness. In addition, the S-Class also pioneered Brake Assist, which engaged during emergency maneuvers to boost braking power to maximum, and Electronic Stability Program (ESP). This really was the car of the future.

But it wasn't without faults. Following on from the extremely handsome W126 was always going to be difficult, and Mercedes-Benz did itself no favours by trying to hard to make the W140 impressive, with little effort made into making it attractive. So, it was slabby. It was also big - considerably bigger than the W126, and all of its rivals. But none of that dented its effectiveness at covering continents. And with the new option of a V12 engine in the 600SEL, Mercedes-Benz was offering arguably the best car in the world. Today, it's still possible to buy these for very reasonable money - just remember that running costs will still be astronomical if you need to do any repairs on it. Pick of the range is the 500SEL.

Ask Honest John

When did rust become a problem with 1990s Mercedes-Benz S-Class models?

"I'm looking for a 1991-1999 W140 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. I've seen two 1997 models, both of which had rust problems around the wheel arches. Can you tell me in which year Mercedes-Benz started producing the S-Class with this problem, and am I safer with slightly earlier examples? I used to own a 1999 E300, and that had terrible rust."
The problems seem to have started in about 2006, but the W140 was assembled in Thailand and in India as well as in Germany. The problem was treatment of the metal and the type of sealants applied. Early W220 S-Class cars can be really shocking, and that and multiple electrical problems are why they go for peanuts these days.
Answered by Honest John
More Questions

What does a Mercedes-Benz S-Class (1991 – 1999) cost?