The W140 series.
UPDATE January 2019: more pictures! More text!
WARNING ! LOTS OF BEAUTIFUL PICTURE OF CARS.
If there is a topic that I master from A-to-Z, and there isn't a lot after all, it is about the Mercedes-Benz W140 series (S-Class 1991-1998). I know a thing or two about them. Ask Samuel.
These cars are the greatest car ever made.
Yes, greater than the Lexus LS460 AWD and the Mercedes-Benz W221 S550 4matic. Not even close.
I know, cause I drove all of them – owned the four W140s and the one Lexus.
Nothing but the best.
The Mercedes-Benz W140 Series.
Where to even begin ? We are talking about the greatest car ever made – and by a wide margin. Everything is perfect.
Every. Thing. The sound system is the greatest. The sound proofing is the greatest. The engine...oh my...The M119 is out of the world, the M120 is the same engine used by Pagani engineer to power their C12 car (yes, I got the V12 6.0L AMG version with 434hp and 454 ft-lbs). The brakes ! The physical Brake Assist Plus! They made it physical in the W140, not electronically, like the W220 and the onward version.
Everything about this car is over engineered. The way the wipers extend to reach the corner of the double-pane windshield. Yes, all windows are double-glazed. No fog. Unlike the laminated windows of the lesser LS460 and W221 $250 000 S65 AMG version. How the headlights will adjust their aim if the car point upward will make you smile.
This is the only car to my very extensive automobile knowledge that can provide hot air to your feet and air con to your upper body. That's right. +30 to your feet, + 14 to your face.
There is so much to tell! Yet, nothing come close to describe the purity of these cars.
You have to drive it.
It will change the way you see the whole automobile industry. Peak auto was the W140 in 1992.
The W140 comes with a few options of engine.
- 2.8L 6I
- 3.0L 6I Diesel
- 3.2L 6I
- 4.2L V8 M119
- 5.0L V8 M119
- 6.0L V12 M120
- 6.0L V12 M120 AMG
-7.0L V12 M120 AMG (S70)
- 7.3L V12 M120 (S73)
I owned the 3.2L, 4.0L, 5.0L and 6.0L of this car. They are all excellent, all very smooth. I could write an article just on the M119. The development story is fascinating. It is a racing engine fitted in a street legal car. And what to say about the 6.0L ! The V12 is a true beast waiting to be unleashed. It truly awakes around 3000 rpm and never stop pulling until it reaches the red lane at 6200 rpm. And by that I mean it will pull you right back to your nappa covered seat in a symphony that only AMG engineer knows to create. Yeah, it is that good. It is well worth $100+ tank fill up.
The S600 AMG 1994 was worth $250 000USD in 1994 (that's $550 000CAD in today's dollar). I parked it next to a S63 AMG W222 2015 at Mercedes-Benz Edmonton a few years back, and believe it or not, the 1994 W140 was way, way better looking than it's $180 000 sibling. The W140 has a presence that no other car ever made has. On par maybe with the Rolls-Royce Phantom. The S63 W222 looked like a cheap Hyundai. And believe me, I am a bit of a Mercedes-Benz fanboy and I thought I wanted a W222. That is until I parked the W140 next to it. It's not even funny how the W140 obliterate the W222 by having such a better presence and badass character.
The V12 in the S600 AMG has 434hp and 454 lbs-ft available from 2500 to 5500rpm. It is fantastic. No turbo lag. Instant trust. It never stop pulling. Ever. Fighter Jet feeling. And coupled to a 4-speed automatic, this car rarely shift. Shifting is a hobby for lesser car, you know.
To put this in context, it will usually start in 2nd gear, and if you keep a steady pressure on the throttle, will shift only at 135km/h and then again at 210 km/h. You can go from 0 to 135 km/h without ever shifting gear. Even better, the 0-210km/h is a matter of one gear shift. The Lexus is a matter of five speed change.
It is just a thing that brings me a smile and that make me happy.
Do you know that the W140 is the only car in production that can back up to 120km/h ?
Do you know that the M120 engine was so good that Pagani Zonda engineers decided to work with this engine for 10 years in their million dollar supercar ?
Do you know that the W140 has 50/50 brake distribution ?
Do you know that the BAS of the W140 is a physical module ? It has a separate brake oil tank for emergency situation.
Do you know that the W140 is heavier than a four-door jeep wrangler or a Ford F150 SuperCab ?
Do you know that the W140 is the safest car on the road ?
Do you know that Mercedes-Benz gives to American firefighters a guide to where to cut the frame in case they need to use the life jaw ?
Do you know that there are marks on the chassis to where to cut with life jaw in case you're trapped in (in case the firefighters haven't read the guide) ? No other car has that.
You know you're driving a W140 when you can do 1000kms on a tank with 4 passengers at 140km/h on cruise control.
You know you're driving a W140 when you get more look than any other cars.
You know you're driving a W140 when you have to slow down to pass other car...
You know you're driving a W140 when it cost you $120 to fill a tank.
You know you're driving a W140 when other cars get back in the right lane when they see you approaching in their mirror.
You know you're driving a W140 when you go for a drive just because you want to listen to a new CD album.
You know you own a W140 when you want to sleep in it.
You know you own a W140 when an oil change cost $100.
Oh and so much more.
The handling of the W140 series is what makes them unique. The seats are so comfortable you will go inside to read a book, while listen to some Jazz through the W140's 13 Bose speakers.
Speaking of sound system, yes, the sound system of the W140, the 1992 one, sounds better than the Mark Levinson 19-speakers of the Lexus or the 14-speakers Harman Kardon of the W221 S550. The 13 Bose speakers is phenomenal. I have about 4000 hours worth of listening in the W140 series and 2000 hours in the Mark Levinson. Mark Levinson is great, the Bose is better. And the Harman Kardon is a sad story.
Everything is better about the W140 than the newest Benz – W220, W221, W222. The leather quality is best, smoother, more generous in thickness. The transmission is always in the right gear (I'm looking at you, Lexus with your 8-speed automatic). The fuel economy is perfect, 30 mpg on highway and 20 in town (okay, I get 8 mpg with the S600 but that is because I have a very heavy foot...).
The tank is huge – 100 litres. Yeah, doing 800 kms with the S500 is normal and above 1000kms with the S320 is a daily occurrence. 1300 kms is possible. Every component in the cockpit is well thought, well accessed. Everything is exactly where it should be.
The best feature about the W140, and believe me it is very hard to find one thing not the greatest, is the independent suspension. Unreal. So smooth. Sometimes you wonder if it touches the ground. I know a thing or two, for having traveled 100 000 kms with these cars everywhere between Quebec and Alaska. The suspension used a 5-link system. Don't ask me how it works. But they totally nailed that down. It would be possible to drive at 200 km/h on some bumpy road that a Jeep would take at 30km/h or a toyota matrix at 25km/h. Just an example per se.
The W140 erases the bumps on the road.
This is the get away message. You get out of the car refreshed, younger. Unlike other cars, the W140 was build for quality, not for a price tag. They went over budget, they went over board, they went crazy in the details. That is at the epoch Mercedes-Benz at for motto Nothing but the best. Audi A8 and the BMW 7-series were far behind in term of technology and quality. The W140 had only the Rolls-Royce and Bentley of this world to compete with.
And it is what is is.
These cars can be 25 years old, yet, they act like they are brand new. They are indestructible. They have a soul.
A W140 is W140 is a W140. You won't be able to find a better car on the planet.
Or one with more soul.