Premium large car; Built in Germany
  • 2-door coupe
  • 4-door sedan
  • 4-door sedan
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $2,300 – $9,500*


1994 Mercedes-Benz S-Class


1993 Mercedes-Benz 600 SEC


1995 Mercedes-Benz S-Class interior


1997 Mercedes-Benz S500 coupe


1994 Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Pros:
  • Acceleration (except S320)
  • Side airbags (late models)
  • Passenger and cargo room
  • Ride
  • Steering/handling
Cons:
  • Fuel economy
  • Price

Impressive and big, these top-line sedans were built with evident “cost-no-object” attitude. Monumentally solid body structures make them something special. These are also some of the costliest cars around, secondhand as well as when they were new. So, it’s just as well that they have tank-solid structures and superb detail finish. This is, after all, what you expect for such lofty prices. S-Class sedans are among the world’s finest automobiles, though plenty of alternatives cost thousands less yet don’t lack for luxury and performance. More than most cars, if you’re concerned about price, you can’t afford one of these Mercedes-Benzes. Simply put, this particular blend of Mercedes-Benz prestige and polish is awfully hard to match.

Overview

Mercedes-Benz’s top series switched from its decade-old platform to a new design for 1992: still rear-wheel drive but longer in wheelbase, slightly taller, and a lot heavier. Sedans came in two basic sizes: SE with a 119.7-inch wheelbase, and SEL measuring 123.7 inches. A new 228-horsepower, 3.2-liter 6-cylinder engine went into the 300SE; the 400SE got a 282-horsepower, 4.2-liter V8; the 500SEL carried a 322-horsepower, 5.0-liter V8; and the new 600SEL held a 402-horsepower, 6.0-liter V12. All engines were dual-overhead-cam design with four valves per cylinder. A 4-speed automatic transmission was used, except for the 300SE, which got a new 5-speed automatic. Also available: a 300SD with a 3.5-liter turbodiesel engine. Speed-sensitive power steering was installed. Double-pane side windows had one-touch up/down power. Standard on the SEL models (optional on SE) were such items as traction control, an activated-charcoal ventilation system, power rear seat, heated front seats, and rear self leveling. An automatic-adjusting suspension went into the 600SEL, along with separate rear air conditioning, an electric rear-window sunshade, CD changer, and cellular phone. Rivals included the BMW 7-Series, Jaguar XJ sedan, and Lexus LS 400.

Yearly Updates

1993 S-Class
A coupe joined the original sedans, riding a shorter platform with a 115.9-inch wheelbase. The 400SE turned into the 400SEL, moving to the longer span. Horsepower ratings dropped slightly.
1994 S-Class
This year’s models were renamed, clearly reflecting engine size. S320 and S350D sedans rode a 119.7-inch wheelbase; S420, S500, and S600 sedans a 123.6-inch span. Coupes, on the shortest (115.9-inch) wheelbase came in S500 and S600 form. Fuel economy improved a bit this year.
1995 S-Class
Fresh styling went on this season’s coupes and sedans. Changes included new front and rear bumpers and lights, the grille, trunklid, and lower body panels. An Electronic Traction System was standard on the S320 and S350. The S320 grew in size, to the 123.6-inch wheelbase.
1996 S-Class
A new Electronic Stability Program became standard on V12 models, optional on V8s. The system applied brakes to individual wheels as needed, to help maintain traction. A new 5-speed automatic transmission went into V8 and V12 models. The S350 turbodiesel was dropped, leaving only gasoline engines in S-Class automobiles.
1997 S-Class
Door-mounted side airbags went into the ’97 models. The S320 got the same 5-speed automatic transmission introduced a year earlier in the V8/V12 vehicles. A new occupant detection sensor could deactivate the front passenger airbag. New xenon headlamps were standard on the S500 and S600, optional on others. A new Parktronic parking-assistance system was standard on coupes and optional on sedans.
1998 S-Class
As before, 6-cylinder S320 models came in regular- or longer-wheelbase form. The V8 S420 and S500 used the longer chassis, as did the S600 with its V12 engine. All models had Mercedes’ “Brake Assist” system, which automatically applied full braking force in panic stops, responding to rapid brake-pedal movement. The standard “BabySmart” feature automatically deactivated front and side airbags when a special child seat was installed. Mercedes’ Electronic Stability Program was standard in the S600, and optional elsewhere. S500 and S600 coupes were rebadged as CL500 and CL600, to avoid confusion with S500 and S600 sedans.
1999 S-Class
For its final outing in this form, nothing changed for Mercedes’ largest and most-costly series. A smaller and lighter S-Class was expected as an early 2000 model. To help mark the finale, Mercedes offered 600 copies of a Grand Edition S500 with special Obsidian black paint, black-and-parchment interior, and low-profile tires on 18-inch wheels.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive

Throughout most of its long run, model numbers reflected engine size. Four gasoline engines were used through the years: an inline 6-cylinder, V8s in two sizes, and a 6.0-liter V12. Until 1996, a turbodiesel inline six also was available. Early models had 4-speed automatic transmissions, but the S320 was first to get a 5-speed unit.

dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.2/195
Engine HP 228
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 229-232
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

17/23

18.2

dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.2/256
Engine HP 275-282
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 295-302
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic
5-speed automatic
15/20
15/22
16.3
dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.0/303
Engine HP 315-322
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 345-354
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic
5-speed automatic
15/19
15/21
15.2

dohc V12
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 6.0/365
Engine HP 389-402
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 420-428
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic
5-speed automatic
13/16
13/19

Road Test

Acceleration runs from tepid on S320s to forceful on 600s, which do 0-60 mph in a claimed 6.3 seconds. An early 400SE reached 60 mph in an also-swift 7.7 seconds.

Fuel economy also varies greatly, but it’s not good in any case. The S320s have too little power for their weight, while other models simply have big, thirsty engines.

Make no mistake: these are some of the largest, heaviest cars around.

Yet, handling is surprisingly agile, all things considered, with steering, stopping, and cornering poise that inspire confidence. In fact, handling and roadholding would do justice to sports sedans half their weight. Suspensions stay in touch with the road via a smooth ride that, while almost floaty over sharp dips, maintains composure through just about any pavement conditions. Brakes, steering, driving position, instruments, visibility–all inspire confidence, making for satisfying long-distance operation.

Helped by double-pane side windows, these are also some of the quietest cars around. S-Class sedans boast limousinelike passenger and cargo space, in keeping with their expansive exterior size–even more so with the extended-wheelbase. Sedan access is worthy of members of the diplomatic corps.

All these cars comfortably accommodate any size driver, before a typical Mercedes dashboard, with convenient if not always self-evident controls. Visibility is uniformly good.

Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 Mercedes-Benz S420

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 7
70%
Fuel Economy - 3
30%
Ride Quality - 9
90%
Steering/Handling - 6
60%
Quietness - 8
80%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 7
70%
Room/Comfort Front - 8
80%
Room/Comfort Rear - 6
60%
Cargo Room - 4
40%

Other

Value - 5
50%

Total: 63

Specifications

2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
115.9 199.4 75.3 56.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.2 26.4 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
36.5 37.2 41.7 31.5
4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
119.7 201.3 74.3 58.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
15.6 26.4 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.0 37.8 41.3 36.1
4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
123.6 205.2 74.3 58.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
15.6 26.4 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.0 38.5 41.3 39.6
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 S-Class LWB 4-door sedan

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Front Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 149
Injury 55
Theft 1001

Trouble Spots

Dashboard lights
Description: The check-engine light glows because of a problem with the EGR valve on cars with the 2.8-liter and 3.2-liter engines.
Dashboard lights
Description: The Parktronic system may display and sound an alert despite the vehicle not moving due to vibrations picked up by the sensors. Installing dampers will correct the problem. (1997-2002)
Steering problems
Description: Steering-wheel vibrations are corrected by installing hydraulic bushings in the rear lower control arms. (1992)
Electrical problem
Description: The engine will not crank (starter will not run) if the cigarette-lighter fuse blows. (1994-95)

Recall History

1996
Description: Drive-belt pulley on some cars can break.
1997
Description: Corrosion of electrical-ignition filament of gas-generator module can occur if vehicle is operated in areas of high humidity; can result in driver’s airbag deploying unintentionally.
1999
Description: Window airbag may not fully deploy in side-impact collision.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.