W116 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Focuses on Driving
First-Gen S-Class was first-rate luxury in the ’70s. Surprisingly, it still has spectacular features by today’s standards.
Few vehicles on the road can compete with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class when it comes to luxury, technology, and grand-touring capability. While the S-Class has come a long way since its humble beginnings, Car and Driver got behind the wheel of a first-gen S-Class from 1979, which is where the amazing pictures are from, and found it to be a luxury car for drivers.
The gorgeous blue-on-blue W116 S-Class that Car and Driver drove was a 350SE model that features various upgrades over the base models. “Looking dapper in understated dark-blue metallic with generous chrome accents and MB’s classic color-matched wheel covers, the 350SE also sported a matching dark-blue interior with houndstooth-check cloth upholstery,” says the outlet.
The blue exterior and interior bring out the classic sedan’s gorgeous lines, while the chrome helps add an extra dose of luxury to the design. And, as Car and Driver points out, the vehicle helped the industry take a step into a different direction. “In many ways, the W116 represented a leap into the modern era, with pull-type exterior door handles, bucket seats bisected by a center console, the familiar gated floor shifter for the automatic transmission, power windows, and — most welcome on a blistering summer day — working factory air conditioning.”
The vehicle may be approximately 40 years old,
but Mercedes’ build quality still shines through.
That may not seem like a lot by today’s standards, but this was the epitome of luxury back in the ’70s. Speaking of luxury, under the S-Class’ hood lies a 3.5-liter V8 engine that, while a little lazy, did a fine job of getting the sedan up to speed. “When stirred, however, the engine could get this stately sedan up and moving,” says Car and Driver.
The W116 S-Class isn’t exactly a sports car, and doesn’t handle like one, either. “Body roll is generous, but even after nearly four decades, the big Benz exudes a hewn-from-metal solidity that many of its contemporaries lacked,” says the outlet. The vehicle may be approximately 40 years old, but Mercedes’ build quality still shines through.
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At the end of the day, Car and Driver found the first-gen S-Class to be more rewarding to drive than today’s variant. “The sensation of driving — or even that of being in a moving vehicle — is so much greater here than it is in today’s car,” says the outlet. “The W116 S-Class was all about making the best-driving luxury car; the new S-Class seeks to be the best possible luxury conveyance for an era in which driving is perceived more as a chore than a joy.”
The new S-Class may be at the top of the food chain when it comes to luxury, but for drivers who still enjoy the act of driving, the first-gen model from the ’70s has a lot more to offer.