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With the latest revised Mercedes Benz S Class W222.2 version on the market for about a year now I feel it is time to dive into this subject matter in greater detail than I revealed in my 2018 S Class Review video. If you guys have not seen the video and want a great insight of this car and as I discuss prior generations go over to my channel and watch it in it’s entirety.
Mercedes Benz is and always will be a luxury automobile manufacture. Their roots are historic from the very beginning with their core DNA built upon quality and luxury. Today Mercedes Benz is the largest and most successful luxury automaker in existence. Other luxury brands have made every attempt to take the #1 position in the ultra luxury sedan segment such as Lexus, Cadillac, Audi and BMW. You see each of these other respective brands are outstanding options in this segment of vehicle but each one of these brands philosophy is so different in regards to what they feel their brand identity and loyal customer base truly desires in their product over the competition.
What these other automakers have failed generation after generation is that they are competing with a throne that is so cemented in our modern society as the very best. History reveals that no matter what tricks and frills they may come up with it continues to fail in capturing and taking away the share of that segment from Mercedes Benz.
As the owner of many luxury niche brands over the years the most challenging part is establishing yourself and keeping yourself at that top position to retain market share. This takes enormous marketing efforts, engineering and identity year after year and for most organizations this may not be possible to achieve in a lifetime. Brands such as Ferrari, Porsche and Mercedes Benz all seem to have accomplished that in spades throughout the progression of automobiles as we know it. Something to also consider is how long each of these brands have been doing what they are doing best, provenance is difficult to beat!
With all things considered what is it that makes the Mercedes Benz S Class the pinnacle luxury sedan for all of these generations? Why is the S Class so stately? Why is the S Class recognized in every country and culture around the world as the best and what is the secret formula for this success? I will touch upon a brief interpretation from my perspective of what and how this is accomplished.
Working hands on for 30 years on cars has exposed me to every automaker you can imagine. I have taken every brands cars apart, modified, restored and personalized for clients through these years. As a young teenager my friends and I would always cringe when it came to working on a Mercedes or BMW at that time of the late 1980s and 90s. Why? Because they were the most complex cars to take apart safely. No matter how hard we studied these cars they always posed a serious challenge to work on, always hidden hardware, clips and the more you would tug the greater chances something expensive was about to break. I remember the first time I removed the walnut dash insert from a 1988 S560 and placed it on my workbench to study how they laminated the veneer to a stamped piece of aluminum for stability. As I got older this started to make more sense at the level of attention to detail Mercedes Benz and the other German brands were implementing into their cars. This also marked a very special time for the over engineered and overbuilt nature of this era of German automobiles.
Fast forward to many generations of the S Class and the one that truly made it’s mark as the best I have ever seen was the W140 chassis which was introduced in late 1991 in the USA. This car was built with the notion of the very best with cost being no object. Applying this approach truly becomes a marvel in manufacturing and focus of being the best no matter what it would cost the company to get there. The S Class symbolizes the very best of the Mercedes Benz brand so why settle for less. The W140 explored some amazing innovative technology for the first time in a luxury brand, the use of double panned windows spanned the entire cabin, soft close doors and trunk, remote folding side mirrors, rear pop down vanity mirrors and lights for the rear passengers, rear back up stainless rods would pop up on the rear quarter panels (very first rear parking aid). The girth of the W140 was like a WW2 Sherman tank in it’s vault like quality that would be the benchmark for years to come.
Here is a W140 1992 S600, this car was a powerhouse for tuners using this V12 engine from Brabus, Renntech and Lorinser.
The throne was and always has been cemented in our society since the 1970s that the S Class was the best luxury sedan you can own, we will not include bespoke brands such as Rolls Royce or Bentley because they produce such low numbers in cars and were nowhere near the level of build quality and engineering of a Mercedes Benz product. I worked on all of these cars and the differences are staggering when you physically touch cars day by day to see the inner workings and assembly practices implemented in their designs.
If we take a stroll down memory lane of marketing, all we had were TV, Radio and Print. For fun I encourage you to search some vintage Mercedes Benz sales and commercials online to watch how confident Mercedes Benz officials were in how they trained dealers sales staff and marketed their product as the best in a very discrete manner with no phony sales pitch.
The W126 and W140 chassis have always been my favorites because they were so well built. As I have grown into a career with automotive manufacturing and materials I appreciated everything that went into these cars from the stamped and polished stainless trim to the thick gauge metal that formed the outer body shells. It was an era that was to be forgotten in car manufacturing for quite some time up until the new W222 S Class.
Mercedes was so successful during these generations but in the late 1990s things started to really change. The introduction of the Lexus luxury brand was their first real competition that tried it’s very best to take buyers away from the 3 pointed star and into the new identity of Toyota’s luxury brand. Mercedes Benz ” the best or nothing” BMW “the ultimate driving machine” Lexus ” pursuit for perfection. It may not have been immediate that Lexus was directly aiming it’s efforts at Mercedes with the introduction of many more competing models in their range but what Lexus offered was an incredible car, world class luxury, lower maintenance costs and a much lower price of entry. The Lexus ownership also was besting the ownership of Mercedes Benz because their cars simply never broke down. Did this really offer more added value to switch from the iconic Star over to the big bodied rebadged Toyota?
Stop right now and absorb what I am trying to depict here because I witnessed this all firsthand. Fast forward to around the late 1999 period and that’s when the start of a merger with Chrysler and Mercedes Benz was on the table. This was and still remains one of the worst decisions made in automotive history for the top tier luxury automaker Mercedes Benz. The domestic car world was greatly suffering, the US just did not build good cars in the 80s, 90’s and early 2000 era. these are facts. They lacked quality, innovation and value and the majority of these brands suffered so badly that the introduction of such creations as Lee Iaccocas Minivan was the only thing that seemed to resonate with US buyers. The minivan was an iconic piece of automotive history that later evolved into the SUV as we know it today. Since the domestic cars were so terrible, import cars were becoming the staple among US consumers and this was the perfect time for Lexus to enter the US marketplace.
The formula of success for Lexus was now starting to greatly impact the Mercedes Benz brand and US consumers were catching on at alarming rates. As Mercedes phased out the W140 chassis and went into the W220 chassis they were trying to offer more technology and bells and whistles to attract consumers from the Lexus brand. The problem is they were starting to integrate parts suppliers from the Daimler Chrysler merger along with severe cost cutting into their most important car, the S Class. This proved catastrophic because the quality level of all Mercedes Benz products declined at a very rapid rate. Consumers were tired of their cars breaking down and the high repair costs. Now the Lexus LS was truly a contender to take over all of those Mercedes Benz owners who had buyers remorse. This was a moment in automotive history as I remember it like yesterday that for the first time in history the Mercedes S Class was losing it’s spot in this segment. BMW, Audi and Cadillac were also progressing at steady rates and also offering great cars and alternatives and it took over 10 years for Mercedes to fight, focus and restructure their brand to get back on top of the luxury sedan segment.
The W220 S Class in my opinion was the worst S Class they ever produced, it just drove terrible, lacked quality and did not prove a good value for the consumer willing to spend this type of money. Mercedes will always have their loyal buyers no matter what cars they produce and how poor they perform because a brand loyalist will be there every step of the way for support. This is how the S Class has remained so successful through this turbulent time during the W220 era.
With the introduction of the W221 in 2005 things were finally starting to come together and the S Class as I always loved and knew was starting a strong come back. With automakers such as Jaguar and Cadillac racing to tap into this ultra luxury segment and Audi and BMW right behind this was a highly competitive time for luxury brands. When there is fierce competition it creates better products from all market entrants and it was starting to show. The race among automakers was getting closer and closer and Mercedes saw this progression and decided that no matter what they were going back to their old formula of the S Class, build the very best car regardless of price without a sacrifice for quality and win the world over at a level never seen before. This was like taking the roots of the W140 era and combining it with the technological advancements we have today and the new W222 S Class was born which debuted as a 2015 model in late 2014. Lexus was clearly out of touch and nowhere near competing at the laurels it once was in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. but they have grown and generated their own loyal client base and market share respectively. This steady race for the top spot in this segment continued but not for much longer because when the executive decision to revise and create the W222.2 was introduced it would be this new launch that would change the game as we know it and place Mercedes Benz so far ahead that they can now stand proud of all the hard work and efforts it took to get there today.
The introduction of the W222 was in 2015 just a few years ago, and like all new models they had some growing pains but they were on the right track this time and not giving up. Who knew or even expected a complete revision of this new model in just a short 2.5 years from it’s official unveiling to the public. Well I call the new S Class the W222.2 variant because everything I complained about the first iteration was corrected and bested in ever way. For starters the Airmatic system of the cars ride was perfected and the best I have ever experienced. Engineers were able to make the car drive spirited and offer more dynamic safety and control than any S Class prior. The level of technology and quality was also improved in every single way from the moment you close the doors to when you touch the ignition button to fire up the new more fuel efficient bi-turbo engines. The level of refinement carried out through the interior, road isolation and comfort has placed the new S Class in a league of it’s very own. I have driven every other top luxury automakers cars and they are all excellent in their own respects but their will always be one S Class and it happens to remain a Mercedes Benz.
Talk about design progression the Mercedes Benz S Class W222.2 is simply stunning, modern and stately back down to the very roots that made the marque so coveted and respected around the world
The S Class is the identity of Mercedes Benz and will always remain such regardless of how many SUV, compact and hybrids they offer consumers today. The Mercedes Benz S Class is what built the brand of loyalists over decades of ups and downs in the automotive world. I encourage you to go drive a new S Class model and if you are old enough to have experienced every prior S Class I discuss here this story will make complete sense. Please stay tuned for more stories that offer my in depth insight into the world of automobile design and progression, but for now the S Class is the best luxury sedan in the world. Mercedes Benz achieved their success the hard way using traditional marketing tactics with a classic business model of building the very best the world has ever seen. Today with social media they further penetrate the world even harder by offering world class automobiles for almost every consumer and market segment. Let’s not forget, the Mercedes Benz S Class was the very first ultra luxury mass produced sedan in the world and when your the first and the best from inception it is truly difficult to dethrone the king.
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