loading Loading please wait....

Mercedes-Benz S Class (W140): Buying guide and review (1991-1999)

Mercedes-Benz S Class (W140): Buying guide and review (1991-1999) Classic and Performance Car
Mercedes S Class Mercedes S Class Mercedes S Class Mercedes S Class Mercedes S Class
It’s often said that if you want to know what technology family hatchback will have a decade from now, take a look at a current Mercedes S Class. The fifth-generation W140 introduced in 1991 was no different, and featured a whole host of automotive firsts that have (for the most part) become commonplace in the industry.

Technologically it was an absolute benchmark, but its styling garnered some polarised opinions. Significantly larger than its predecessor, the W140 did not try to hide its bulk, and when compared to just about anything else on the road looked a trifle imposing.

It was a very accomplished cruiser and handled extremely well, despite its bulk. One of the most expensive cars on sale in the ‘90s, today second hand models can be found for extremely reasonable sums. A money-pit waiting to send you to the poor house, or a savvy used buy? That depends on getting the right car.
 

Which S Class to buy?

 
The previous S Class had been in production since 1979, and a replacement was sorely needed to compete with the latest 7-series and the upstart Lexus LS. After a number of delays, the S Class arrived in 1991 as a four-door saloon (W140), long-wheelbase (V140) and two-door coupe (C140) body styles. Engines ranged from a 190bhp 2.8-litre inline-six up to a 402bhp 6.0-litre V12 and eventually a 7.0-litre AMG V12.

1993 saw the rationalisation of Mercedes-Benz nomenclature with all SE, SEL and SEC cars being renamed as S Class. Whatever badge was stuck on the back, the level of technology and luxury packed into these new cars was industry leading. Double glazed windows, soft close boot lids and electronic traction control were just a few of a massive list of options on offer.

The smaller 190bhp 2.8-litre and 228bhp 3.2-litre inline-six models provide laid back performance that gels well with the nature of the car, if you want more straight-line grunt then the larger V8 or V12 models will better suit your needs. The very rare 518bhp 7.0-litre V12 models could dispatch 62mph in 5.2-seconds, but finding one is difficult. The S500 with its 322bhp V8 is rapid enough for most, and while the S600 V12 was smoother and a bit quicker – the running costs can make grown men weep.

In essence you have two options when approaching W140 S Class ownership, the bottom of the price-range can yield amazing bargains or potential headaches in equal measure. The best condition cars cost a lot more, but if you choose carefully, your rare AMG or V12 models should make a solid investment.
 

Performance and specs


Mercedes-Benz S600

Engine  5987cc 48 valve DOHC V12
Power 402bhp @ 5200rpm
Torque 428lb ft torque @ 3800rpm
Transmission Four/five-speed automatic
0-60mph 6.0sec
Top speed 155mph (limited)
Insurance group   20
Fuel consumption  20.6mpg
Price when new  £93,500
 

Dimensions and weight


Wheelbase            3040mm
Length 5113mm
Width 1886mm
Height 1486mm
Weight 1880kg
 

Common problems

 
• Engines are developments of tried and trusted power units and are engineered to last. Evidence of regular servicing is a must, as missed oil changes can prematurely wear components. ECU issues, especially on V12 cars can be very expensive to resolve.
 
• The wiring loom on early cars was biodegradable and is an expensive part to replace.
 
• The fluid filled engine mounts can collapse causing vibrations especially at idle.
 
• Rust-proofing was of a high level but it is recommended to check under the wheel arches and around drainage holes as corrosion can occur and replacement body panels are not all that easy to come by.
 
• Suspension bushes and tyres take a beating thanks to the weight of the car so check the suspension mountings for excessive wear and leave some budget aside for regular tyre replacement.
 
• The electronics are a weak spot in the W140, so check the major systems thoroughly. Unless you are looking for an immaculate, car be prepared to accept a few electronic gremlins and/or non-functioning accessories as part of the experience. Later model years exhibit fewer problems in this area.
 
• The air-conditioning evaporator is a 12-hour job to replace, so be sure to check that cold air is blowing out of the vents. Be wary of anyone saying ‘it just needs a re-gas’. 

• Two recalls to look out for: Cars built between 1995-96 were recalled for a potential brake hose fluid leak. Corrosion of the airbag mechanism on these same model year cars can cause unintended airbag inflation.
 

Model history

 
1991: W140 launched, initially only available in either standard or long-wheelbase four-door body style. Full range of engines available from the inline-six 280 and 300SE right up to the V12 600SEL.
1993: Two-door C140 Coupe joins line-up featuring identical running gear. Tightening emissions controls in US and Europe mean a slight reduction in power across the range. Naming standards changed across Mercedes-Benz range (500SE now S500).
1994: Traction control standard on V8 models which was previously only available on V12s. Upgraded Becker radio introduced.
1995: Facelift carried out on entire range with small changes to exterior in an attempt to disguise its bulk.
1996: Side airbags and auto wipers become standard fitment. Parktronic sonar-based parking sensors introduced.
1997: Traction control standard now standard on six-cylinder models
1999: W140 phased out to be replaced by the W220 S Class. Limited production continues in India for non-European markets.
 

Clubs and websites

 
• www.mercedes-benz-club.co.uk – Mercedes-Benz UK Car Club
• www.mercedesclub.org.uk – Mercedes owners' club
• www.mbworld.org – Mercedes-Benz Forums
 

Summary and prices

 
If you are the risk taking sort, then S Class ownership can begin at around the £1000 mark. High-mileage S280s and V8 models with patchy service histories can be found lurking at this price point and if you find a mechanically sound car you could have a serious luxury bargain on your hands. There are safer bets out there if you are prepared to spend closer to £5000 but choices are limited so be prepared to wait a while for the right car.

Top of the range V12 cars and Coupes with low mileages can command up to £15,000 and beyond. They may not be quite as collectible as older Mercs just yet, but find a good one and you may well see their values rise in the coming years.

Comfortable, quiet and a surprisingly good steer when pushed, the ‘90s S Class is an oft overlooked luxury limo and well worth a look.
 
Words: John Tallodi
Mercedes S Class Mercedes S Class Mercedes S Class Mercedes S Class Mercedes S Class
Last updated: 8th Jun 2017
collapse this

Mercedes-Benz S Class cars for sale

153 Search results
Mercedes-Benz S Class
0 139950 GBP
  • Mercedes-Benz S Class

    £37,450 £37,450

    Variant name:S350L BlueTEC SE Line 4dr Auto ,Derivative:S350 BLUETEC L SE LINE ,Variant: S350 BLUETEC L SE LINE

    • Year: 2015
    • Mileage: 25250 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
    Drayton-Mercedes-Benz of Stourbridge
    01384 380109 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • Mercedes-Benz S-CLASS

    £79,989 £79,989

    Panoramic Glass Roof, 360 Cameras, Front Passenger Entertainment, Command APS, Sat Nav, Active Park, Traffic Sign Recognition, Keyless Go, TouchPad, Climate Control, Electric Heated Memory Dynamic Climate Comfort Seats, DAB Radio, Premium Sound, Dynamic LED Headlights, High Beam Assist, Park Distance Control, Ambient Lighting, Power Boot, Tyre Pressure Monitor, Illuminated Door Sills, Burr Walnut Trim, Full AMG Styling and 20" AMG Alloys. Balance of Manufacturers Warranty. Due In Soon. www.imperials.co.uk ------ Please call us to Confirm which of our 3 Essex Showrooms your desired vehicle is located at before travelling to see us, Everyone of Our Cars Goes Through Our In House Work Shop Prior to Sale by Our Fully Qualified and Experienced Technicians - Buy with Confidence, For up to 20 images of this vehicle and an Instant Finance Quote please view www.imperials.co.uk, For Out of Office Hours Enquiries please call Tony 07956 564440 and he will be happy to help, We are also good buyers of all prestige, Sports and 4x4 vehicles so why not give us a call for a price on yours, Please Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter, Thank You, www.imperials.co.uk

    • Year: 2016
    • Mileage: 9000 mi
    For sale
  • Mercedes-Benz S-CLASS

    £99,989 £99,989

    Head Up Display, Panoramic Glass Roof, 360 Cameras, Command APS, Sat Nav, Live Traffic, Traffic Sign Recognition, Active Park, Blind Spot Monitor, Lane Keeping Assist, TouchPad, Keyless Go, Driver Assistance Pack Plus, Climate Control, Distronic Plus Cruise Control, Brake Assist, Electric Memory Dynamic Seats, Air Scarf Heating, DAB Radio, Premium Sound, Dynamic LED Headlamps. High Beam Assist, Park Distance Control, Ambient Lighting, Poplar Wood Trim, Adjustable ABC Suspension, Tyre Pressure Monitor, Illuminated Door Sills, Red Calipers, Full AMG Styling and 19" AMG Alloys. Balance of Manufacturers Warranty. Due In Soon. www.imperials.co.uk ------ Please call us to Confirm which of our 3 Essex Showrooms your desired vehicle is located at before travelling to see us, Everyone of Our Cars Goes Through Our In House Work Shop Prior to Sale by Our Fully Qualified and Experienced Technicians - Buy with Confidence, For up to 20 images of this vehicle and an Instant Finance Quote please view www.imperials.co.uk, For Out of Office Hours Enquiries please call Tony 07956 564440 and he will be happy to help, We are also good buyers of all prestige, Sports and 4x4 vehicles so why not give us a

    • Year: 2017
    • Mileage: 1500 mi
    For sale
  • MERCEDES S CLASS 3.0 2009

    £13,495 £13,495

    2009 09 Reg, 36,000 Miles, Two Previous Owners, With Full Service History, Last Serviced At Mercedes-Benz 2016, Sat Nav Command, Electric Heated Seats, Electric Lumbar Support, Dual Zone Climate Control, Leather Multi Function Steering Wheel, Paddle Shift Gears, Cruise Control, CD System With Auxiliary Connection, Integrated Bluetooth Phone System, Multi Function Display, Electric One Touch Windows, Electric Powerfold Heated Mirrors, Headlight Wash, Rain Sensing Wipers, Automatic Adaptive Xenon Headlights, Rear Park Assit, 18" 5 Spoke Alloy Wheels, Front And Side Airbag Protection, Isofix Child Seat Anchor Points, Thatcham Cat 1 Alarm And Immobiliser, Tracker, Speed Sensitive Power Steering, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, Stability And Traction Control, ABS With Brake Assist, Beautiful Condition Throughout.;

    • Mileage: 36000 mi
    For sale
  • MERCEDES S CLASS 3.5 2014

    £36,995 £36,995

    2014 14 Reg, 31,000 Miles, Metallic Silver With Full Black Leather,, One Owner, With Full Mercedes Benz Service History, Command On-Line With Media Interface, 3D Mapping, Reversing Camera, Linguatronics, Electric Panoramic Glass Sunroof With Sunblind, Electric Heated Seats, Rear Heated Seats, Thermotronic Dual Zone Luxury Climate Control, 2 Spoke Wood And Leather Multi Function Steering Wheel, Multi Media Interface With USB Connections, DAB Radio Tuner, Bluetooth Interface For Phone, Bluetooth Audio Play, Wi-Fi Connect, Virtual Dash With Multi Function Screen, Keyless Start, Soft Close Doors, Ambient Interior Lighting, Electric Powerfold Heated Mirrors, Electric Steering Column Adjustment, Headlight Wash, Rain Sensing Wipers, Privacy Glass, LED Daytime Running Lights, LED Intelligent Lighting System, Parktronic, 18" 5 Twin Spoke Alloys, Speed Sensitive Power Steering, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, Adaptive Air-Suspension, Stability And Traction Control, Adaptive Braking System, Absolutely Stunning Condition.

    • Mileage: 31000 mi
    For sale
  • MERCEDES S CLASS S350 BLUETEC 2011 Auto 102000 Diesel Silver

    £13,495 £13,495

    FULL SERVICE HISTORY **FINANCE AVAILABLE** IRIDIUM SILVER WITH BLACK ELECTRIC HEATED SEATS, Heated Rear Screen, Anti - Lock Braking System (ABS) with Brake Assist (BAS), Bi - Xenon Headlights with LED Daytime Running Lights, Active Light System, Cornering Light Function and Adaptive High Beam Assist, Radio/CD/DVD Changer (6 - Disc, Region 2 DVD Only)/MP3 Compatibility/SD Card Slot/8in Colour Display/Media Interface, Automatically Dimming Rear - View Mirror, Outside Temperature Gauge, Door Mirrors - Electrically Operated, Folding, Heated and Auto Dimming Drivers Door Mirror, Front Seats with Electrically Adjustable Lumbar Support, Rain - Sensing Wipers, Steering Column - Electrically Adjustable with Easy - Entry Function, Tinted Glass, Direct Steering, ISOFIX Child Seat Fixings in Rear (Two Outer Seats), 18in Alloy Wheels (4) - 5 - Spoke Design 255/45 Tyres and Locking Wheel Bolts, Cup Holders - Rear (2), Multi - Function Steering Wheel - Controls Audio and Onboard Settings with Gear Shift Paddles, Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), Neck - Pro Active Head Restraints - Front Seats and Rear Head Restraints (3) - Electrically Folding, Speedtronic Cruise Control, Luxury Automatic Climate Control - Two Zone, with Digital Display, Centre Rear Seat Belt, Trip Computer, Hill Start Assist, Advanced Parking Guidance System - Parking Space Measurement and Audible Steering Guidance, Linguatronic Voice Control, Airbags - Front Passenger, Trim - Dark Brown Eucalyptus Wood, Bluetooth Interface for Hands - Free Telephony, Bumpers - Body - Coloured, Heated Screen Wash System, Airbags - Front and Rear Sidebags/Front and Rear Windowbags, Front Seats with Electric Adjustment, Centre Console, Electric Windows (4), High - Level Third Brake Light - LED, Upholstery - Leather, Metallic Paint, 12 V Power Socket in Rear, Nappa Leather - Trimmed Steering Wheel, Centre Armrests, Front and Rear - with Storage, Airbags - Driver, Alarm System, AirMATIC Suspension, TMC (Traffic Message Channel), Heated Front Seats, Remote Central Locking, COMAND Online System, Hard Disk Drive Navigation with 3D Map Display, Headlamp Assist - Automatic Headlamp Activation, Velour Floor Mats, Tyre Pressure Loss Warning System, Acceleration Skid Control (ASR), Space - Saver Spare Wheel, Airbags - Kneebag for Driver, Headlamp Wash, Seat Belt Pre - Tensioners and Force Limiters - Front and Outer Rear Seats, Front Fog Lamps - LED, Immobiliser. 5 seats, Silver, 2 KEYS, POSSIBLE PART EXCHANGE, VIEWING BY APPOINTMENT ONLY, FINANCE AVAILABLE, more cars available at www.lkcars.co.uk

    • Mileage: 102000 mi
    • Engine size: 2.987
    For sale
  • MERCEDES S CLASS S350 BLUETEC L AMG LINE 2015

    £37,880 £37,880

    1 Owner from new, Direct from Mercedes-Benz, Full Mercedes-Benz service history, Just been serviced now by Mercedes-Benz, Still under Mercedes-Benz warranty until 30/04/2018, Rear privacy glass, Upgraded AMG alloys, Stunning car all around. Hpi Clear. Full service history, Excellent bodywork, Interior - Excellent Condition, Silver, JUST BEEN SERVICED FROM MERCEDES-BENZ. FULL MERCEDES-BENZ SERVICE HISTORY., GBP 37,880 ;;COMAND Online System, Hard Disk Drive Navigation with 3D Map Display, ECO Start/Stop Function, Cruise Control with SPEEDTRONIC, DAB Digital Radio Tuner, Linguatronic Voice Control, Front and Rear Seats Heated, Parktronic with Active Park Assist, Luxury Automatic Climate Control - Two - Zone. Three Different Climate Modes: Focused, Medium and Diffuse, Bluetooth Telephony with High Definition Call Quality, Rain - Sensing Wipers - Two - Stage, Metallic Paint, Alarm System, Radio, Single CD/DVD Drive with MP3 Compatibility, SD Memory Card Slot, USB, Media Interface and Internet Radio, Upholstery - Leather, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, Electric Windows (4) with Pre - Safe Closing Function, Front Seats - Full Electric Adjustment, LED Headlamps with Variable Light Distribution for Country Roads and Motorways, Active Light System, Extended Fog Light Function and Adaptive High Beam Assist, Multi - Function Steering Wheel with Gear Shift Paddles

    • Mileage: 17000 mi
    • Engine size: 2.987
    For sale
  • MERCEDES S CLASS S350 BLUEEFFICIENCY 2012

    £22,500 £22,500

    1 Owner From New, S350 Petrol special order colour Scheme, Periclase Green Metallic, Light Tan Leather, SAT NAV, Climate control, Reversing Camera, Electric Memory Seats, Heated Seats, Rear Electric Blinds to the doors and Rear Roller Blind, Glass Sunroof, 19" alloy wheels, Full Mercedes Service History, High Gloss Wood inserts also Steering Wheel, an incredible car costing a fraction of the GBP 65000 original cost.;

    • Mileage: 22000 mi
    • Engine size: 3.498
    For sale
Related Specification
Related content