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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
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Mercedes-Benz S Class
2995 88888 GBP
  • Mercedes-Benz S Class

    £29,900 £29,900

    Variant name:Diesel Saloon SE Line ,Derivative:SE Line ,Variant: S350L BlueTEC SE Line 20" Alloys Big Screen Satellite Navigation Reversing Camera Heated Electric Front Seats FMBSH Stunning Example Multi award-winning prestige car dealership John Holland is excited to offer for sale this beautifully presented Mercedes-Benz S Class S350L BlueTEC SE Line. Finished in Obsidian Black with Black Leather Upholstery and Eucalyptus Wood Interior Inlays. This stunning example comes with a fantastic specification to include, Big Screen Comand Satellite Navigation, Reversing Camera, Bluetooth, Multi Function Leather Steering Wheel, Electric Steering Colom, Paddle Shift, Cruise Control, Heated Electric Front Seats, DAB Radio with ipod Connection, Keyless Entry and Start, Front and Rear Parking Sensors, Electric Folding Mirrors, Dual Climate Control, Privacy Glass, Auto Lights, Xenon Headlights, LED Daytime Running Lights. Also benefiting from a full Mercedes Benz service history and four new tyres. Supplied with 2 keys and all its original owners manuals and wallet. John Holland has been established for over 40 years supplying a premium level of service in the sale of sports, prestige and collectors cars. We have a team of experienced buyers who hand pick our cars from all parts of the uk so you can buy with confidence all vehicles are HPI Clear and prepared to the highest standard, full dealer facilities available call the sales team for further information

    • Year: 2015
    • Mileage: 26184 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
    £29,900 £29,900
    John Holland-John Holland
    +44 (0)114 2565 View contact number
  • 2001 51 Mercedes S320 CDI L Auto 96,000 miles 3 owners full Mercedes History Mint New MOT

    £2,995 £2,995

    2001 51 Reg Mercedes S320 CDI L Auto 96000 Miles 3 Owners from New Full Mercedes History Brand new month MOT Lovely Condition.   MERCEDES S320 CDI FINISHED IN BRILLIANT SILVER WITH FULL GREY LEATHER INTERIOR, EXTRAS INCLUDE, ALLOYS, CLIMATE CONTROL, TV, CRUISE CONTROL, ELECTRIC GLASS SUNROOF, HEATED ELECTRIC FRONT AND REAR SEATS, ELECTRIC RECLINING REAR SEATS, PERFORATED LEATHER, CD CHANGER, SATELLITE NAVIGATION, PARKING SENSORS FRONT AND REAR, ELECTRIC REAR BLIND, XENON LIGHTS AND AUTOMATIC LIGHTS FUNCTION, ELECTRIC BOOT RELEASE. JUST HAD THE FULL MAJOR B SERVICE, OIL, OIL FILTER, FUEL FILTER, COOLANT, BRAKE FLUID, AIR FILTER, POWERED STEERING FLUID, CABIN FILTERS CHANGED. NEXT SERVICE IN 13000 MILES. THIS CAR IS IN OUTSTANDING CONDITION HAVING ONLY COVERED 96000 MILES FROM NEW WITH A FULL MERCEDES SERVICE HISTORY AND ONLY 3 OWNERS FROM NEW, LAST OWNER HAD SINCE 2013. ABSOLUTE LUXURY. PRE ACCOUNTANTS MERCEDES BUILT TO LAST 30 YEARS. THESE STRAIGHT SIX ENGINES ARE VERY TOUGH, THEY HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO DO UP TO 600,000 MILES.    

    • Mileage: 96000 mi
    • Engine size: 3227
    For sale
    £2,995 £2,995
  • MERCEDES S CLASS S63 AMG 2014

    £69,995 £69,995

    Blending the comfort of a Mercedes S-Class with the style of a Coupe the performance pedigree of Mercedes tuning arm, the all-new S 63 AMG Coupe is a tantalising proposition, It's design offers exclusivity and luxury to match a Bentley Continental GT with the promise of handling and performance to rival the flagship Porsche Panamera, and aims to be the ultimate luxury all-rounder, Despite getting the S-Class name, the new Coupe stands out enough from the limousine on which its based, Sharp creases down the sides, a long bonnet, sloping roof and a neat spoiler integrated into the boot lid do a great job of shrinking the S-Class Coupes large dimension.;;""MEGA SPEC"";Our example is finished in magnetite Black and trimmed with Black Nappa leather with white stitching and AMG badges, Walnut Veneer Wood Interior, The car comes with the 360 Camera, Distronic system, Active Park Assist, Lane Assist , Brake Assist Plus, Steering Assist, Blind spot Assist, Night view Assist, Head up display, Lane Change Warning, Burmeister Sound System, Memory Package, Dual Cup Holder, MB Connect, Dynamic Front Seats with Hot/Cold and Massage Seats, Electric Roller Blind, Active Body Control, Eco Start Stop, Dynamic LED Lights, Ambient Lighting, AMG 20" Spoked Wheels, Silver Brake Calipers, Adaptive Air Suspension, AMG Sports Package, Full MB Service History, Heated Seats, Keyless Go, Panoramic Glass Roof, Power Soft Close, Satellite Navigation, Memory Electric Seats, 14 Way Electric Adjustable Front Seats, Air Conditioning, Bluetooth Telephone, Central Locking, Climate Control, DAB Digital Radio, Heated Folding Mirrors, Massage Front Seats, Park Distance Control, Reversing Camera with Guidance Lines, 8 Speed Gearbox, AMG 3-Spoke Sports Steering Wheel, Multi Function Steering Wheel, Multiple Airbags, Anti Glare Rear View Mirrors, CD Auto changer, Day Time Running Lights, Electric Remote Boot/Hatch/Door Release, Light Design Package, Push Button Start, 2 Former Keepers, Black.

    • Mileage: 14500 mi
    • Engine size: 5.461
    For sale
    £69,995 £69,995
  • Mercedes-Benz S Class

    £21,075 £21,075

    Variant name:S350 BLUETEC L AMG SPORT EDITION ,Derivative:W221 (FL) ,Variant: S350 BLUETEC L AMG SPORT EDITION Bluetooth Connectivity, Satellite Navigation, Cruise Control, DAB Digital Radio, Dual Zone Climate Control, Trip Computer, Steering Wheel Controls, Full Black Leather Seats, Heated Front Seats, Automatic Headlights. Bluetooth Connectivity, Satellite Navigation, Cruise Control, DAB Digital Radio, Dual Zone Climate Control, Trip Computer, Steering Wheel Controls, Full Black Leather Seats, Heated Front Seats, Automatic Headlights, Electrically Adjustable Front Seats, Harman/kardon Sound System, Electric Opening Sunroof, 20" Alloy Wheels, Front And Rear Parking Sensors, Rear Privacy Glass, 7 Day Free Drive Away Insurance.

    • Year: 2013
    • Mileage: 83733 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
    £21,075 £21,075
  • Mercedes-Benz S Class

    £83,795 £83,795

    Variant name:AMG S 63 ,Derivative:C217 ,Variant: AMG S 63 *Excellent Example of one of the most sought after cars in the market place today* *Previous owner been a famous International Footballer* *Recent service carried out by Mercedes Wakefield* *Finished in Selenite Grey Metallic with Ivory Leather* *Great Low Rate HP and PCP Finance Deals Available * Last serviced on 20/04/2018 at 10,192 miles, Full dealership history, Excellent bodywork, Full leather interior ,Extra Factory Options Include Multifunction Sports Steering Wheel in Wood and Leather and 6CD Disc Changer,- Excellent Condition, Tyre condition Excellent, Metallic Selenite, This unique one owner S63 AMG which will not be around long at this great price will be supplied with a full Mercedes Dealer Service Record having just Been Serviced by Mercedes Benz Wakefield,two remote keys, tracker fobs and tracker subscription available,Balance of Mercedes Warranty until March 2020 and HPI Certificate low rate finance options and extended warranties also available., 1 owner

    • Year: 2017
    • Mileage: 10251 mi
    • Engine size: 5.5
    For sale
    £83,795 £83,795
  • Mercedes-Benz S Class

    £27,950 £27,950

    Variant name:300 SEL 6.3 ,Derivative:W108/W109 ,Variant: 300 SEL 6.3 The Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3 was a luxury car built by Mercedes Benz from 1968 to 1972. It featured the company's powerful legendary 6.3-litre M100 V8 from the luxurious 600 limousine installed in the normally six-cylinder powered Mercedes Benz 300 SEL. The result was a nearly 2-tonne saloon with performance similar to most dedicated sports cars and American muscle cars of the era. At the time of its release it was the world's fastest four door car, sprinting to 60 mph in just 6.6 seconds. The model was also famed as a short lived but sucessful racer of the time, with the now infamouus “red-pig” amg campaigned car competing at the 1971 Spa 24 hour race with prodigious pace – finishing 2nd – yes a 4 door Mercedes saloon! Here we offer for light / mid restoration a very rare RHD UK supplied car of just 500 believed to have been supplied for the UK market. This car is also an early sunroof car which is even rarer. Showing just 31k miles, backed by paperwork to the early 80s this car was originally supplied by Mercedes-Benz of Brentford and appears to have barely been outside of London most of its life. She was originally in the classic colourway of 050 Cremeweiss and has had a repaint to silver at some point in its life. The legendary M100 engine runs well and the suspension holds pressure when running. This is a fantastic rare Mercedes with stacks of history, handbooks, 2 sets of keys, period photos, boxes and boxes of provenance. She also comes with a very rare set of the lightweight 14 inch “mexican hat” alloys which are the version developed on the 6.3 and are iconic to the model. We offer this car in need of mid term restoration, which we are happy to discuss with you. We would suggest a complete body restoration back to factory colourway, mechanical overhaul and retain some patina such as the charmingly worn interior etc. With values on the rise, this rare flagship low mileage example represents a fantastic opportunity to create a very fine example of a car already achieving heady heights value wise and only set to continue to increase. Rare opportunity. Please speak to a member of the team for details.

    • Year: 1970
    • Mileage: 31000 mi
    • Engine size: 6.3
    For sale
    £27,950 £27,950
  • MERCEDES S CLASS S350 AUTO 2002

    £3,000 £3,000

    Metallic Blue with Cream Leather interior , Sat Nav , 6 Disc Changer;20" Alloys that are like new and cost GBP 1800. ;Suspension has been Lowered however can be put back to standard at no extra cost. ;Has Full Stainless steel quad exhaust (Costing GBP 1100) That Sounds amazing;*Please See Video*;https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eFxEK3_gYQ and feature=youtu.be;;;All cars come with a years M.O.T;and 6 month warranty;;We specialize in providing car finance for those with a poor credit history With a choice of over 50 cars if you can't find what your looking for we can get your finance approved then find your dream car. apply on line with our 30 second application process and we will be in touch within 24 hours

    • Mileage: 86000 mi
    • Engine size: 3.724
    For sale
    £3,000 £3,000
  • MERCEDES-S600L-S-CLASS-VERY-LOW-MILEAGE-34000-£100000-NEW-OPTIONAL-PRIVATE-REG MERCEDES-S600L-S-CLASS-VERY-LOW-MILEAGE-34000-100000-NEW-OPTIONAL-PRIVATE-REG MERCEDES-S600L-S-CLASS-VERY-LOW-MILEAGE-34000-100000-NEW-OPTIONAL-PRIVATE-REG MERCEDES-S600L-S-

    £8,999 £8,999

    This stunning car just as a base model cost around £92000 new & it also has a very high specification of extras so it would have cost £100000+ in total so at around 1/10th of that price & with such low miles represents good value & a lot of car for the money Mercedes 2001 s600l (367BHP) in the best colour combination of Tanzanite Blue Metallic with cream java nappa leather trim in superb condition. very rare with such low mileage only 34000 miles & many extras this really is a stunning luxury car.The very high specification includes satellite navigation Electric windows,Heated and Electric Seats Rear television walnut picnic tables Electric opening Boot Lid & much more it even has a champagne fridge! This really is a very high specification car which seems to have every extra available at the time -long MOT till 04/11/2018, with NO advisories & the only problem i have with the car is that i do think the 51 reg makes it look too old as with such low mileage it looks a much newer car so as part of the deal i could include my reg A9 MMW which has been valued up to £1000 which is on a retention certificate so it could easily be put on the car just as soon as the v5 is in the new owners name but it would look a much newer car with a private reg PLEASE NOTE the current reg is the 51 reg shown in 1 photo i have put my private reg A9 MMW on the car for the new photos to show how much better it makes the car look but that can be negotiated as part of any deal PLEASE NO OFFERS UNDER £8000 AS YOU WILL JUST BE WASTING BOTH YOUR TIME & MINE THIS STUNNING LOW MILEAGE CAR COST AROUND £100000 NEW SO IT IS SUPERB VALUE PLEASE NOTE THE PRICE IS £9999 ONO WITH THE PRIVATE REG A9MMW VALUED AROUND £1000 OR £8999 OVNO WITH THE 51 REG BUT DO THINK IT LOOKS SO MUCH BETTER WITH THE PRIVATE REG THIS IS A LOVELY EXAMPLE OF THE FLAGSHIP MERCEDES S CLASS S600 & VERY RARE AS IT HAS SUCH LOW MILEAGE ONLY 34000 MILES & WHEN YOU THINK THIS CAR WITH SUCH A HIGH SPEC ORIGINALLY COST £100000 NEW IT IS SUPERB VALUE FOR MONEY REASONABLE OFFERS INVITED BUT ONLY OVER (NOT UNDER) £8000 AS HAVE ALREADY OFFERED £8200 WITH THE 51 REG & £9000 WITH THE PRIVATE REG FINALLY THESE CARS ARE APPRECIATING IN VALUE IF THEY ARE LIKE THIS CAR IN VERY GOOD CONDITION WITH LOW MILEAGE SO THIS CAR WOULD BE A VERY GOOD LONG TERM FINANCIAL INVESTMENT & ANY SERIOUS BUYER WILL KNOW THAT A MERCEDES S600 THAT ORIGINALLY COST AROUND £100000 NEW WITH ONLY 34000 MILES IS A GENUINE BARGAIN” ANY QUERIES EMAIL OR CALL ME ON 07757 359570 THANKYOU 

    • Mileage: 34000 mi
    • Engine size: 5786
    For sale
    £8,999 £8,999
  • Mercedes-Benz S Class

    £79,995 £79,995

    VAT QUALIFYING *** AWARDED BEST CUSTOMER CARE 2017 *** 145k NEW!! Extremely Rare S600L V12 - Massive Spec Car with almost every extra available - Individual Rear Seat Pack, Keyless go Pack, 360 Cameras, Air Balance Pack, Executive Rear Pack, Front Seat Comfort Pack and Memory Pack, Rear Seat Comfort Pack, Rear Seat Reclining Pack, Warmth Comfort Pack, Comfort Ventilated Front and Rear Seats, Garage Door Opener, Illuminated Door Sills, Luxury Rear Climate Control, Wood/Leather Steering Wheel, Nappa Leather Dashboard, Exclusive Nappa Leather Package, Driving Assistance Pack, Intelligent Rear Seat Belt Pack, Night Vision, Rear Seat Entertainment System with Twin Monitors, Rear Seat Telephony, Digital TV Tuner, Head Up Display, Splitview COMAND, Rear Fridge, Designo Silk Beige Leather Upgrade, Massaging Front and Rear Seats, Burmester High End Sound System, Distronic Plus, Lane/Side/Blind Spot Asist. Full Mercedes-Benz Service History. Call us to discuss delivery anywhere in the UK on this car. AUTOGLYM LIFESHINE DEALER - Ask About having this product applied to your new car. This vehicle is HPI Checked. WarrantyWise Warranties Available for 6,12,24 or 36 Months. UK Nationwide Delivery Available. Finance Specialist - We have over 20 lenders available for all circumstances and will beat your banks quote. FINANCE & DRIVE AWAY ON THE DAY. View our website - WWW.GEORGEKINGSLEY.CO.UK - Prestige & Performance Specialist - AWARD WINNING DEALER - BEST CUSTOMER CARE 2017 - All Vehicl

    • Mileage: 27719 mi
    • Engine size: 5980
    For sale
    £79,995 £79,995
  • MERCEDES S CLASS SL350 2004

    £9,995 £9,995

    Obsidian Black Metallic,18 Inch Five Spoke Alloy Wheels, ABS, Air Conditioning, Auto Lights, CD Player, Central Locking, Centre Arm Rest, Climate Control, Colour Coded Bumpers, COMAND, Cruise Control With Speed Limiter, Electric Door Mirrors, Electric Memory Seats, Electric Folding Steel Roof, Electric Windows, Front and Rear Parking Sensors, Front Fog Lights, Headlamp Wash, Heated Front Seats, Leather Covered Multi Function Steering Wheel, Leather Trim, Multiple Airbags, Panoramic Glass Roof, Personal Cherish Registration Number, Power Steering, Roof Blind, Satellite Navigation, Service History, Sports Seats, Telephone Preparation, Tiptronic Gearbox, Traction Control, Wind Deflector, Xenon HeadlightsONLY 62000 MILES, FINANCE AVAILABLE ON ALL VEHICLES PLEASE ASK FOR DETAILS ;

    • Mileage: 62000 mi
    • Engine size: 3.724
    For sale
    £9,995 £9,995