State-of-the-Art Coupés have been important to Mercedes-Benz’s history since shortly after the merger of Daimler and Benz in 1926.
We’ve heard from old-timers that the only large pre-WWII luxury cars that didn’t handle like trucks were Hispano-Suiza and Mercedes-Benz. Florida nonagenarian Phillip Moore owned a 1929 SSK and later gave his wife a new 540 K Coupé, describing them as the ultimate choice for people that preferred to drive themselves. Proving relativity, he added that in those days he and his buddies regarded the SS and SSK to be a man’s car and the 540 K to be a lady’s car because it was easier to drive. I dunno. The first commercially available power steering for passenger cars didn’t arrive until Chrysler’s Imperial in 1951.
The S-Class Coupés we know today debuted at the Paris Motor Show in October 1951 as the 300S (with companion cabriolet and roadster). Since then there has always been an S-Class Coupé — in some years called the CL though we’ve heard the “S-Class” ID will resume soon. Each decade these senior Coupés have presented the latest results of what has become the largest auto research facilities and annual budget on the planet.
300 S: 1951-54 Radically lighter-weight power-train, chassis and suspension relative to pre-1940 senior MB designs, the 3.0 liter S was as fast as it’s 5.4 liter supercharged predecessor.
300 Sc: 1955-1958 Low, single-pivot rear suspension used in similar variants for next 17 years. Shared first use of direct-block fuel injection with 300 SL, a concept that has returned to today’s engines.
220 S/SE: 1956-1960 Based on the 220 S ”Ponton” sedans, this extreme luxury Coupé was on a shortened 106.3” whlbs. From 9/58 available with Bosch manifold fuel injection. Hydrak clutchless drive was series unique.
220/250/280/300/3.5 SE: 1961-1971 First ground-up safety passenger-cells with crumple zones. Disc brakes. Three point safety harnesses. 300 SE introduced M-B’s version of air springs; the suspension of choice for many 2010 luxury cars and nearly all buses and trucks. 300SE also brought M-B’s first use of alloy engines, another norm for many brands today. Less costly iron-block 3.5 liter V-8 arrived 9/1969.
280/350/450/380 SLC: 1971-1981 Departing from past (or future) the SLC Coupé was based on a 14.2” stretched SL rather than shortened sedan. A leader bringing the gas tank “inboard” above the rear axle. More dash padding, four spoke safety steering wheel and 5 MPH bumpers (USA). 2.8 liter six avail. From 1974. First ABS brakes in cars by the SLC in 1978. (debuted in MB trucks in 1971). SLC’s 10 yr. run netted 64,727 units (all 5 engines). MB retreated from alloy engines, 1968-1976.
5.0 SLC: 1977-1981 MB’s return to all alloy engines occurred with 2,756 FIA homologated rally cars built in two versions from ‘77 into ‘81. Rarest Mercedes launched during the 1970s.
380/420/500/560 SEC: 1981-1991: 100% commitment to alloy V8s resumed when the Type 126 coupés returning to sharing chassis & interior features with S-Class sedans. SEC led in the 1980s with dual airbags, belt tensioners, ABS, acceleration skid control (ASR), an electronic ignition and electro/mechanical fuel injection, upping sales to 74,060 in 10 years.
Type 140 Coupé:1992-1998: First the 140 body, a year later MB’s first commercially viable V12 and a brand-wide labeling change moved body-type in front of engine-type, as in: S600 Coupé. 1995 saw 5 spd. automatic drive with slip-controlled torque converter lockup clutch, brought brake assist (BAS), Xenon headlamps, side airbags, adaptive dampening shock absorbers (ADS), speed sensitive steering. S600 Coupé also brought the industry’s first yaw control, ESP, cleverly utilizing existing ABS circuitry. In 1996 senior coupé nomenclature changed again to CL. Type 140 Coupé production ended 9/1998 with 26,022 built in seven years (all engines).
CL 500/600: 1999-2006:Type C 215 Coupé brought standard Active Body Control (ABC) to counteract body roll and pitch during cornering & braking & Distronic intelligent cruise control. V12 came with automatic cylinder shut-off, optional on V8, to lower fuel consumption. CL55 AMG (V8) came in Fall 2000; CL65 AMG (V12) in Fall of 2003. The C 215 Coupés were successful with 47,984 built in seven years.
CL 500/550/600: 2007-2010: Newly styled Coupé from Autumn 2006 brought PRE-SAFE® brakes that automatically act in potential front end collisions. The 2007 CL63 AMG V8 followed by CL65 AMG V12 commemorated AMG’s 40th Anniversary. 2008 saw 4-Matic reach the CL and the beginnings of the Black Series, MB’s latest response to flourishing tuners Brabus, RENNTech, Lorinser, Carlsson, and others. The mobile AMG Driving Academy has concurrently expanded.