If you follow the news, you may have stumbled across Warrantywise’s second hand car reliability index. The organisation teamed up with Carwow to explore warranty claims for over 200 different models over the past 10 years, ranking the 15 least reliable models by their most expensive and least expensive repairs. They were given ‘reliability rating based on a number of factors, including actual warranty repair requests, plus factors such as vehicles’ ages and mileages.’ All the vehicles were under 10 years old and out of their warranty period when the analysis was carried out.
Each model was given a reliability rating, with the most likely fault outlined, the average age at which the most common fault occurred and the average repair bill. Also included was the most expensive repair.
It was no surprise to see two Jaguar Land Rover products taking first and second place on the podium, but what was more surprising was number 12. The Mercedes-Benz V222 S-Class (2012 – 2019). Details of the analysis are outlined below:
Reliability score 32.8%
Average age 6.9 years
Average repair £1,423
Most common fault NOx sensor
Most expensive repair £16,277 (engine)
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class is renowned for its luxurious traits, but this report comes at a time when sales have dropped dramatically with changes in luxury travel needs. More recently, Road Rat investigated the shift in celebrity transport preferences from that of higih-class saloons to larger SUVs and even vans, such as the Vito. The latter of which can be customised by a whole host of independent firms who are being commissioned by celebrities and politicians worldwide. This reliability report also lands on the anniversary of the S-Class, which recently celebrated its 50th year on our roads.
After seven generations of S-Class, there comes a point where we have to determine which is the one to have in the 21st century. It’s fair to say that the 2012 – 2019 examples are out, given the cost to maintain these vehicles, which far exceed the cost of one from the 20th century, it could be the right time to look back for your luxury classic saloon, rather than at the present or towards the future.
Here’s a look at some of the existing S-Class models and what makes them special.
Some think the S-Class started with the W116, but in fact, the S-Class can be traced back to the W111 and W112 saloons which fall into the ‘fintail’ category, eventually becoming the W108 and W109 which were more modern in their design.
Where it started: W116: (1972 – 1980)
Mercedes-Benz S-Class from the 116 series (1972 to 1980). Photo dating from 2005.
While the S-Class name first appeared in 1972, the W116 undoubtedly owes its luxury credentials to the W108 and W109, but with the added angle of safety that was directing the company’s focus at the time. It was the first car to be equipped with ABS as we know it today, as well as an integral safety concept and crash-protected fuel tank. High-tech stuff for the 1970s. It was also the first production car to be fitted with a turbo-diesel engine and also came with hydro-pneumatic suspension. Mercedes gave buyers the option of a 6.9 litre V8 engine, which became the fastest car available from the company at the time. Faster than the SLs of the same period…
V126 (1979 – 1992)
Mercedes-Benz S-Class from the 126 series (1979 to 1991).
Building on the success of the W116, the brand launched the V126 long-wheel base version of the W126, featuring revolutionary Supplemental Restraint System Airbag where the seat-belt pretensioners were made to sync the front and back airbags, ensuring that all occupants were equally protected in the event of an accident. This era of S-Class was the first of its kind to have an aerodynamic focus, having been rigorously tested in a wind tunnel.
Most impressively though was the electric eight-way powered seats and recline adjustment for front and back occupants. This coupled with the hydroo-pneumatic self-levelling rear suspension fostered the phrase, ‘magic carpet ride’. Over 80,000 units were produced making it the most produced of the S-Class generation.
Is this the one to have?
W140 (1991 – 1998)
Mercedes-Benz S-Class from the 140 series (1991 to 1998). Photo dating from 1994.
If you watched the 1990s action-thriller The Peacemaker with George Clooney and Nicole Kidman, you’ll know exactly why the S-Class has retained a reputation as the strudy saloon suited to abuse and excess. In the film, Clooney wields a W140 as his weapon of choice, reaking havoc on the streets of Vienna, battering BMWs and Alfa Romeos from the same era.
The W140 (along with the R129) took Mercedes-Benz into a new era of luxury modernity. Satellite Navigation was basic in comparison to the first rendition of voice-assisted control systems known as LINGUATRONIC. In addition, you will find a PARKATRONIC to help you parallel park. Other conveniences included airbags at the side and automatically height adjusting seatbelts.
Driver aids included the first examples of Electronic Stability Programme – also incorporated into R129 production. In addition, the W140 features BAS – Brake Assist System which shortens the stopping distance of the W140 in an emergency moment. All clever tech that can come at a cost to maintain, but nevertheless revolutionary.
Was it excessive? Absolutely. The first S-Class to feature a V12 and the last to incorporate double-glazed windows… Perfect for the stately person or dictator.
V220 (1998 – 2005)
To take the brand into the new era, the company needed something to really showcase the new era of modern luxury motoring. This can be summarised by 340 patents associated with the V220 S-Class. With this came the new design language associated with the brand – the return of curves. Gone was the blocks of the former years characteristic of all the saloons, convertibles and estates. Instead, the lines of the car are more fluid with a curved waist and headlights to suit.
The S-Class debuted keyless entry and DISTRONIC radar guided cruise control which would follow the vehicle in front. Other milestones include the a new COMMAND control system with dynamic navigation, as well as PRE-SAFE – a system that would prepare the vehicle for an emergency incident by tightening seatbelts and closing the sunroof. Just a few measures to keep the passengers in their safe place – the S standing for safe.
V221 (2005 – 2013)
Mercedes-Benz S-Class from the 221 series (2005 to 2013). Photo dating from 2005.
Building on the advances the V220 had made, the V221 offered an array of futuristic utensils to assist the drivers hauling esteemed passengers around. This included Dynamic Night Assist and enhanced proximity cruise control DISTONRIC Plus featuring Lane Keeping Assist. Autonomous partial braking also came in the form of the Pre-Safe brake system; later updated to allow full-stop autonomous braking.
V222 (2013 – 2020)
The S-Class that started this article. The V222 was most recently revealed as one of the top 15 least reliable used cars to buy by Warrantywise. The technology offered is likely to be the cause of this unrealiable marker. One only has to point out the tech such as the Road Surface Scan system – which scans the road ahead to pre-empt changes in the road surface and adjust its suspension setting – as one of the culprits for such expensive repair bills. Other tech included Energising Wellness settings to boost passenger wellness – something that may seem a little too over the top perhaps?
With an average repair bill of £1,423.00 you might be better off sticking with something from nineties instead?
V223 (2021 – Present)
The most recent incarnation of the S-Class, the V223 is as close to AI as it gets without the car driving itself – the enormous 55 inch screen slotted into the centre spine is just one of five screens that can be spec’d with the V223. The V223 will lower itself automatically when you exceed certain speeds to reduce drag, it’ll even lift up if it sense a side on collision… A piece of technology powered by the innovations implemented on the R129 no doubt.
There’s a lot to love about the S-Class, but as classic Mercedes petrolheads we believe that the real essence of driving exists within automobiles that allow you to connect with the road. The S-Class of the modern age, like many other cars, remove the art of driving by taking you away from the action itself. An older S-Class offers mindfulness by allowing you to escape to a time when technology didn’t intrude on your drive.
Buy or sell an S-Class on SLSHOP MarketPlace today.