Mercedes-Benz S-Class etymology: What does its name mean?

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class is a byword for luxury and exemplifies what the brand stands for, but what does its name mean, if anything?


In German, the S-Klasse is short of Sonderklasse or Special Class. The S badge has been used on Mercedes-Benz’ range-topping sedan models since the mid-1950s.

The first generation to be officially referred to as the S-Class was 1972’s W112. Up until 1993, the model names were written with the engine displacement first, followed by letters and designations.

For example, the 450SEL, would be an S-Class sedan with a 4.5-litre V8 equipped with fuel-injection (hence the ‘E’ for Einspritzmotor or fuel-injected engine), and a long wheelbase (the ‘L’ in the name).

After 1993, the model designation came first, followed by the indicative engine capacity, and any suffixes. So, the S350L CDI was a long-wheelbase S-Class with a 3.5-litre common-rail turbo-diesel engine.



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Derek Fung

Derek Fung

Editor-at-large — Derek has a lifelong love for all things automotive, from the dullest Camry to record shattering Bugattis. Prior to starting up Between the Axles he was a reviewer for CNET Australia and the founding editor of its Car Technology channel. [Read more]