I’ll have to be very careful with what I write about the Mercedes S Class W140, otherwise I’ll get home tonight in multiple bodybags. First arrives a hand, then a leg, and so on. Or maybe the Mercedes S Class W140 is no longer a car for mobsters, but only for Mercedes enthusiasts.
What is there to say about the Mercedes S Class W140? A lot of people consider it the ultimate classic Mercedes, even if that title would rather go to the W211 E Class. However, I understand what Mercedes fans are saying because the W140 was the last S Class where a leap was made from the previous model. Until the W140 every S Class was a revolution, and after the W140 every S Class is just an evolution. The W112 1961 had an automatic transmission, power steering, and air suspension – in 1961. The W108 came in 1967 with electronically controlled fuel injection, and then the W116 came in 1972 and revolutionized the car industry on the safety side. It came with so many new features and systems that even Big Smokes’ food list. Airbags, ABS, and the world’s first car to have a turbodiesel engine as standard. Next came the W126 in 1979 with the monstrous 6.9 V8 and the world’s first electronic ABS and the first hydropneumatic system.
And the Mercedes W140?
The Mercedes S Class W140 is known as the last Mercedes built to engineering and not marketing standards. A project that cost Mercedes 1 billion dollars and the chief project engineer his job, the W140 was bigger, better equipped, and obviously more expensive. And from there the marketing department said stop to financially inefficient cars and went for lower production costs and therefore lower quality. Plus the W140 left a legacy more equipped than Salma Hayek, such as the video camera that films the road ahead and adjusts the air suspension, the world’s first car with GPS system, the first car with parking sensors, memory seats, orthopedic seats that can be inflated or deflated to accommodate rear passengers, 2 or 4 zone climate control, CAN bus, soft-close, electric mirrors and so on. Mercedes S Class W140 – the Salma Hayek of the automotive world, if Salma Hayek were square.
Mercedes S Class W140 Engines
- 2.8 l-6 of 190 horsepower – The fact that this is the smallest engine in the Mercedes S Class W140 and the only petrol under 3 liters makes it obvious that this is not a car for the poor. However, apart from specific issues, as long as it gets quality oil changed on time, you’re on track.
- 3.2 l-6 of 230 horsepower – Same M104 but lengthened from 2.8 to 3.2 and much heavier on tax. You get 40 more horsepower, less fuel consumption, and the same issues. If you’re going to get a W140, at least do it in style.
- 4.2 V8 of 275 and 280 horsepower – Ironically, the M119 is the most reliable and economical engine on the W140. The only real concern is with the timing chain, but otherwise, this V8 monster is exactly what Mercedes used to be.
- 6.0 V12 of 390 and 400 horsepower – More cylinders mean more issues, you’d think. And you’d be wrong. Mercedes’ first modern V12 since WWII spent 10 years in the incubator and was also expected to be comically reliable. It has no specific issues, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t involve maintenance costs. However, if you’re thinking about cost, an S600 probably isn’t for you, because you couldn’t afford it anyway.
- 3.0 l-6 of 180 horsepower- Unfortunately this is also the first diesel that knows the concept of electronics. Mechanically it’s gonna last forever and beyond, but it’s the electronics that will kill eventually it. Unfortunately, this is a modern engine compared to the other diesel available and it needs electronics. Shame.
- 3.5 l-6 of 150 horsepower – Legend has it that this engine doesn’t need a battery to run. It’s that old. And there have been cases of cracked cylinders, but rarer cases than the times I laugh honestly at Amy Schumer. Like the rest of the world, really.
Mercedes S Class W140 General Issues
- For inline 6-cylinder engines, the gasket is required to be changed once in a lifetime. Although, if you’re in 20-20 and looking for a Mercedes S Class W140, it’s probably already been done.
- All models up to 1996 have issues with everything from the cables or plugs of the engine. Fortunately, the release of Internet Explorer 3 in 1996 motivated the Germans to fix their W140, because too many off them were sent to the graveyard because of it.
- We’re talking about a car that weighs at least 5000 tons so the suspension will always be under stress and pressure, like when you’re in the exam and you know you have 20 minutes left and the exam is over and you don’t know anything. From springs to bushings, get your pockets ready.
- The rust gathers on the front wings and throws a party that lasts 3 days and 3 nights. Or as long as you have to ignore the situation. Either way, if you close your eyes and wait for it to go away on its own, it won’t.
- The electronics in the doors are worthy of flea markets, so you’ll have issues with either the window motors or the soft close and so on. But that’s not your concern, it’s your driver’s issue. Or since it’s a 30 years old Mercedes, it might be your issue after all.
Mercedes S Class W140 Verdict
You know that moment when you’re in the classroom and the principle knocks on the door and wants to talk to the teacher? And they chat at the door and every now and then they look at you, then they keep talking, then they look at you again? Do you know the feeling? That’s pretty much what the Mercedes S Class W140 gives me. Even if time has passed and you can no longer find bodybags full of victims, the W140 remains one of the most spectacular classic Mercedes and the next step for those who have tasted the W124 drug and want more. They just have to afford it.
Which engines do I recommend? For diesel, probably the 3 liter 180 horsepower should be reasonable enough, but the stars on the W140 are the 4.2 V8 and 6.0 V12 petrols. The 6 liter may be untouchable money-wise, but the 4.2 V8 is cheaper because it didn’t have the same status as the monster V12 and it’s not as valuable for collectors and it’s also too expensive for the regular enthusiast.
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