It has long been an established adage, that if you want to peer into the crystal ball and get a glimpse of future technologies in common cars, all you need to do is sit in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class of today.
Although Mercedes’ luxury saloons can trace their lineage all the way to the beginning of the past century, it was really the Fifties’ Ponton (‘pontoon’ in German; a reference to the model’s slightly swollen body shape) Mercedes that birthed the modern S-Class.
As early as the Sixties, S-Class models ruled the Autobahn’s left-most lanes, with fuel-injected high-displacement engines, rear air suspension, automatic transmission and electric windows. By the following decade, Mercedes-Benz’s S-Class pioneered ABS and driver’s airbags, and fought the enveloping fuel crisis with the world’s first production turbodiesel engine.
These cars are all classics, but in 1979, Stuttgart revealed the W 126 generation S-Class, and more than three decades on, this car is still as at home on our roads today as it was back in its prime. This is thanks to its understated, modern but timeless and simple styling, its hydropneumatic suspension, smooth straight-six and V8 engines, smooth automatic ‘boxes, loads of passive safety equipment and luxury kit, freezing air conditioning, acres of interior space and the performance of a brand new mid-size V6-powered saloon.
The W 126 was produced for over 12 years, before arguably the greatest luxury saloon ever made, the W 140 S-Class, succeeded it. But the W 140 is merely a very modern classic, while the W 126 is a true, usable one. What other classic car can you think of with headlamp washers, traction control, seatbelt pre-tensioners, and passenger airbags?
Best of all, there are plenty to be had on the second-hand market, as this was Mercedes’ most successful luxury saloon made, with more than 800,000 leaving Sindelfingen. The place to hunt for your own in the UAE seems to be Al Ain, with more driving examples per capita than anywhere else in the country in our experience.
Otherwise, a quick look at local online classifieds reveals usable examples for cheaper than Dh20,000, with trader-stocked cars retailing in the Dh30K-Dh40K range, and ultra-low-mileage models (as in, less than 30,000km or just barely run-in) asking Dh55,000. What will it be, the best car in the world gracefully enjoying its retirement years, or a new Nissan Sunny?