Mercedes stunning new S models are almost here, while in Europe 4.5 litre versions are grabbing the headlines. And just around the corner are replacements for the compact 200-280 range.
THE SPARKLING new S series Mercedes sedans - the 280S/SE and 350SE - are here. Well almost, but not quite. We spied cars from the first shipment on a Sydney wharf before they were whisked away to await their June introduction.
Even without considering their specifications and performance, the latest models are easily the most impressive medium-sized Mercs ever. The styling is commanding and ultra-purposeful with distinct affinity to the wedge-profile 350SL/SLC roadster and coupe.
All three S series sedans share the same body on a 112.8 in. wheelbase, about 4.5 in. longer than the models they replace. The two 280S models have the new 2.8 litre twin-cam six-cylinder engines with carburettor on the S and injection on the SE. The 350SE has an injected ohc 3.5 litre V8.
Outstanding feature of the cars is the new suspension. Up front is the wishbone and coil spring system with centre-point steering geometry (explained in Wheels, April), while semi-trailing arms have replaced the former swing axles at the rear. Ventilated disc breaks are fitted at both ends.
The interior has not been overlooked in the updating and the dash panel binnacle, unlike previous Mercs, has gone mod with three large dials.
Equipment levels, appointments and finish are fully up to the standards expected of Mercedes. It is obvious that the S series models meet the challenge and will further strengthen Mercedes grip on the true luxury market.
Though Australia's attention is now focused on the S models, Daimler Benz hasn't forgotten the classes above and below. To the contrary, the 4.5 litre V8 models have happened in Europe. And toward the other end of the range, our man Dirks in Stuttgart has sighted prototypes of the small Merc destined to replace the 200 to 280 models.
The 450Series uses the 3.5 V8 engine enlarged to 4.5 litres in three existing models (the S sedan, SL roadster and SLC coupe) plus a new one - a long wheel base (116.7 in.) sedan designated the 450SEL.
Though the 450 engine claims only a modest increase in power over the 350, it is much torquier - up to 40 percent stronger at low to medium revs and still some 20 percent more muscular even at 5000 rpm. Until now the 4.5 litre engine has been used only in the US with anti-pollution equipment which lowered its power output back to the same level as the European 3.5 engine.
The chassis and running gear on the 450Sedan and sporties are derived from the corresponding 350 models, but the 450SEL differs in some respects. It has its own new three-speed automatic transmission as standard, for example. Also, the semi-trailing arm rear suspension incorporates a Watts linkage system to eliminate tail squat on takeoff.
Electric windows and other such niceties are included among the standard equipment. All the additional wheelbase length is given to the rear legroom and a partition is optional to isolate the chauffeur if required. Thus the 450SEL emerges as a dignified high-performing flagship for the Mercedes sedan range - the exclusive 600 limo excepted, of course.
But as we revealed three months ago, the 4.5 litre models will soon be joined by a 6.9 litre version which replaces the old 6.3 300SEL.
There is no hint yet as to when the replacement small Merc will make the debut but, as Dirks' drawings of the prototype reveal, the styling closely approximates that of the larger models.
New cars apart, Daimler Benz is also becoming active and influential behind the Iron Curtain. No, its not going to produce cars in Russia: Fiat's experience has dampened western car makers earlier enthusiasm for the idea of putting Ivan on wheels. But DB and the Russian Committee of Science and Technology have signed an agreement to exchange design and technical data.
At a guess we'd say it'll mostly be one-way traffic.
© June 1973 Wheels, Australia.