Evolution of an icon: the Mercedes S-Class Coupe changes with the times but remains a symbol of style

A powerful engine, a luxurious cabin, and all the latest technology wrapped in stylish two-door bodywork. What could be better?

Nothing says sophistication like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe. With an all-new model, previewed by the Concept S-Class Coupe from the 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show, waiting in the wings, we decided to take a look at the evolution of this iconic luxury car.

In the beginning

Mercedes was making big, luxurious coupes long before the S-Class. Prewar models cemented Benz’s reputation as the builder extremely desirable cars. After WWII, the “Ponton” models helped re-establish Benz’s reputation as Germany attempted to rebuild itself.

However, the S-Class Coupe lineage really began with the 1959 “Fintail” Mercedes, (named for their minimalist tail fins) and the facelifted models that succeeded them in 1965. They had the size and swagger that we associate with the S-Class today.

These cars were big and decently fast for the time. They emphasized smooth cruising over outright performance. They were Mercedes’ flagship model line until Stuttgart launched the first S-Class in 1972.

A coupe by any other name

That first S-Class, the W116, established the concept of a full-size sedan model line that could serve as Mercedes’ standard-bearer. The 1972 S-Class sedan was one of the most advanced cars of its time, but there was no coupe. Instead, Mercedes decided to position the SL-Class as its top two-door.

It turned out that some customers still wanted a big, four-seat coupe instead of the relatively compact, two-seat SL. So, when the S-Class was redesigned for the 1980 model year, Mercedes created a coupe variant, which it badged SEC.

In 1992, the SEC joined the S-Class sedan on the new W140 platform, with slightly amorphous styling perfectly suited for the 1990s. It also gained its first V12: a 6.0-liter unit offered alongside a 5.0-liter V8.

The SEC got a new name the next year, becoming the CL-Class.

Mercedes’ two-door flagship

The CL-Class grew to new levels of extravagance with the launch of a redesigned model in 1999. Sleeker than the W140 model but still utterly massive, the W215 would gain a reputation for performance as well as luxury.

The V8 CL500 and V12 CL600 returned, but they were joined by performance variants tuned by Mercedes’ AMG division. 

The quickest of these cars, the CL65 AMG, could do 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds and reach an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. That may seem impressive for a full-size coupe, but it sounds just about right for a car with 603 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque.

The AMG performance models returned for the final iteration of the CL, launched in 2006 as a 2007 model. However, for a mid-cycle refresh in 2011, they got downsized engines to give the car slightly less abysmal fuel economy.

The CL63 AMG’s 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 became a 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V8; the CL65 AMG got a 6.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V12. Power figures – 536 hp and 621 hp, respectively – are actually improvements over the old engines, as is the performance.

The current CL-Class also comes with a suite of safety tech, including Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keep Assist, and Active Body Control.

S-Class Coupe

The S-Class sedan was completely redesigned for the 2014 model year, and the “S-Class Coupe” CL will join it on the new chassis soon but will once again carry that iconic S-Class badge.

If the production car looks anything like the 2013 Frankfurt show car, it will definitely have the presence of previous big Mercedes coupes. Like its forebears, the new S-Class Coupe will be an uncanny combination technology, luxury, and style.

Product Review

If you don't know about Genesis yet, the G70 is going to change that

The 2019 Genesis G70 is Korea’s first attempt to take on the vaunted German trio of BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Competition doesn’t come much tougher than that.

Sibling rivalry: 2019 BMW Z4 takes on the 2020 Toyota Supra

BMW and Toyota forged an unlikely partnership when they set out to build a sports car platform together. Here, we examine the similarities and differences between the 2019 Z4 and the 2020 Supra.
Home Theater

Cutting the cord? Let us help you find the best service for live TV streaming

There's a long list of live TV streaming services available to help you cut the cord and replace your traditional TV subscription. Each is different in important ways, and this guide will help you find the best one for you.
Home Theater

QLED and OLED may have similar names, but they're totally different technologies

The names may look almost identical, but OLED and QLED are two entirely different beasts. In our QLED vs. OLED battle, we dissect the differences between these dueling TV technologies, and help determine which might be best for you.

Hyundai’s Veloster N hot hatchback will prove its mettle on the track

The Hyundai Veloster N will go racing to prove the credibility of Hyundai's new N performance division. Unveiled at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Veloster N race car will compete in a class with other small cars.

Nissan IMs concept teases a future long-range, autonomous electric car

Debuting at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Nissan IMs is an electric car with a 380-mile range, autonomous-driving capability, and a backseat designed for being chauffeured. Too bad it's just a concept car.

The 2020 Lexus RC F goes on a diet to run faster and hit harder

The Lexus RC F has been one of the heavier cars in its competitive set since its introduction. The Japanese firm's engineers set out to shed weight as they gave the model a mid-cycle update.

Lexus LC convertible concept teases a new open-air flagship

Debuting at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Lexus LC convertible concept adds open-air motoring to the sleek LC's resume. But Lexus won't commit to a production version of the car just yet.

Fast and Furious fans get revved up: Toyota’s Supra sports car is back

The 2020 Toyota Supra made its long-awaited debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The resurrected sports car, famous for a role in The Fast and the Furious, goes on sale in the U.S. this summer.

Muscle cars, trucks, and EVs roared into the subdued 2019 Detroit Auto Show

The 2019 Detroit Auto Show was the quietest edition of the event in recent memory, but that doesn't mean nothing significant happened inside the Cobo Center. Here are the new cars and concepts we saw at the show.

Big tech, bigger grille: BMW updates its 7 Series flagship for 2020

The BMW 7 Series will enter the 2020 model year with a host of updates inside, outside, and under the sheet metal. The new-look nose with a jumbo grille hides updated engines, while passengers benefit from smart tech features.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.

In McLaren’s 600LT Spider, the engine is the only sound system you’ll need

The McLaren 600LT Spider is the inevitable convertible version of the 600LT coupe, itself a lighter, more powerful version of the McLaren 570S. The 600LT Spider boasts a 592-horsepower, twin-turbo V8, and a loud exhaust system to hear it…

Robomart’s self-driving grocery store is like Amazon Go on wheels

Robomart's driverless vehicle is like an Amazon Go store on wheels, with sensors tracking what you grab from the shelves. If you don't want to shop online or visit the grocery store yourself, Robomart will bring the store to you.