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.


Fisker failed. But now the EV pioneer is ready for an epic redo

Henrik Fisker has already had a career most executives can only dream about. He designed the BMZ Z8, a couple of Aston Martins, and his own Fisker Karma. But he’s got a plan to disrupt the auto industry, forged by lessons learned over the…

With lessons learned from racing, Mercedes-AMG takes GT R sports car to next level

Mercedes-AMG keeps finding ways to make its GT sports car even more hardcore. If you thought the GT R variant was as good as it got, get ready for the GT R Pro, which will race into the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show.

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…

See the National Forests like never before in these awe-inspiring drone videos

What's the difference between a National Park and a National Forest? Drones. With no ban on drones in National Forests -- at least, not yet -- filmmakers have a way to capture the immensity of these locations with stunning results.

From Rolls-Royce to Lamborghini, these are the most expensive cars in the world

If you recently discovered an oil reserve in your backyard, you probably have some extra cash to spend. Look no further, because we’ve rounded up the most expensive cars in the world.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Smarter cities need smarter addresses. And you just need 3 words

To make really smart transportation choices, more precise location data will have to be integrated with citywide transportation data. Here’s how one company is mapping the world by using just three words.

Lamborghini transforms the Urus SUV into a dual-purpose race car

Breaking stereotypes and tradition, Lamborghini has turned the Urus SUV into a race car that's equally at home on a paved track and on a dirt trail. The ST-X concept gets bigger air intakes, a full roll cage, and center-locking alloy…

Jaguar’s V2X technology will keep you from getting stuck at red lights

Jaguar wants to make sure you never have to rush through a yellow light again. The carmaker is building tools that will tell you what speed you'll need to drive to avoid getting stuck at a red light.

Drool over Lamborghini’s latest dream machine: The one-off SC18

The Lamborghini SC18 was built by the automaker's Squadra Corse racing department at the request of a customer. Based on the Lamborghini Aventador, it features upgraded aerodynamic aids and reduced weight.

Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn ousted, arrested after whistleblower cries foul

Nissan will oust chairman Carlos Ghosn after an internal investigation revealed he underreported his salary to Japan's financial authorities for years. Greg Kelly, one of Nissan's representative directors, will leave for the same reason.

Tesla owners will soon be able to summon a repair van in a few taps

Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted out plans to expand the Tesla mobile app so Tesla owners can request on-demand service for common problems from Tesla Ranger mobile service vehicles in just a few taps.

2019 Crosstrek Hybrid has something no Subaru has ever had

The 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid is the Japanese automaker's first production plug-in hybrid vehicle. It will go on sale before the end of the year. Subaru relied on plug-in hybrid tech from Toyota to make the Crosstrek Hybrid a reality.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Nissan turmoil, product designer Jae Yoo of Nerf, and more

For today's episode of Digital Trends Live, we turn our attention to the L.A. Auto Show and Lamborghini's race-ready version of the Urus. We also speak with Jae Yoo of Nerf and MLS defender Zarek Valentin about their origins, modern tech…