Classic Mercedes-Benz S-Class Diesels: W116 or W126

So you’re in the market for a classic Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Maybe you’re a collector who appreciates the over-engineered build quality and legendary reliability of Mercs from the days when the slogan “engineered like no other car in the world” actually meant something. Or perhaps you’re an eco-conscious driver looking to convert a practically indestructible 5-cylinder diesel motor to run on biofuel.


There are no finer examples of Mercedes-Benz automobiles at the peak of their excellence than S-Class models from the 1970s and 1980s. The diesels are particularly excellent cars, as the large number still going strong today indicates. The only question is: should you choose the first-generation (1972-80) S-Class, or the second-generation (1981-92), widely considered to be the quintessential Mercedes sedan?

Decisions, Decisions

It’s mostly a matter of personal choice. Some Benz lovers prefer the boxy lines, chrome brightwork and vault-like solidity of the first-generation S-Class, officially known as W116. Others prefer the more refined, sleek styling and technological advancements of the second-generation model, the W126.

Check out any online Mercedes forum and you’ll see heated debate about which generation is the best. They both share many of the same components, right down to the inline 5-cylinder engine. Of course, the W126 has more advanced technological features, since it was produced well into the 1990s. The W116, which debuted in 1972, is far less of a technical marvel, but many enthusiasts claim it is more of a pleasure to drive.

It’s All About Maintenance

Whether you choose the W116 or W126, the most important thing to remember is this: a well-maintained Mercedes is a long-lasting Mercedes. It is not unusual for these cars to last 500,000, even 1,000,000 miles, with proper care. While they are built like tanks and can withstand lots of abuse, regular maintenance is a must.

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