Mercedes-Benz with its 140-year history is the fourth oldest car manufacturer in the world behind Peugeot (1), Tatra (2), and Opel (3). The company has created a lot of legendary cars, and here are our picks for the most iconic Mercedes-Benz models of all time.
When we say “iconic”, we don’t mean best-selling or most popular, or most mass-produced models. Iconic cars are the remarkable ones making history of a car brand and having an impact on the automotive world.
Mercedes-Benz is arguably the most iconic marque ever. It was an engine designer and automotive engineer Karl Benz who invented the world’s first automobile with an internal combustion engine, and he was also the first person to receive a driver’s license.
Vehicles of this brand are high-quality and dependable. It’s a matter of prestige to own a Mercedes, and the desire to buy a Mercedes motivates a person to succeed.
1. Mercedes-Benz 300 SL
- Production: 1954-1963
The 2-door 300 SL is apparently the most iconic Mercedes ever made. The company built the car as an amazing gull-winged coupe till 1957, and then as a roadster till 1963.
The original 300 SL (“Super-Light”) was a sports car that became a racing champion. Given the post-war boom in the automotive market, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL was turned into a mass-production vehicle and got a street version.
The model is powered by a 3.0 inline-6 pushing 215 horsepower and 203 pound-feet of torque. With a top speed of up to 163 mph (263 km/h), it was the world’s fastest production car of its time. Also, in 1999, the 300 SL was voted the “sports car of the century”.
The history of the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class family began with the 300 SL. The brand’s famous supercars, such as the SLR McLaren, SLS AMG, or AMG GT originated from the 300 SL, one way or another. Today the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL is one of the most expensive classic cars.
2. Mercedes-Benz G-Class
- Production: 1979 – present
Since its launch in the late 1970s, this 4×4 badass automobile has become a favorite of many people, and a sweetheart in Hollywood in addition. The G-Wagen (Geländewagen) features body-on-frame construction, boxy styling, and 3 fully locking differentials,
The original model was a military off-roader developed by the suggestion of Shan of Iran that evolved into a luxury SUV over the course of time.
The G-Class is one of the longest-produced vehicles in the history of Daimler. It has a variety of editions, modifications, and versions. but only two generations: long-lasting first (1990–2018) and second (2018–present). A range of engines includes 4-, 6- and 8-cylinders, gasoline or diesel ones, with displacements from 2.0 liters and more, and transmission variations. There were limited V12 models such as the G65 AMG.
A 1990 G-Class appeared in the Bourne Supremacy movie. A specially modified 280 GE became a winner of the Paris-Dakar Rally in 1983. The model has been used in multiple military operations in many countries.
3. Mercedes-Benz CLS
- Production: 2004- present
This model is on our list for a reason. The first-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS C219 was a game-changer due to its radical design. No one had ever dared to combine two different body styles – a sedan with a coupe, but Mercedes did and proved it was possible.
It can be said the Mercedes CLS paved the way for such models as the Audi A7, BMW 8 Series Grand Coupe, and Porsche Panamera. The original CLS was a 4-door fastback sedan on the E-Class platform, albeit the company marketed it as a 4-door coupe.
The car has three generations. High-performance AMG variants with 4MATIC all-wheel drive became available beginning with the 2nd generation.
4. Mercedes-Benz 500E
- Production: 1991-1994
An ultimate sports sedan, a high-performance version of the Mercedes-Benz W124 mid-size car. The 500E was far different from other E-Class models: it had a wider track front and rear, bigger brakes at all four corners, and an upgraded suspension. The car was fast, luxurious, and technology-packed for its time.
What made the 500E special was its built quality. Actually, this sedan was hand-assembled by Porsche (engine, chassis) in a joint venture between the two companies. The production process took a full 18 days per car. Assembly works were alternately carried out at the plants of Porsche and Mercedes.
Many components, including a 5.0-liter V8, came from the SL-Class, The engine produced 322 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. The top speed was electronically limited to 155 mph (250 km/h). The 0-62 mph acceleration took 5.5-6.0 seconds.
The press called the model a “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” for its look and performance. The Mercedes-Benz 500E is considered a “modern classic” because of its unique pedigree, hand-built construction, and limited quantity.
5. Mercedes-Benz R129
- Production: 1989–2001, 213,089 units built
This 2-door roadster is a pinnacle of the SL-Class, a beautiful toy for a millionaire – refined, well-built and potent. The model was loved by actresses, rappers, real estate investors, and businessmen. Princess Diana even owned one.
The R129 featured a color-matched automated tonneau cover, an electro-hydraulic fabric convertible roof, and a manually detachable hardtop that could be fitted over the stored tonneau and roof. Mercedes offered a choice of powertrains for the R129, including V6s, V8, and insane V12s with displacements of 6.0, 7.0, and 7.2 liters.
6. Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR
This is an ultra-rare road-legal race car. The manufacturer introduced it as a 1999 model and produced it in a quantity of only 25 units – 20 coupes and 5 roadsters. Mercedes built the model to follow the FIA GT1 class rules which required making a set number of road-going variants.
Under the hood, the CLK GTR had an AMG-developed 6.8-liter V12 engine that produced 604 hp at 6,800 rpm and 572 lb-ft of torque and sent power to the rear wheels via a 6-speed paddle-shift Xtrac sequential transmission. The CLK GTR’s acceleration from zero to 60 mph took just 3.8 seconds, and the top speed was 214 mph.
This car had little in common with the regular CLK coupe but shared many components, like the engine, its carbon fiber body, and design features with the GT1 racer.
When the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR appeared, It had a price tag of $1,573,000. Today this car is extremely valuable and costs several times more.
7. Mercedes-Benz S-Class
“Cares for what matters“
- Production: 1972 – present
- Names: S-Class, Sonderklasse, S-Klasse
In 1972, Mercedes officially introduced the S-Class designation for its top-of-the-line models – full-sized luxury sedans, armed sedans, and limousines.
This series represents the automotive pinnacle and the forefront: the S-Class has debuted many latest innovations of the brand, including the drivetrain, interior, and safety techs.
The model is ranked as the world’s best-selling luxury sedan. It has earned a lot of different awards over its seven generations and has been favored by notable personalities – world leaders and celebrities.
The third-generation W140 S-Class (“Shabah”) made in the 1990s was the last of its kind. The project cost well over $1 billion and resulted in an overengineered vehicle with advanced features (for that time), like electric windows with jam protection, rear-parking markers, double-pane window glazing, self-closing trunk lid and doors, Electronic Stability Control, a heating system emitting warm air while residual energy was available after the engine was off.
The hand-built W140 model won respect, and it is still considered great even by today’s standards due to its exceptional quality. It offered a wide range of engines: gasoline i6s, V8s, V12s with displacements from 2.6 to 6.0 liters, and 6-cylinder turbodiesels (3.0- and 3.5-liter ones).
8. Mercedes-Benz SSK
- Production: 1928-1932
The Mercedes-Benz SSK (“Super Sport Kurz”) roadster was one of the most highly regarded sports cars of its era due to its incredible performance and success in numerous races.
It had a mammoth supercharged 7.0-liter straight-six engine that produced 150-220 kW (200-300 metric horsepower) and more than 500 pound-feet of torque, depending on the exact tune. The SSK gained a maximal speed of up to 120 mph (190 km/h) and was the fastest car of its time.
Mercedes-Benz SSK is also the last vehicle designed for Mercedes-Benz by Ferdinand Porsche before he left to found his own company. Besides, the car appeared in the video game Forza Horizon 4, and throughout the anime series as a favorite of Lupin III.
Today the model is among the world’s most sought-after and expensive cars due to its heritage and scarcity.
9. Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman (W100)
Daimler-Benz crafted this large and heavy luxury automobile during the 1960-1970s. When the car arrived in 1963, it was intended to be an epitome of perfection, exclusivity, and high-end tech.
The upper echelons used the model worldwide. Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor, John Lennon, Hugh Hefner, Jason Kay, Mao Tse-Tung, Aristotle Onassis, Nicolae Ceauşescu, and Josip Broz-Tito are among its famous owners.
The 600 Pullman offered many luxuries, for example, a complex hydraulic system that powered everything in the vehicle. Several variants with short and long wheelbases were offered: a 4-door sedan, a 4- or 6-door limousine, a coupe, a limousine with a convertible top, and even a funeral coach.
The automaker specially developed a massive 6.3-liter V8 engine to move the Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman. Although the vehicle’s adjustable air suspension provided a smooth ride and good handling on all roads, the car’s big mass impeded its agility.
10. Mercedes-Benz C111
- Production: 1969 – 1970, 16 cars produced
Mercedes-Benz built the C111 series of experimental automobiles to use as test beds for new technologies: Wankel and diesel engines, turbochargers, gull-wing doors, multi-link rear suspension, and a leather-trimmed interior with air conditioning.
Although the C111 had been never put into mass production, the model’s iconic status is obvious, as well as its historic role in the brand’s development.
In 1991, Mercedes introduced the next concept – the C112 as a proposed production sports car but later decided not to proceed with production.
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