There have been estate models bearing the Mercedes star for more than 50 years now. Yet the early vehicles were not produced in Sindelfingen, rather they were the work of specialist body manufacturers: the 170 V was supplied by Lueg (Bochum) from 1953 as a station wagon, while at the end of the 1950's Binz (Lorch) produced an estate version of the classic Mercedes 300 (Adenauer). These were followed by versions of the "Ponton", "Fintail" and the "Stroke/8" (produced by Binz and Miesen respectively).
However, the Stuttgartengineers and designers are not totally unfamiliar with the practical body variants featuring large load spaces. Initially, Mercedes-Benz itself sold the small fintail model of the Belgian manufacturer IMAas an estate, under the name "Universal". And the estate version of the Stroke/8, which was developed up to series production stage, already demonstrated what an attractive station wagon should look like. Admittedly the estate was not being produced at that point.
S 123: first Estate from Mercedes-Benz
Nevertheless, market research conducted by Mercedes in the 1970s highlighted the fact that there was significant demand for a sporty, luxurious five-door vehicle for recreational and family use, and in 1975 the executive board therefore gave the
project the green light. However, the new Mercedes was not to be called a "Kombi". The names "Universal" and "Station Wagon" were not approved either. Finally the decision was made - the new variant was to be designated with the abbreviation "T", which stood for "Tourism" and "Transport". Only the internal series designation still hinted at the term "Station Wagon": to this day the Estate still bears the letter "S" as a prefix to the series number.
Series production of the S 123 Estate model commenced in April 1978 at the Bremenfactory. The rear end, with its extended roof, and the low load compartment sill, turned the new model variant into a true sensation of space: even when the standard seats for the driver and up to four passengers are fitted, the station wagon still had room for a load of 523 litres up to the edge of the windows. With the rear seat bench folded down, the load space even swallowed loads of 879 litres up to the edge of the windows.
The design also provided for several optional variations in the layout of the interior. As such, the rear seat bench could be supplied with an asymmetrical divide as an
optional extra. If required, either one or two-thirds of the backrest could then be folded down. Additional folding seats were also available which could be stored in the luggage compartment floor and of course were rear-facing. An automatic hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension helped to ensure a high degree of ride comfort.
The Estate was produced in the Bremenfactory, while only the models exhibited at the International Motor Show and the first 100 series-produced vehicles originated in Sindelfingen. While 70 employees from the Bremenfactory came to Sindelfingenfor intensive training on production of the new Estate series, at the same time 40 specialists from the regular plant at which the W 123 was produced made preparations to build the station wagon in North Germany. The build quality of the S 123, which was subsequently often praised, demonstrates that this time-consuming preparatory work was worthwhile.
S 124: a best-seller with a high standard of safety
The history of the 124 series is characterised by a previously unheard of variety of models, body designs and innovations. An important step in this respect came with the premiere of the S 124 Estate in September 1985 at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt. This second generation of the sporty lifestyle Estate from Mercedes-Benz was broadly the same as the Saloons in technical and style terms: apart from the different shape of the rear end, the taller roof and the changes this resulted in, there were no differences in the bodywork. The Estates featured an independent multi-link rear suspension, now combined as standard with hydropneumatic self-levelling,
as well as a shock absorber strut independent front suspension.
The designers also incorporated the safety standards achieved in the Saloons into the Estates wherever possible. The development of the rear body overhang in particular - an especially critical area in estate cars - became the focal point for the latest developments in safety research. One example is the fuel tank, which in the case of the Estates is suspended beneath the vehicle floor for design reasons. It has a special shape, with inclined side areas on the upper part of the tank and near the vehicle floor. This ensures that in the event of a rear-end collision, the tank is pushed away in a downwards direction due to longitudinal deformation and in the process is held by check straps, without hitting the road surface.
S 210: twin-headlamp design and a large luggage compartment
The new E-Class Estate followed on from the Saloon in May 1996. As with its predecessor, the vehicle adopted the characteristic design features of the Saloon. The S 210 was characterised by a particularly large and spacious interior, providing enhanced comfort and movement for the passengers, while at the same time increasing the luggage compartment by a further 70 litres.
The Estate made use of all of the technical innovations which were also the distinguishing features of the E-Class Saloon. In addition, the designers paid particular attention to passive safety. Here they developed a completely new bodyshell structure, which among other things was designed to protect the tank in the event of a rear-end collision by means of a heavily reinforced structure. The supports for the rear seat backrests and their locking mechanism and anchorage points were also strengthened.
S 211: dynamic elegance and practical details
In 2002, one year after the Saloon, Mercedes-Benz introduced the E-Class Estate. The S 211 was particularly closely related in design terms to the saloons of the series.
Aesthetically, too, the new Estate was every bit a match for the Saloon. In the Estate, the designers created an especially convincing combination of generous load space and dynamic elegance.
In addition to the many innovations adopted from the saloon, the Estate featured other innovations developed specifically for the S 211. These included the EASY-PACK system with a new, asymmetrically divided rear seat bench that could easily be folded forward to create a level loading area in the rear. Also available as an optional extra was the hydraulically driven EASY-PACK load compartment floor, which could be
extended 40 centimetres out of the rear of the vehicle to facilitate the loading and unloading of heavy objects.
The most important facts and figures at a glance: