Geneva Motor Show: Regular exclusive premiere location for Mercedes-Benz

Mar 16, 2021
  • 1961: The 220 SE Coupé impressed the public 60 years ago with its timeless elegance
  • 1991: Premiere 30 years ago for the model series 140 S-Class
  • 1996: First C-Class Estate celebrated its debut 25 years ago
  • 1996: E-Class Estate (model series 210) with unparalleled spaciousness

Stuttgart. In the past, the Geneva Motor Show has always been a dazzling premiere venue for Mercedes-Benz. A look back over our shoulders brings back some very special memories: thus it was, 60 years ago, that the laid-back elegance of the 220 SE Coupé (W 111) thrilled the public. It was 30 years ago that the S-Class in model series 140 attracted the public eye in Geneva. In a less spectacular manner, but nevertheless of a high profile because of their tremendous utility value, two estate models aroused considerable attention 25 years ago: in 1996 Mercedes-Benz added a sporty estate variant (S 202) to the C-Class line-up of models for the first time. And the E-Class Estate (S 210) presented at the same time featured unrivalled spaciousness.

Mercedes-Benz 220 SE Coupé (W 111): In 1961, one of the most elegant coupés in the brand’s history was displayed at Lake Geneva. That luxurious two-door model – and together with it the cabriolet presented in autumn of the same year – was then built for eleven years with a range of different engine and transmission variants. Technically, the 220 SE Coupé was based on the “tail fin” saloon and, like the latter, was assigned the model series designation W 111. The unchanged floor assembly offered plenty of room for four seats and a large boot. However, the coupé’s body was 80 millimetres lower than that of the saloon, so only the radiator grille and the front light units could be carried over. The six-cylinder engine developed 88 kW (120 hp) from a displacement of 2.2 litres. The coupé and cabriolet are still coveted models today: the later versions with V8 engines, in particular, are amongst the most sought-after Mercedes-Benz classics.

S-Class in model series 140: Introduced in 1991, this prestigious Mercedes-Benz luxury saloon boasted numerous innovations, from safety and comfort to sustainability. Ride comfort, for one, had been considerably improved over the predecessor model series 126. The company’s first twelve-cylinder engine in a passenger car marked the peak of performance with 300 kW (408 hp) in the top 600 SE and 600 SEL models. In the 1995 facelift, the 140 model series became the first car to feature the Electronic Stability Program ESP® and, in 1996, the Brake Assist System (BAS). The saloon was produced until September 1998 and, today, is recognised as a very popular young classic. With effect from 2021, the first of these cars are classified as historic cultural assets in Germany and are eligible for the coveted “H” registration plate, where the “H” stands for “historical vehicle”.

The estate as a compact model: At the 1996 Geneva Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz presented the first C-Class Estate 25 years ago. Three years after the introduction of the saloon (W 202) in 1993, the model range was extended to include a sporty, compact beast of burden (S 202). The luggage compartment volume of between 465 and 1,510 litres was the largest available in this vehicle class. As with the saloons, the estate was available in the CLASSIC, ELEGANCE, ESPRIT and SPORT design and equipment lines. Buyers were initially offered a choice of three petrol and two diesel engines. In the course of the facelifts, Mercedes-Benz updated the appearance of the saloon and estate several times. New engine variants were also added – with the C 43 AMG (from 1997) and C 55 AMG (from 1998) as the top models. Formula One used the C 43 AMG Estate as its official Medical Car.

Nobody offered more interior space: Called the “T-Modell” in German, the T stood for “tourism and transportation” but could equally have stood for “trendsetter”. The estates in model series 123 already provided spacious interiors, and model series 124 even more so. The estate of the model series 210 E-Class presented at the 1996 Geneva Motor Show, with its characteristic twin-headlamp front, offered a massive 1,975 litres of stowage space when needed, which was a record in the industry. Automatic level control was standard equipment. If a customer ordered the optional third bench seat, which faced in the opposite direction to the direction of travel, the car became a seven-seater. The choice of engines available ranged from 70 kW (95 hp) to 205 kW (279 hp). The AMG version E 55 AMG was available as an estate with 260 kW (354 hp) from 1998 on.

The Geneva Motor Show: Traditionally, this is the first major European motor show of the year and has a long history. The first of these was hosted by the Swiss Automobile Club (ACS) on 29 April 1905 at a polling station covering 1,200 square metres. The Mercedes-Benz parent company based in Stuttgart – rather than the Swiss representative – was on-site at the 1926 Motor Show for the first time. The exhibition area covered by the Motor Show, which took place annually, was constantly expanded. Compared to other trade fairs such as those in Detroit, Frankfurt and Tokyo, however, it remained comparatively small – but of a high standard, as one would expect in sophisticated Geneva. In 2020 and 2021, this exclusive show was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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