"S-Class" is the anglicized version of "S-Klasse," an abbreviation of the previously mentioned Sonderklasse. In automotive terms it refers to "a specially outfitted car." Although used colloquially for decades, following its official application in 1972, six generations of officially named S-Klasse sedans have been produced. Previous two-door coupe models of the S-Class were known as SEC and later S-Coupe. In 1998 the S-Class coupe was spun off in a separate line as the CL-Class, however as of June 2014, it has been re-designated as the S-Class Coupé for the 2015 model year, doing away with the CL-Class.
In 1972, Mercedes-Benz introduced the W116 line, the first to be officially called the S-Class. Produced from 1972 through 1980, the W116 series featured a four-wheel independent suspension and disc brakes The 280, 350, and 450 (4.5L version) models featured SE and SEL versions. Production of the W116 totaled 473,035 units. This was a groundbreaking sedan for Mercedes-Benz, and for the first time in the company history, the car had an obvious, blatant and outward emphasis on safety placed above a pure styling viewpoint. The overall design incorporated numerous safety features developed from the "safety research vehicles" in the mid-to-late 1960s to the very early 1970s.