First production car equipped with a brake-intervention traction-control system 1987 Mercedes-Benz V126/W126 S-Class W126
The cars we drive today were influenced by these pioneers
Two decades before it released the second Mercedes-Benz to don the sonderklasse (special class) moniker in 1979, chief engineer and member of Daimler-Benz’s board of management, Fritz Nallinger, led a patent for a device that would prevent the driven wheels from spinning via intervention from the engine, transmission or brakes. Unfortunately, at the time, the technology to produce such a system did not exist and Professor Nallinger’s concept remained just that.
Thanks to advancements in automotive engineering, this idea materialised in 1987 when the Stuttgart automaker introduced a traction control system (TCS) to the European-spec V126/C126/W126-generation S-Class. Also known as acceleration slip regulation (ASR), this system wasn’t far removed from the electronic stability control (ESC) found in modern vehicles (another first from Mercedes-Benz). ASR was a dedicated, electro-hydraulic setup which acted in conjunction with the brake actuator and sensors monitoring the speed of the wheels.
The primary function of this safety feature was to aid drivers in maintaining control of the vehicle when excessive amounts of torque – due to hard-acceleration or road imperfections – results in the rear wheels slipping or the car swerving. Thanks to the innovative system, brakes were applied to the spinning wheels, while torque output decreased. ASR also involved the reduction of torque by reducing fuel supply and retarding ignition timing. Across the Atlantic, the United States was the second market to receive the TCS-equipped Mercedes, available exclusively in 560 SEL V126 and SEC Coupé C126 guise for the remainder of the W126’s production cycle. These ‑ agship models included other safety items such as airbags as standard, which was not the case with other variants. A year later, in 1991, the third-generation S was unveiled. The facelifted version, which was introduced in ’1995, would sport ESC.