The tall, boxy 1903 Mercedes Simplex was the brand's first big, closed-in comfort machine - or limousine. Though it couldn't be urged to go much faster than someone out for a stroll, it was pretty good for its day.
During the 110 years since the Simplex, Mercedes-Benz limousines have introduced to the world myriad groundbreaking technologies. I have just driven the 2014 S-Class, whose amazing smarts could not have been imagined by the most far-sighted sci-fi writer of the 1950s.
Back then, even heating, air-conditioning and power- assisted steering were options. But Benz engineers were hard at it, introducing in the late 1950s one of motoring's great lifesavers: crumple zones.
In the late 1970s, two more future safety staples - anti-lock brakes and a driver's airbag - made their global debuts in an S-Class. The magical anti-skid technology - popularly known as ESP - followed in 1995. Since then, the innovations have come in floods.
The new-generation S-Class tells an amazing tech story.
Indeed, there are so many fascinating features I'm dispensing with the usual drive report.
On that subject, let's just say both models initially available - a V6 diesel and V8 petrol - are considerably improved in most key areas, including power, fuel efficiency, handling, braking, safety and cabin ambience.
Indeed, the interior is seriously sexy, especially in the darkest leather tone.
Now, let's focus on 16 fab new features.
1. SUSPENSION WITH EYES
This is amazing, the world's first proactive - rather than reactive - suspension. A camera studies the road ahead and technology called Magic Body Control sets the suspension to deal with the specific nature of any road imperfections.
2. BLOW-UP SEATBELTS
In a first for Australia, the Beltbag is available: an inflatable seatbelt strap that lessens the strain on the ribs.
3. BENZ-LED REVOLUTION
Quiz question: How many light globes are there in the S-Class? I would have guessed way below the right answer, which is 500, including 300 in the cabin! And, get this, not one is a conventional globe - they're all LEDs and they should last the life of the car. Auto electricians, lament.
4. LEAN BURNER
In the past decade, S-Class models have cut fuel use by as much as half. It hasn't been achieved by a silver bullet but by refinements. For example, the 0.24 drag coefficient (wind resistance) is extremely low and the exclusive use of LED lights saves 0.05L/100km of fuel. It all adds up.
5. MOBILE CONCERT HALL
Australian entry models are fitted with Europe's mid-range system - Burmester Surround Sound. It includes the new Frontbass system, in which the woofers are housed in the firewall. By using the 40-litre space as a resonance chamber, conventional woofers in the doors are unnecessary.
6. MOOD-ALTERING SUBSTANCES
The S-Class' cabin is all about being in a good place, emotionally as well as physically. One mood enhancer is the air-con's scent- dispensing function, which provides a choice of four subtle aromas: Sports, Nightlife, Downtown and Freeside.
7. LIGHT SHOW
You can select from seven ambient lighting colour choices, five dimming levels and four dimming zones. Via deft deployment of this lighting - combined with the aforementioned concert sounds and scents - you should be able to create quite a romantic mood. If it fails, take a theatre stagehand class.
8. CO-OPERATIVE CLIMATE
The Air Balance package enables four occupants to dial up a personal climatic zone. Benz also debuts the heated armrest. What next?
9. HOT-STONE MASSAGE
The Energising massage option has 14 separately actuated air cushions in the backrest which provide six massages, including shiatsu. Heat is combined with some of the rubs.
10. SWEAT SOLVER
In our summers, it can take a while for the seat to cool. But, with Benz' new ventilated-seats technology, the fans begin in extraction mode, drawing the cooler air on to the hot seat surface. After four minutes, the fans switch to blower mode. No more clammy back.
11. FIRST-CLASS TRAVEL
The backrest on the optional Executive Seat, situated in the left rear, is adjustable up to 43.5 degrees and has an anti- submarining airbag. This prevents the occupant from sliding beneath the seatbelt in an accident.
12. CABIN SERVICE
If opting for a rear centre console, included are cup holders which use Peltier technology to keep drinks cool or warm for longer than previously. Aircraft-like, the console comes with two fold-out tables.
13. ELLE MACPHERSON
Yes, this sub-heading is a cheap way of getting attention for a potentially dull topic - The Body. A light-yet-rigid car body that crumples or resists crumpling in all the right places has two main benefits - it can save you money (fuel saving) or even your life (better handling and crash protection). This model, which uses aluminium for the body and extremely high-strength steel in key passenger cell protection zones, lifts torsional stiffness by 50 per cent.
14. AUTOMATIC PILOT
No, it's not like the blow-up one from Flying High, but just as smart. The S-Class' Pre-Safe Plus gadgetry can anticipate a likely rear-end collision. It warns following vehicles by activating the hazards at high frequency and can firmly apply the brakes. Pre-Safe brake technology can also detect pedestrians then initiate braking to avoid a collision.
15. SMART HIGH BEAM
Allows the driver to keep their most piercing lights on permanently without dazzling other drivers by deftly masking out other vehicles in the beam's cone of light. This is ingenious, and a wonderful asset for night trips in the country.
16. NIGHT VISION
Very sci-fi. If the car's thermal and infrared night-vision cameras identify a likely collision with a pedestrian or animal, the speedo morphs into a screen that displays a sharp image of the endangered life form. A spotlight also flashes on the subject, which should energise the subject and driver to take evasive action. I love it.
These cars have superb dynamics, safety and efficiency - as we'd expect - but I think the ambience and style of the cabin have taken a huge leap. Even if I was in a tearing hurry yet the traffic was gridlocked, I could find some Zen in there.
S 350 BlueTec
Price: $215,000 (Long-wheel-base: $222,500)
Engine: 3.0L V6 turbo-diesel
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Price: *$285,000 (LWB: $310,000)
Engine: 4.7L V8 petrol
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic