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Meanings of "Letter Model Designations?"

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dolebludger's picture
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My wife, Carol, raised an interesting question. While we all know that the numerical model designation on new MB's usually is the engine's liter displacement X 100, what (if anything) do the letter designations mean, such as C, CLK, SLK, E, S, and so on?

Thanks,
Richard:confused:

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Richard... There is a LOT of history to cover here. You can also view the models in a graphic at mbusa.com I'll also put $ signs in for cost relationships - remembering that drivetrains or AMG packages can dramatically affect the cost. For recent models (last 10 years:

SL - you probably know this one - 2 seat roadster $$$$-$$$$$
SLK - a smaller roadster, built to fill a low-end niche $$-$$$
C Class - currently, in the US, the entry level car, available in coupe and sedan versions $-$$
E Class - midsize sedans $$$-$$$$
S Class - large, top of the line sedans $$$$-$$$$$
CL Class - top of the line coupe version of the S Class $$$$-$$$$$
CLK - Coupe based on the C Class chassis, but a bit more upscale $$-$$$
ML - SUV $$-$$$
G Wagon - top of the line SUV - a true "take it anywhere" vehicle $$$$

You can probable quibble with my $, but they are meant to be relative.

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Hi, Bill!

Thanks for the info. But apparently I mistated my wife's question. What she (and then I) wondered is if the letters in the models' class designation stood for any words (in German?), or if they were merely arbitrary designations. Let me give you an example. Mercedes adds the letter "K" for Kompressor" (supercharger) and the letter "D" for Diesel. So in the case of an E320D, we know that the "D" stands for Diesel, the 320 means she's has 3.2 liter engine, but what (if anything) does the "E" stand for? Here's another example. Honda chose the name S2000 for one of my other cars. Here, it is generally accepted that "S" stands for "Sport" (in English) and the "2000" means she has a 2000 cc (2.0 liter) engine. On the other hand, Honda uses some arbitrary model designations that have no real meaning, such as "Civic", Accord", and "Pilot". So we were just wondering if the initial letter class designation of MB models (C, CLK, E, S, and the like) was an abreviation of some word(s), or merely an arbitrary model class designation, such as Volvo V50.

Thanks,
Richard

Thanks,
Richard:) :) :)

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OK - gotcha.

S originally stood for "Sedan". My first car was a 1966 250S.
SL is "Sports Leicht" or "Light Sport" - except for the first 300SL, none of them have been exactly "light".
The "E" designation originally was for fuel injected cars - my 250S was available as a 250SE. When MB started fuel injecting all of the S Class cars, they all became "SE"s or "SEL"s for "Long" for the long wheelbase cars. In the early 90s, coinciding with the intro of the C Class (the W202 which replaced the W201 or 190E), MB broke things down this way:

the 190E became the C2XX or "C Class"
the 300E, 400E, 500E became E320, E400, E500 or "E Class"
the 300SE, 420SE became S320, S420, S500, S600 or "S Class"
the 300SL, 500SL became SL320, SL500 SL 600 or "SL Class"

As the other models were introduced, they were given names:

SLK was the supercharged small version of the SL, and was called SLK from "Kompressor"

The G Class came from "Gelandewagen" (sorry, I don't speak german)

The CL is the "Coupe" version of the S Class, and fairly new - and I guess since the C Class was taken???

ML - I have no idea...

I also don't know the origin of the CLK - but I'm guessing it came from the C Class, which is where the original chassis came from, and maybe the first versions where supercharged??? and the "K" was added?

This is a start??

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Thanks again, Bill:

It sounds like all of the letter class prefizes have at least some basis in abbreviation of German language names, except possibly for the C class, which seems to be used because E was already taken by mid size successors of the former 300E -- 500E mid size cars.

Thanks,
Richard :) :) :)

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The E was for Einspritzung (fuel injected).

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Adamson:

Right, and thanks. But the 190E (precident for the present day C class) also had Einspritsung. But the class designation of "E" was (properly, I think) assigned to the mid-sized sedans, and not the compacts like my present day C class sedan. So, in this day and age, the "C" in C class would appear to be just an arbitrary designation, which most car model names are. Am I wrong?

Thanks,
Richard:) :) :)

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The original designation of "E", was, as noted, "Einspritsung" for fuel injected models, started in the early '60s. It was added to other letters: "SE", "SEL". I believe the first "E" models where ONLY the "E" was used was the W124s which came out in the '80s - the most common of which is the 300E. The 190E, or W201, was an entry-level vehicle (many called it a "baby benz").

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I know that the SL was originally "sports light" (now that is more the SLK) and the S-Class was "super."

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Here's more from the old school :
S = Super
SL = Super Light
C = Coupe
K = Kurtz (short) or Kompressor
E = Einspritz
L = Long wheelbase
The letters and numbers all still mean something, but most are different from the "old days". Such as, a C240 is a sedan with a 2.6 liter engine. Go figure. The ML 350 has a 3.7 liter V6. Nothing makes sense anymore.

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TD designation

was M-B's designation of the station wagon body

my car is a 300TDT, the second "T" denoting a turbocharged engine

talk about heavy, I believe my wagon is pushing 5,000 lbs

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Designations became really crazy in the late 60's to late 70's.

280SE 3.5
280SE 4.5
280SEL 4.5
300SEL 3.5
300SEL 4.5
300SEL 6.3
6.9 (really a 450SEL 6.9)

lets not forget the 240D 3.0

I'm getting a headache!

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Well, guys, it sounds like the "prefix letter(s)" or "postscript letter(s)" meant something in the beginning, but have become more of an arbitrary designation over the passage of time. In fact, as mentioned above, the NUMBERS don't really mean what they used to mean all of the time!

As we own a new C class SEDAN (not a coupe), we just wonder if anyone has any idea how the term "C class" came to be applied to this car?

Thanks,
Richard:) :confused: :)

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Richard, I'll do my best to chime in here as well :)

In 1994, Mercedes-Benz changed their model designation numbering system. At the same time, the hood star was moved from the top of the grille back a few inches onto the hood.

1994 was also the year the C220 and C280 were introduced. The last year for the "190-series" was 1993, in the U.S. Up until this point, most of the lines of Mercedes-Benz were referred to as the "300-series" or "190-series", but, as you know there were many exceptions to these....where did a 260E fit?? ;)

Typically, the numbers designated the engine displacement (in liters) and the following numbers designated other features "E" was for fuel injection (as mentioned before), "SEC" designated the big two-door coupe, while "CE" designated a smaller coupe, etc.

To "simplify" things, Mercedes-Benz went to "Classes" of cars. So, we now have the E-Class, etc. The 1993 600SEC was renamed the S600 Coupe in 1994. Since that time, new "classes" have been introduced: The A-class, C-class, the CLK-class, the ML-class and the SLK-class most notably.

Some would argue that the "K" in the SLK stands for "kompressor", but that does not explain the SLK320....the same holds true for the CLK-class, where, in the U.S., a kompressor was not even offered :confused:

My belief if that the SLK is a designation for an "SL-short" or "kurz". Voila! "SLK"! Same with the CLK.....it is, in essense, a "CL-short". To me, this makes perfect sense.

In summary, MB switched to "classes" back in 1994 and the numbers now have a loose basis for the engine size (with some exceptions, of course....like the "55" is really a 5.4 liter V8 and the C240 is really a 2.6 liter...the ML350 is a 3.7 liter, etc.) with the initial trunk letter to designate the model class.

Richard, I don't know why your car is called "C-class"....but they had to name the class something. Perhaps it is mean to designate "compact".....but I'd just be guessing :D

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Chappy,
When the W124 series was introduced, we called it the "E" class. The 190 was simply the "190" class. You're correct in stating that the "K" in CLK, SLK, etc. means "kurtz". The most renamed car was the 140Coupe. It went from SEC to C to CL all in one body style. Another frustration to us in the business is when someone tells you they have a 1994-95 E320. You have to ask if it's a sedan, coupe, convetible, or station wagon. What fun.

Grey Ghost ,
Your wagon isn't even close to 5,000 lbs. Close to 4,000 , but a little under that too. Maximum load capacity could reach close to the 5K figure though.

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Prior MB cars: 2010 ML350 Bluetec, 2003 C320 Coupe, 1986 300SDL, 1971 300SEL 6.3, 1973 450SE, 1959 220S, 2011 C300

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Okay! Time for me to lay down now and stop the room from spinning! I'll have to print it off so I can digest the information better.

This was a great thread to read. All part of what makes this the best auto club forum around.

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Thanks Tom....I have a habit of misspelling "kurtz", LOL! ;)

To me, the hard part is not the model number, but all the changes that occur mid-assembly....particularly with the Becker radios (like the addition of door speakers in the early 300CEs.)

Sometimes getting the correct part is like solving a crossword puzzle....then there's the part number updates, replacement numbers...yada yada.

Don't even get started on trying to match U.S. part numbers with euro part numbers!

After you let all that soak in.....it's even WORSE for AMG parts!! :eek:

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