Understated elegance, cutting-edge technology and supreme luxury have traditionally been the defining characteristics of German premium automaker Mercedes-Benz. Over the past two decades, however, the company has expanded into the realms of corrupting power with its AMG performance models and expressive styling with cars like the CLS-Class "four-door coupe."
Mercedes-Benz's roots go back to the world's first purpose-built automobile, the three-wheeled...
Benz Patent-Motorwagen constructed in 1886 by Karl Benz. Later that year, engineers Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach got their start in the automotive business with their conversion of a four-wheeled stagecoach into a motorcar; in 1901, just after Daimler's death, Maybach built a car named for customer Emil Jelllink's daughter, Mercedes.
In 1926, Mercedes-Benz was officially formed when the companies Benz and Daimler had founded merged to form Daimler-Benz AG. Mercedes-Benz quickly became known not only for luxury but for innovation with cars like its 1931 sedan, which was the first production car with a four-wheel independent suspension, as well as the 300 SL "Gullwing" sports car of the 1950s, which employed an advanced direct fuel injection system.
Over the years, Mercedes-Benz pioneered a multitude of new safety technologies including the crumple zone, anti-lock brakes, traction control and even airbags. The company didn't neglect to focus on performance, either, with models like the 1968 300 SEL 6.3 and the 1975 450 SEL 6.9 belying their dignified looks with immensely potent powertrains. In the 1990s, Mercedes-Benz developed a partnership with tuning and performance firm AMG to develop high-powered models; the collaboration was so successful that Mercedes-Benz eventually purchased the firm and now offers an AMG-tuned version of nearly all of its vehicles.
Today, Mercedes-Benz produces a full lineup of rear-wheel-drive sedans from the entry-level C-Class to the prestigious, range-topping S-Class, several crossover vehicles and an assortment of coupes and convertibles. The company's most upscale offerings, such as the SLS AMG supercar, can command nearly $200,000 in base form, although it is also beginning to expand into entry-level luxury arena with models like the front-wheel-drive, $29,900 CLA-Class sedan.