Published on March 4th, 2019 | by Subhash Nair


Understanding Mercedes-Benz Nomenclature

We’ve done just about every other premium brand out there (besides Jaguar). So it’s time to tackle the granddaddy of them all. Here’s Mercedes-Benz nomenclature as I see it.

A typical Mercedes model is casually referred to in the following way:

“Mercedes-Benz E400d 4MATIC” or “Mercedes E-Class”

But if you search “Mercedes-Benz E-Class” on a typical listing site, you will find many, many variants. Let’s take the more complete name of a typical Mercedes-Benz as an example:

“Mercedes-Benz E400d 4MATIC”

Because Mercedes-Benz has a unique way of doing things, let’s break that name down in parts.

1. Mercedes-Benz E400d 4MATIC AMG LINE

Benz = Sub-brand indicator

The first thing you need to understand is that there are three ‘sub-brands’ that sport the ‘Mercedes’ name. Mercedes-Benz, of course, is the one most commonly referred to. It’s the name of the company (Mercedes-Benz Passenger Cars/Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles), and most of their passenger cars are sold under the Mercedes-Benz brand.

Nomenclature Mercedes-AMG sub-brand

Trivia: Most models sold by Mercedes-Benz have AMG-tuned/built alternatives today

But for high-performance vehicles, look for those sold under the Mercedes-AMG subbrand. At the very top end, you’ll find next level luxury limousines from the Mercedes-Maybach subbrand. AMG and Maybach have colourful histories of their own, but Daimler has decided to integrate them as sub-brands sold and serviced in Mercedes-Benz centres.

Mercedes-Maybach S560 Nomenclature examble

Observation: Daimler’s poor handling of the ‘Maybach’ brand has reduced it to a sub-brand of Mercedes. Now available as an S-Class trim level.

2. Mercedes-Benz E400d 4MATIC AMG LINE

E = Model Indicator

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Mercedes-Benz models can be split a number of ways. Here’s how I would suggest looking at them

Core – A, B, C, E, S

Core models aren’t necessarily the best selling models, but they form the basis of SUV and coupe bodystyle derivatives. If you can add a ‘-Class’ after the alphabet, I would count it as a ‘core’ model. Except for the G-Class. That one sits by itself.

Compact cars – A-Class, B-Class
Sedans – C-Class, E-Class, S-Class

Original A-Class Mercedes-Benz Nomenclature example

Observation: The A-Class has climbed its way to the top from humble beginnings. Today it is considered a core compact model in the Mercedes-Benz stable.

SUV Derivatives (Take a Core Model, Jack it up) – GL prefix

A ‘GL’ before the name denotes an SUV (crossover for the smaller models). The last letter indicates to which core product the model belongs. For example, a GLC is an SUV that is derived from the C-Class.


Trivia: this model went from being called the M-Class to the ML to the GLE

The G-Class sits in its own special category even though it’s often marketed as part of Mercedes-Benz SUVs.

4-Door Coupe Derivatives (Take a Core Model, Style-it-up) – CL prefix

A ‘CL’ before the name denotes a 4-door coupe. For the CLA, the last letter indicates to which core product the model belongs. The CLS, though, is more closely related to the E-Class. The ‘S’ here alludes to its status and price positioning.

Trivia: The CLS was one of Mercedes-Benz’s big breakthroughs in the mid-2000s. It continues as part of the portfolio today in its 3rd generation.

4-Door Coupes – CLA, CLS

For some reason, the 4-door derivative of the Mercedes-AMG GT is not called the CLGT but the GT 4-door Coupe.

Speculation: CLGT just doesn’t roll off the tongue.

Coupe & Cabriolet Derivatives (take a Core Model, Style-it-up and drop 2 doors/roof) – Coupe/Cabriolet suffix

If a Core model has ‘Coupe’ behind the name, then it’s a 2-door coupe.

The C Coupe, E Coupe, and S Coupe are all 2 door variants of their respective core models.

If they’re a soft-top 2-door convertible, then they’ll sport ‘Cabriolet’ behind their name.

*when referring to these cars by their full name, put ‘Coupe’ or ‘Cabriolet’ after the performance indicator. Example: E300 Coupe

Trivia: The W124 E-Class was the last E-Class Coupe before the present W213 model. Every 2-door E-Class in between were C-Class-based and called the CLK. Interestingly, the inline-6 engine also disappeared and reappeared on those E-Class generations.

4-Door Coupe SUV Derivatives (Take an SUV, Style-it-up) – SUV with Coupe suffix

But Mercedes also sells 4-door coupe-styled SUVs. No, they’re not called CLGLC or CLGLE as they should be. Instead, they’re referred to as the GLC Coupe and GLE Coupe.

Observation: If Mercedes-Benz didn’t offer a GLE Coupe, they’d have nothing to stop the BMW X6

Wagon Derivatives

Wagons aren’t popular in Malaysia,  but Mercedes-Benz treats them this way:

If it’s a core model in the wagon format, add ‘Estate’ after its performance indicator (E300 Estate, or E-Class Estate).

If it’s a CL model in the wagon format, add ‘Shooting Brake’ after its performance indicator (CLA250 Shooting Brake, or CLS Shooting Brake)

Performance Models

There are 2 broad families here. The more leisure-focused Mercedes-Benz SLC and SL roadster and tourer models and the more performance-focused Mercedes-AMG GT.

Specialist Models

The next broad category of vehicles sold by Mercedes-Benz are the ‘specialists’. They do share some components with other cars, their body-styles and use cases are quite distinct.

Off-Roader – G-Class
Van – V-Class
Pick-up truck – X-Class

3. Mercedes-Benz E400d 4MATIC AMG Line

400 = Performance Indicator

Mercedes-Benz models will denote power using three digits. These three digits are a ‘relative indicator’ similar to what almost every premium car manufacturer is doing now. So a ‘200’ model in the 1980s would have pointed to a Benz with a 2-litre engine, today there are ‘200’ models with turbocharged 1.3-litre engines. You could take the three digits to mean it ‘has the power of a typical engine of this displacement’.

Common digits used are:


Mercedes-AMG performance indicators

Mercedes-AMG vehicles denote their power output with 2 digits. These are even more relative and vague as indicators of power, but here’s a sense of how to understand them. Note that the figures are a guide only, as they fluctuate between models and with updates.

35 – (302hp, 400Nm) 2.0L Inline 4 Turbo Petrol
45 – (381hp, 475Nm) 2.0L Inline 4 Turbo Petrol

43 – 3.0L V6 Biturbo Petrol

53 – 3.0L Inline 6 Turbo Petrol + ISG

C, E, S
63 – 4.0L OR 5.5L V8 Biturbo Petrol


65 – 6.0L V12 Biturbo Petrol

4. Mercedes-Benz E400d 4MATIC AMG Line

d = Fuel Type Indicator

After the performance indicator, you’ll find the fuel type indicator. If blank, it’s a regular old petrol engine. Otherwise, you’ll find a lower case:

e – Plug-in Hybrid
d – diesel

5. Mercedes-Benz E400d 4MATIC AMG Line

4MATIC = Powertrain Technology Indicator

Mercedes-Benz sometimes indicates in UPPERCASE the powertrain technology involved in the fuel. We don’t see this in the current Malaysian line-up, but it’s still out there in some markets. Some of these can be combined. Some are no longer relevant.

HYBRID – standard hybrid setup (uses engine to charge battery, not wall plug)
BlueTEC – Nitrous oxide reducing tech for diesel engines
PLUG-IN HYBRID – some models use a lower case ‘e’, but the S-Class once used this
4MATIC/4MATIC+ – all-wheel drive system

6. Mercedes-Benz E400d 4MATIC AMG Line

Similar to Audi’s ‘S-Line’ or BMW’s ‘M Sport’ package, you can option your Mercedes-Benz with bodykit, equipment, and trim geared towards a sportier look and feel. In Malaysia, these are sometimes pre-packaged with stiffer suspension, larger rims and lower profile tyres. Consult your local dealer for specifics of each model before purchasing.


Mercedes-Benz was a tough one to unpack. Here’s why.

1. Sub-brands

Like Land Rover, within Mercedes there exists sub-brands. While I appreciate that these sub-brands have some tangible differences (unlike Land Rover’s), the AMG sub-brand introduces its own vaguely defined set of rules for performance indication.

2. Large portfolio

The size and variance of the Mercedes portfolio was also tough, so I decided to form my own categories.

3. Mercedes-Benz the entity

There’s also a difficulty of conveying the distinctions of Mercedes-Benz as both a car brand, a brand distinct from its Maybach and AMG sub-brands, and as a company (Mercedes-Benz Passenger Cars vs Commercial Vehicles vs Daimler AG). This problem I largely avoided in this nomenclature article.

4. Inelegance and inefficiency

Back in 2015, Mercedes-Benz announced changes to their nomenclature. This made it easier to understand but they also used it to add a lot of models, including the problematic SUV Coupes.

Problematic because ‘Coupe’ means 2-door in their nomenclature and the ‘CL-prefix’ means 4-door coupe, yet a GLC Coupe and GLE Coupe are both 4-door coupes in the SUV format. BMW avoids this problem altogether by renaming the model (X3 and X4, for example) but Mercedes-Benz keeps the model name intact but adds an appendage at the end (GLC and GLC Coupe).

The SL cars (SLC and SL) also present a bit of a problem. The SLC works ok, but only because Mercedes-Benz renamed it (it was known as the SLK before. The SL flouts the rules completely and escapes being renamed the SLE or SLS (the latter for obvious reasons).

About the Author

Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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