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The Mercedes-Benz That Princess Diana Tragically Died In

Like a scene ripped straight from a spy thriller, a decoy vehicle departed the hotel from the front while Diana and Dodi Fayed scampered out through the hotel’s back entrance in the Mercedes S-280. 

The model year Diana was riding in has been reported to be 1996, the same year Mercedes began making all of its S-class cars with front and side airbags as standard equipment. This car did have airbags, but since Diana and al-Fayed were in the back, it ultimately didn’t factor into their protection. It was powered by a 6-cylinder, 186.6 hp engine with a top speed of 131 mph.

The S-280 had a reinforced chassis and roof, which, in theory, would help prevent it from collapsing. It was also equipped with front and rear crumple zones (sections of the car explicitly built to absorb the shock and energy of a collision), anti-lock brakes, and electronic traction control. On board was an Electronic Stability Program (ESP), a computer-controlled safety feature that detects when a car is skidding and automatically applies the brakes to specific wheels to counteract the skid and stabilize the vehicle.

Unfortunately, the paparazzi didn’t take the bait and chased the real S-280 through the streets of Paris. Early claims suggested the Mercedes was traveling over 100 mph (possibly as high as 120 mph), but the police concluded it was closer to 60 mph.

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