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Best Mercedes-Benz Ever: W124 E-Class

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Mercedes-Benz W124 300E sedan

Mercedes-Benz W124 300E sedan

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Coming home from a long bike ride today, I kept looking at the cars parked on the side of the road, looking for something that stood out. And out of all of the cars that caught my eye, there was a 1992 (or so) Mercedes-Benz E-Class in very good condition--not bad for a car that is almost 20 years old. And I thought for the umpteenth time; that is the finest Mercedes-Benz ever, which is quite a claim to make given their immense automotive history.

I know this is a highly subjective and emotional topic, but after much soul-searching and contemplating and pontificating, and maybe a beer or two, I have concluded that the W124 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is the best Merc ever.

What? Heresy, you say? Maybe a certain 300 SL Gullwing pops to mind? Maybe an AMG or two can blow the doors off it, you say? What about the massively awe-inspiring 300 SEL 6.3 from the late ‘60s--especially in that deep maroon? What about an S-Class or two? None of these was ever a taxi, and many of them had better performance and pedigree within the Mercedes-Benz empire.

Look, I could quote production numbers, and such. Such as the 2.5+ million W124s that were sold across the globe over an 11-year period. Granted, many of those were diesel taxis, but that doesn't detract from the stunning sales for a luxury car. I could also go into the numerous performance versions with heart-stopping V-8s, the, sheer longevity of the turbodiesels, or even the stately station wagons that are still in demand as used cars across the globe. But none of those points really makes my argument (well, maybe the production figures do, but that’s only part of it).

What I believe made W124 E-Class the mid-size luxury vehicle to have was that it was one of the most complete Mercedes-Benz cars to incorporate everything that is the Mercedes-Benz brand--and that encompasses a lot. It's about solidity, longevity, safety, luxury, engineering excellence and of course, prestige.

The W124 was developed by perhaps one of the best designers ever to lay pen to paper, Bruno Sacco. Two other designers had a helping hand, Joseph Gallitzendrfer and Peter Pfeiffer, and should be recognized for creating a truly timeless, elegant, solid and brand-enhancing set of lines, inside and out. From the beveled edges, to the elevated trunk that cut drag coefficient, to the masculine sides and perfect proportions between front and back, there hasn't been a Mercedes-Benz that has had this kind of design impact and longevity.

The interior isn't to be forgotten either. There is a visual structure in the cabin. Its layout is balanced and driver-focused. It has excellent ergonomics, great seats (I got a ride in this vehicle on multiple occasions, so I can attest to that), and a kind of German design sensibility that made it stand out from its peers in this market and still does in my opinion.

It terms of solidity, safety and engineering excellence, this was the stiffest vehicle in its class by a wide margin and set off a series of other claims by rival manufacturers as to the stiffness of their chassis. It incorporated offset crash crumple zones and superb aerodynamics into its design for a low (0.29-0.32) drag coefficient--still very good by today's standards. It also had optional 4Matic, stability and slip control (novelties back then) and a cool feature that I love to this day, the one-armed windshield wiper that covered more area than any other.

And don't forget the engines. From four- and five-cylinder diesels to V-8 monsters that could chase down a 911 on the Autobahn. The six-cylinder engines were superbly balanced, the diesels are still running to this day, and the V-8s are all refined, controlled muscular mayhem.

Imagine that--a luxury car that could be a sedan, convertible, station wagon, and with the right engine, a sports car. What a wide breadth of talent and skill. It's all of these factors together that lead me to make this claim: it's the finest Mercedes-Benz ever in my opinion, and I still want one.

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Comments (12)
  1. Nice review John. I owned a 1962 190SL for 8 years and loved it, but when the kids came along I had to offload it and opted for a (then) 14 year old 1986 300E sedan. Man, what a car. It's now travelled 365kms and it feels better than any new car I've driven. For the past 8 years, it's provided my family with comfortable, 100% reliable performance. And when I want some fun, it goes like a rocket and handles brilliantly. Why would you buy a new car, when, in Australia at least, you can pick up a W124 for less than 10 grand. Forever a fan...
     
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  2. Thank you very much for such a grate posting.It is true that MB W124 was the best Merc ever. Owning W211 now I wont to have timeless W124,I hope my dream will com true.
     
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  3. I own a 1990 260E, of which I am the third owner. I bought it with 175 000km's on the clock and it has done well over 300 000km's now. Lovely car - solid, fuel efficient, comfortable and a straight-six engine that CANNOT die!
     
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  4. I have to agree. I have a 1993 300E in near mint condition with the 3.2 M104 motor. She has just 202K kms, still looks and drives like a new car, and I love it so much that they will have to bury me in it when my time comes!
     
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  5. I have owned for the past seven years a 300CE (coupe). I recently had to reduce my fleet by one vehicle- it was hard decision, but out went my 2006 BMW 330i w/nav etc. That I have no regrets, is testament to greatness of the W124.
     
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  6. I own a 1989 200 Automatic - with 330,000km. Classic ride quality, no problems whatsoever. Truly THE classic Mercedes of all time. It's still modern by current design standards. They don't make them like this any more!
     
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  7. Very good and valid points although I have to disagree. I inherited a 1987 Mercedes 260E which used to belong to my mother until she died. This car is right now in immaculate shape, people see the car and can't believe it's a 24 year old car, you see, it was mother's baby, always garaged and washed and waxed. It has only 140K miles over that 24 year span because I drive it once a month after she died. That is because I own a Mercedes 1985 300SD (daily driver), a 1987 560SL, a 1988 SL500, and a 1988 S500. They are all fine car and some of the best Mercedes has ever made. So I agree with the awesomeness of the W124 series, the best ever Mercedes is the W126 Mercedes 300SD, I still see people admire it while parked, it's that beautiful!!!
     
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  8. I am a recent 3rd owner of a W124 E280 (1995). I have to agree with Jon. It's a fantastic car in terms of built quality and general robustness.
    The fact that mine is a 6-cylinder meant that I could 'terrorize' the little ones on the highway... :D
    And great thing about this car is that it's chuckable too. Yes, I love it, but I don't spare it. And it hasn't failed me to date.
     
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  9. yes its the best one ihave one W124-250D from 1993 whith 640 000km
    and no problems just diesel and go away
    in MADEIRA island we havve hundreds units in taxi
     
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  10. Totally agree, I drive a '93 300 ce 3.2 and I plan to drive it for as long as it lasts, as we know these trucks were built to last.
     
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  11. Very well said. I own a 1992 300E 4Matic w124 w/ 138,000mi. I grew up lusting after the 500SL/600SL/500SEL (I have always LOVED the Mercs), however I was shocked from head to toe when I test drove my baby (300E) for the first time. I fell in love with the solid simple and downright sexy mid-size. It does everything its intended to do flawlessly including turn my neighbors green with envy. I am always SO proud to arrive anywhere in my Benz. I still have space in my garage for the 5 and 600's of my teenage dreams but they are no longer the top of my list. I now agree with you. My baby is the Finest benz rolling.
     
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  12. I do agree with you. w 124 is the best car ever by Mercedes Benz.to be frankly, it's been hard for me to find the perfect car what i want. after having looked W 124 completely, i find the answer of it.
    my name is Putra, i'm 25 year old, i live in Jakarta,Indonesia. i own W 124 with pearl grey color, built-up version, it is 1990's mercedes benz 230E-Class which have been 20 year old . However, it is still 54000+ miles, it is still very fresh. i love it that i rarely drive it since the jakarta is very crowded, i always keep it away from the motorcycle which often cause blister around its body at the time of traffic, therefore i drive it to enjoy its performance at the mid-night or weekend. the conclusion, w 124 has conjured my mind
     
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