Mercedes’ Indestructible W124 Turns 30 This Year

Launched in November 1984, the Mercedes-Benz W124, the model that inaugurated the E-Class moniker in 1993, is nearing its 30th anniversary, a fact that many cars from this series appear to ignore.

I’m saying that because I’ve driven two W124s (one of them being my father’s, a 1992 300 TD sedan automatic with more than 300,000 kilometers on the odometer) and I was just stunned by how well they are holding up after all these years.

Acknowledged by Mercedes-Benz as one of its “over-engineered” cars, the W124 series was offered as a Saloon, Estate, Coupé, long-wheelbase version and Convertible. More than 2.7 million units were produced between 1984 and 1997, a testimony to the W124’s success.

Designed under the leadership of Bruno Sacco, the W124 built upon the smaller W201’s styling, featuring clear, sporty lines and a timeless look. At launch, the drag coefficient was 0.29 to 0.30 depending on the model, with later models achieving values as low as 0.26. This also helped lower fuel consumption compared to the preceding series.

Launched with the models 200 D, 250 D, 300 D, 200, 230 E, 260 E, and 300 E, the W124 featured front and rear axle designs already familiar from the W201 series, with Mercedes-Benz bragging about the W124’s outstanding handling characteristics and high level of active safety.

At the time, the W124 was the most diverse lineup in Mercedes’ history. The Estate arrived in September 1985 together with the 4Matic all-wheel drive system, which was available for the six-cylinder models in the model series 124.

In 1987, Mercedes-Benz added the Coupé as the third body variant, which featured an 850mm (33.4in) shorter wheelbase than the Saloon. This enhanced the sporty character of the two-door model, along with the absence of the B-pillar.

In 1989, the W124 received its first facelift, along with a long-wheelbase version developed in collaboration with Binz, which also produced the bodyshell. Available as the 250 D and 260 E, the LWB W124 had a wheelbase increased by 800mm (31.5in) to 3,600mm (141.7in) and featured six-doors and a fully-fledged center seat unit.

In October 1990 Mercedes-Benz launched the 500E range-topping performance model produced in collaboration with Porsche, the first of the W124 series to feature a V8 engine. With 326PS from a 5.0-liter V8, the 500 E was capable of sprinting from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.9 seconds, while top speed was electronically limited to 250 km/h (155 mph).

September 1991 brought a new and final body style, the 300 CE 24 Convertible, based on the Coupé. In June 1993, Mercedes-Benz gave the W124 its second facelift and a new name, E-Class. The E 60 AMG became the top model, powered by 381PS 6.0-liter V8 engine. The Coupé and Convertible also received AMG versions, the E 36 AMG with 272PS from a 3.6-liter engine.

Production of the Saloon ended in August 1995, followed by the Estate in 1996 and Convertible in 1997.

PHOTO GALLERY

  • sportvan

    Amazing how Mercedes went from “hewn from granite” to “moulded from butter” after my last C-Class and the £’s it cost in repairs, never again, Love the older Benz’s though.

    • pcurve

      If the price of E-class had kept up with inflation,E350 would cost around $85,000 today. Yet, you can buy a new E350 for $55,000, which comes with far more equipment than ever.

      If Mercedes Benz had extra $30,000 to spend on engineering, they can still build e-class “hewn from granite”. But they don’t. Because unlike 25 years ago, all the Jones in the neighborhood can afford an E-Class.

      • SamuraiJack

        The problem is, if you build a car that lasts forever, your customers don’t need to buy the latest model every few years, and that’s not good for business. I think Mercedes realized this.

        • David Busi

          That was NEVER what Mercedes was all about and not what they aspire to today however they were not building cars in a vacuum there was a perceived threat they faced with their high quality long lasting product and that challenge was from an upstart called Lexus who started to feast upon Mercedes then private market. The engineers had to take a back seat to the accountants because Mercedes had a simple business decision to make and that was to survive as a company. What was given up was the extreme durability that the car had. Look I LOVE the W 124. I had an 88 with over 300,000 km on it that was perfect until an idiot hit me in the back end and it was a write off. I replaced it with a barn find low milage 93 which is like brand new. The staff at Mercedes gather round my car in reverence to what it stands for which was the best or NOTHING – it is the car that actually lived up to the promise. A flagship for what the brand mission statement is. It is what they wish they could make today instead of competing only on technical innovation but also have a durable bullet proof car. My 93 has never seen a salty road it is stored in the winters and covered if parked outdoors in a lot and otherwise garaged at my home. I have had the car rust treated with a silicone oil spray inside and underneath too. It is 22 years old and might just make it to forever if I take care of it properly. It IS the best car – not only the best Benz ever built and I own this one which is a pristine example of the breed. My 88 took me EVERYWHERE – last June we did the drive from Toronto to NYC in perfectly good order with a full trunk of clothing for a weeks stay and four of us in it. When we were about to pack up the car to go home the doorman looks at all our stuff and says “what have you got an SUV?” I said no a Mercedes Sedan, he says no way is all this stuff going to fit and then watches in amazement as the car inhaled the luggage with no fuss before we departed. This car was a great car and I miss it but I always said if anything happened to it I would find another one – and inside 24 hours from when it was hit – I did find and buy the other one. Just in case anyone wanted to know what I really think about the car. Oh I would not trade it even for a brand new E class either because I already have the best one that was EVER built. In fact I would not trade it even for ANY car built today except perhaps the Tesla.

          • msnovtue

            I am shamelessly becoming a vintage(or old) Benz lover. I don’t have a ton of cash, and from experience (mine & others’), electronics are painfully expensive to repair. Plus, if you have any ambition to work on a car yourself, electronics are not your friend.

            I inherited my Dad’s 1988 260E several years ago, and for all the frequent minor frustrations, I am never getting rid of it. Ever.
            In fact, when I had to sell one of my cars recently, I ditched the Civic and kept my beloved cranky old German. (That said, I very good at dealing with cranky old Germans, having perfected my technique the car’s previous owner.)
            But I love it–of course it’s awesome to drive, but also just suits me. And now, when I’m beginning to think about getting another car? …I’m in love with a Euro-spec 300TD estate. Uh-oh.

        • msnovtue

          Honestly, I think the problem started when they quit designing & building cars for Germans (that others happened to love as well), and started designing & building cars for everybody.

          By the way, I thank my late, native-born German father for being tight with his money… because the only reason I’m still driving his former ’88 260E is because he only bought the dang thing, at 2 years old & in pristine condition, because it was cheaper than a new Buick.

  • Merc1

    Quite possibly the best E-Class ever made.

    M

  • Dr Zoidberg

    Now that’s a car!

  • SamuraiJack

    I had a 300CE for almost two years and I really regret selling it. The NVH levels were better than most cars you can buy today. It felt indestructible. And best of all, a full service at Mercedes (in 2012) cost the same as Honda is now quoting me for an oil change for my Civic.

    • atomicbri

      Your car looked awesome! Why did you sell it!!??

      • SamuraiJack

        I found one of my other “must own one day” cars, a stock standard, low mileage 5th gen Prelude. Anyway, it ended up costing me a lot of money, with one problem after the other. You know what they say about hindsight.

  • atomicbri

    My favorite Mercedes ever! Owned a W124 and was the best. Had little issue with it ever(I had bought mine used from a one owner, was a 1992 Model with low miles at that time. I bought it in 2000) Unfortunately someone rear ended it and that was all she wrote. Still love the classic lines. I remember the plastics in it felt indestructible. The air vents felt like they were made of metal but were plastic. This was the last “tank built” Mercedes I think. A friend of mine owned a W 210and that car has so many problems and felt so much cheaper inside. If I could find a good example of the W124 I would buy one again and take it out on weekends!

  • Coné Dlm

    Someone know how many units of MB W124 300D turbo were ever built and sold? Thank you much!

  • Coné Dlm

    Thank you Jim for your answer. Well, I have two of them, a 1988 300E which I converted to diesel, and a 1993 300D Turbo, 6 Cyl, original, with some mods. I had two more before, a 1987 280E and a 1990 300E.

  • Ivo

    Because of driving too fast for the condition in a tropical downpour, I had an accident at the end of February 2017. Despite of completely wrecking my poor, lovely 1993 W124-E200, I only suffered a bruise on my shoulder. The passenger cell remained intact and all doors could be opened despite extensive damage. Thank you St. Christo https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a8e226e0a3c28ad2b31cea3f98b0921a27b0380d8b9740c51b991d258daf8e02.png https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f3cf28cc3252dc1c975baf4ecd96afc805700a6be9ed18790d5d83f978ba76a5.png pher and St. Mercedes for protecting me.
    Without hesitation I bought another W124 model, this time a 1995 E280. Great, smooth driving car, despite her 330 000 km.

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