Best "Classic" Mercedes-Benz for daily driver?

Legal Eagles

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Eighteen replies..... A dozen years ago, probably half of those replies would have been people recommending a Crown Victoria.

Times have changed!
Funny you mention that... my current daily driver is a 2006 Grand Marquis... but it will not last forever... hence the search for something a little different, with a little "style"... but my love for the Panther runs deep...
 
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Sorry, it must be my age, but I lament the fact that old-school cars like the CV, G-Marquis, RWD Impala/Caprice, transmissions that are manual, and gasoline- and diesel fuels are going... and will likely never come back (ok, the fuels thing will never come back for the masses). I suppose every generation feels this kind of thing at a certain point.
 
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Funny you mention that... my current daily driver is a 2006 Grand Marquis... but it will not last forever... hence the search for something a little different, with a little "style"... but my love for the Panther runs deep...
You don't really mention why you don't want more of a late model car. I'm still driving a 2008 Mercedes E-350. Mine is actually pretty loaded, but the more basic models didn't really have too much. For infotainment, the basic 2003-2009 models had Sirius but no Android Auto/Apple Carplay. No CVTs or Turbos either, but you could get a big V8 in the E500/E550. You either get a 5 speed or 7 speed auto transmission. No self driving either although Distronics which is the name for their adaptive cruise control was available even in 2003. Very rare option though in that model year range, never really see a car with it. Became more common in the 2014+ model year refresh and it got more refined as the years went by, the first year ones were considered primitive. Because the cars are now 13-19 years old, you can find some parts in the junkyard and there's aftermarket parts. You go into the 80/90s, you'll have a much harder time finding parts and you might have to pay top dollar for what you need.

I liked the oval headlights on my W211.
 
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Kind of switching gears here but what about a Volvo S-90 circa 1997-98?
I do like these, though in this class the RWD dynamics have a feel that even Volvo, which is known for having quite good driving dynamics even in fwd guise, can’t really mimic. Those S-90’s had wonderful, square, usable and roomy interiors. They felt spacious for their size.
 
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Since I've had several MBs over the years, I'd pick the W124 body in its last year of production. I think that'd be 1995?

I'd get a diesel that's been properly maintained and still plan on spending several grand to update suspension, particularly rubber bits.

Older MBs sedans may not be driver enthusiast cars, but they weren't intended to be. Instead they waft you along in comfort, eating up the miles like cruise missiles.

I still prefer the I-6 3.0L turbo engines that you'd find in the mid-80s W124, before they went to the I-5 2.5L variants. The 6s were much smoother.
 
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In days past I was particularly interested in the W124 300E. I learned that in 1986 and again in 1988 the 300E was available with a 5MT in North America. I think in the 260E too. It was super, super rare. 1986, incidentally, was the first year of the W124 in North America.

This 5MT was quite wide-ratio. First gear was 3.86:1, with 4th gear as direct-drive (1:1).

As for the 300CE, I don't recall if it ever had a 5MT.

Incidentally, in Europe the W124 with manual was available "on the tree"... apparently favoured in taxi service. Mebe it was only on a 200E, a four cyl stripper car, or on a 200D, maybe with a limited frt console, bench seat? Probably a 4MT.
 
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If memory serves, at least some of the Benz' in the 60's were swing axle cars... i.e. the rear axles. Normally, swing axle cars probably should be avoided, due to their tail-happy oversteering tendencies. I think though that Mercedes had somehow modified the swing axle designs so that they behaved more benignly...?
 

CKN

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Funny you mention that... my current daily driver is a 2006 Grand Marquis... but it will not last forever... hence the search for something a little different, with a little "style"... but my love for the Panther runs deep...
Yep- and you can get Panther Love cheap......
 

JHZR2

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I am not a big fan of "vintage" Mercedes luxury cars. They are oddly complex, just about every component they utilize deteriorates in a strange manner (such as zinc/potmetal window regulators warping over time) and vacuum based door locks that are a nightmare to maintain and plastic parts that crack all over and fail to work. Even the suspension bushings simply turn to powder and disappear. So weird.

However, if you absolutely must have a Mercedes Sedan, why not a early 80's turbodiesel. As everything about it is unconventional. Tales of unreal reliability are seriously blown out of proportion though. They don't last anywhere near as long as claimed. Modern stuff is much longer lasting.

On the good side, I find the MB tex seats an acceptable place to be on long trips, and the ride is compliant enough to be unoffensive. I'd drive a healthy example coast to coast without complaint. Expect about 25mpg with the diesel.

EDIT: I used to maintain an early 80's 300D turbodiesel. It had about 175,000 miles on it, and while it ran well,,, enough oil got past the piston rings and would be enough to fuel the engine at about 300RPM, the engine would not shut off, despite the active controls. Ya had to pop the hood and disconnect the intake air tubing, and plug it with a rag. Good god that was annoying.
??

I guess my 338k mile 300d and 293k mile 300sd aren’t good enough?!?

Yeah, lying salesmen talk about 40 mpg and a million miles… but they will last if kept up and not rusty.

Complexity? Nah. I’ve found that even troubleshooting my w140 300sd, which is a complex car, is easy. Nothing like more modern cars.

A 617 that bad at 175k was seriously under/poorly maintained.
 

JHZR2

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I have the urge to purchase a new (to me) car - just because I want one... I find that I am not enticed by all the "new fangled" CVT, Turbos, infotainment, self driving, bells and whistles...

I am enamored of post war Mercedes Benz sedans. I enjoy doing basic maintenance myself, and have a moderate level of skill. No preference between gas and diesel, and no problem driving a manual transmission. I am a big guy, 6'5" 300lbs, so tiny roadsters are out... but a 60's-early 80's sedan really seems to be calling me... for those with experience in these cars, which year and model has a good reputation for reliability, ease of repair, parts availability (this may be a unicorn), and ownership experience

You can keep your hybrid Rav 4, this is more what I am looking for...
View attachment 94124

I own w123, w124, w126, and w140 MB cars. My current fleet of MBs range between 73k and 338k miles, and are all diesels.

I think if you want a simple enough, modern-ish car, a gen 2 w126, or a w124 would be good. I’ll say that my w124 is a hoot to drive, smaller, lighter, more agile than my w123 or other cars.

The w123 and w116/126 are more classy/classic. The w140 is much more modern but far more complex. The question is if the w124 is too modern for you. If so, I’d say look at w126 cars. Classic look, coupe or sedan, and if you’re not keen on diesels, You can find a lot of nice gas engine w126 gen II cars that I think would be nice.

My experience when looking at other cars, w114/116, etc., is they’re on the cusp of being too old or too obsolete. The w124/126 is imo the ideal option.

Are you interested/opposed to an SL? Mid-Late 1980s SL roadsters have a classic look? They’re big and seat two. Convertible. Classic. There are a lot of 380SL and 560SL cars out there.
 
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I own w123, w124, w126, and w140 MB cars. My current fleet of MBs range between 73k and 338k miles, and are all diesels.

I think if you want a simple enough, modern-ish car, a gen 2 w126, or a w124 would be good. I’ll say that my w124 is a hoot to drive, smaller, lighter, more agile than my w123 or other cars. ...
How would you compare the W123's steering to the W124's? I can't say I really fancy the former's... I guess the W126 represents an older type drive sense, too, similar to the W123 (especially the steering?).

There's something about a 300SEL, W126, that attracts me. I'd want to build a 5MT version, strange as that may be...
 
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I'd say the W124, I am biased admittedly as an MB enthusiast, but I would argue it as one of the greatest cars in many design/quality/reliability respects ever built...
 
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Mercedes and handling are two words never to be used in the same sentence IMO.

The old guard from Stuttgart-Unturkheim were known to be solid, overly engineered and not at all thrifty if MPG is a concern. My picks would be the W124 300E or a W126 420SEL They have decent power, decent repairability and manners for what it is. The W123 300D would be a good pick if you’re planning to run WVO or biodiesel in it. The OM616/7 is nothing short of legendary. The newer diesels Mercedes started to use in the late 1980s-1990s had issues with the cylinders deforming but were also a power upgrade over the OM617.
 
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not going to be triggered.... lol but you haven't driven the right ones if you truly believe this.
210 especially the E55 is a very competent car. W202 is as well

before that….no lol. they all give you the sensation you’re crushing the road in front of you but they are not composed when it comes to changing directions
 
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The 300 CD is my favorite W123 body style.

300 CD.jpg
 

JHZR2

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How would you compare the W123's steering to the W124's? I can't say I really fancy the former's... I guess the W126 represents an older type drive sense, too, similar to the W123 (especially the steering?).

There's something about a 300SEL, W126, that attracts me. I'd want to build a 5MT version, strange as that may be...
The w124 steering is much tighter. My w123s are really tight, but there’s always a tiny dead spot too dead center. It took a lot to make it imperceptible. Many have an inch or more of dead play in there.

My gen 2 w126 feels like my w124, and my w140. I don’t know what/how they changed the w126, but I guess they did compared to the gen 1 models which I understand have the play/dead spot too.

The 300 CD is my favorite W123 body style.

View attachment 95218

Totally agree!

I'd say the W124, I am biased admittedly as an MB enthusiast, but I would argue it as one of the greatest cars in many design/quality/reliability respects ever built...

I just bought a w124.

There are many design elements that I really like. And it scoots well, and is nimble.

But it also is obviously built to a cheaper price point than the w123/126/140. Even though it was engineered before Mercedes veered from being engineering centric. Certain plastic materials and other attributes, as well as the reduction in chrome, etc. but for the same power it yields far higher MPGs (my new 93 300d returned 38 mpg without breaking a sweat). But the “better” engines are a liability because of dual metal (iron block, aluminum head) design, at least for the diesels.
 
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