I suppose I'm not your typical old-school Mercedes-Benz driver. I am still relatively young (late 30's), with a wife and 2 young kids. The car I now drive - a 1994 Mercedes-Benz E280 Saloon in Zircon Silver, I've lusted after ever since high school.
I was 14 years old in 1994. SUVs didn't exist. Your parents either drove a Falcon or Commodore, and said Falcodore was either a sedan or wagon. Bonus cred if your Dad forked out for a V8. The outdoor types had Pajeros or a Landcruiser. Or maybe your Mum and Dad were indeed smart but a little dull - then they probably had a Volvo 240. But if your old man rolled up to the school gate in an E Class Benz or an E34 5 Series BMW - both which cost well over $100k, you were given instant respect.
To put things into perspective - $100k was a ridiculous amount of money in those days, and in hindsight it also bought far more. It wasn't financially feasible for many people to keep rolling cars over every 3 years - hell, we kept our EA Falcon for a decade until it finally conked. So it went without saying that if you gave Stuttgart or Bavaria a six-figure sum, they'd give you back something that would last a VERY long time. Nowadays that same 5 Series or E Class will be close to dead in less than a decade. A well-maintained W124 will go forever.
The shape of the W124 and how it never seemed to look out of date was what initially drew my interest. Some say it's slabby and boring but I disagree. It's instantly recognisable as a Mercedes-Benz. Beautiful even. Bruno Sacco's ideology were that body lines should remain fresh for at least 30 years, or else be timeless. Considering the W124 debuted in 1986, his claim has certainly proven correct.
The car is built like a Panzer tank. The doors have that classic thunk upon closure and you can tell the engineers laboured over every single nut, bolt, wire and join. Their forward thinking is remarkable as almost every single component can be replaced, should it ever need to be. Need some spare door cards? You'll find dozens. Rear window brake light? Yep, someone will have one of those as well. Mercedes sold 2.7 million W124s across 11 years, and there are plenty still around.
So, why did I opt for something 25 years old instead of a newer design with far more active safety technology? Simple. I'd much rather drive a car that is structurally rigid, with tremendous ABS brakes and assured handling than something made of plastic, filled with a dozen airbags but is pretty much intended to be written off in a crash. Everything nowadays is built to a timeframe, but the W124 was built to last forever. There's a famous UK Fifth Gear video review where they torture a 1990 E Class wagon... by running over it with a monster truck. It stands its ground. Try doing the same thing with a modern car and see what happens.
By this point you're probably thinking I've been incredibly biased. Trust me....I'm not. My car's had it's share of faults. I've fitted a reconditioned gearbox, rear main seal, water pump, replaced the entire steering and suspension components, and various other preventative measures. This type of work on any car doesn't come cheap and most people would simply wipe their hands and palm if off to somebody else. Not me.
I work in the automotive industry and have had the privilege of driving countless numbers of modern cars. Absolutely nothing is as comfortable to drive as a well-maintained W124. My car has been optioned with a hydraulically adjustable driver's seat (very expensive when new and also rare). I actually bought the car in Sydney after viewing it early one Saturday morning. I then hit the Pacific Highway and drove it 1000km back to Brisbane that very day. The car ate the trip in a single bite. The only thing tired by the end were my eyes.
The ride quality for a car showing 270,000km in its 25th year is astonishing. That butter smooth 2.8-litre straight six only makes 145kW but has plenty of low down torque. It will also happily spin past 6000rpm and makes a wonderful growl in the process. It can meander around town all day without fuss, but this can make one forget you have rear wheel drive, very strong anti-lock brakes, and fantastic multi-link suspension. It's nowhere near as sporty as a 5 Series BMW, but will give some bends a red hot go. And leave you grinning in the process.
To conclude the review, I've loved every single minute of my E Class so far. The car is unique and gets plenty of compliments. I love the fact that I'm driving such an old car, which doesn't really look like an old car. It'll never be outclassed. It hasn't cost me the earth either (well under $20k to date), and will easily last another 200,000km to 300,000km.
I hope I don't have to part with it for a long time yet as I cannot think of anything else I'd replace it with. Every newer car seems to have caveats; a word that I think was forbidden at Mercedes back in the day.