"Louy gas mileage aside (let's just say that the factory ratings, at least in my case, are highly optimistic!) this is a "fun" car with lots of power (a potent V8 with 11-to-1 compression ratio, dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, etc., etc.,) the ability to handle (via the suspension "stolen" from the SL series,)and with a "feeling" of safety and security that one can seemingly only get from a vintage Benz!
This vehicle was made to ply its trade on the Autobahns of Germany and as such, it doesn't disappoint! It is always a good idea to engage ones cruise control while on the highway, if the objective is to avoid speeding citations. It is nearly impossible to keep this “wolf in sheep’s clothing” at typical US highway speed limits of 70/80 mph, as even the slightest movement of your pedal foot seems to elicit 5, 10, 20 mph boosts in overall speed and in no time!
While it is not an S Class cruiser, the W124 400e does not lack much, in terms of comfort and is noticeably quicker than most S Class Mercs (save the 600 series Uber-Cruiser and it’s W124 “big brother,” the 500e!)
Though the 500e typically gets the proverbial spot-light, due to that models “special” Porsche assembled engine, sporting/suspension features, etc., it would be misleading to assume that the bridge that separates the two models is a wide one! While the Porsche built V8 in the 500e yields 10-to-1 compression ratio; the compression ratio of the 400e is actually higher! (11-to-1) (Source: Mercedes-Benz E-Class Owner's Bible: 1986-1995 by Bentley Publishers; ISBN-10: 0837602300) While the 500e has more horsepower, the top speed for both the 400e and the 500e is identical at 155 mph (governed.) The quicker 0 to 60 times of the 500e means, you get there much more quickly! And if anyone doubts if these things can reach 155 mph, simply Google: 1993 Mercedes 400e Top Speed and click on the YouTube link to the video of such a top speed run! While I would not dream of pushing my car to those limits, based on my own “self-classified” experience with my particular vehicle, I have no doubt that I could in the least hit 150, (given good tires, clear weather and a very long highway straightaway with no traffic!) I’ve lived long enough to figure out how quickly things can go belly-up and consequently, I’ve no desire to push my car to such limits; though I’ve travelled near such speeds in Germany, on numerous occasions. Please note that I once held a German drivers license and was not just a tourist going “wild” on the Autobahns… There’re many protocols and rules that one must adhere to, when driving in Germany and driving at high speeds in Germany, unaware of these rules and protocols can have catastrophic results!
Enough about that!
What are some of the downsides to these cars? Well, wiring-issues probably are the greatest of woes one would likely face from the early-to-mid 1990’s Mercedes, period! Simply put, in complying with new environmental regulations, Mercedes changed the composition of the insulation material (now designed to bio-degrade, presumably after the lifespan of the vehicle,) on its wiring looms. An unanticipated outcome was the premature degradation of the said material, only few years into the lifespan of a given Mercedes! Various electrical shorts, etc., created and continues to create chaos for many owners of such vintage Mercedes.
Often, the engine wiring harnesses (upper and lower harnesses,) experience problems first, due to large temperature fluctuations that regularly occurs in the engine compartment, where these wiring harnesses reside! The replacement of the engine wiring harnesses of a six or eight cylinder model Merc can be expensive and, the same thing in a V-12 engine 600 series can shoot up to around USD $10,000 range! Clearly, this is a serious “issue” and Mercedes-Benz doesn’t seem to have the best of records, in the resolution of such issues.
While I’ve yet to experience a complete shut-down resulting from such an issue, I’ve started experiencing “minor” issues; issues with left-side brake light, radio related glitches, etc., etc.
The electrical Gremlins aside, mechanically, these vehicles seem to be as bullet-proof as things get! The interior too, is durable and well-made, with buttons, switches, controls, etc., placed where logically would be expected and easy to reach. (Except the telescoping steering wheel switch, which most owners likely do not even know to exist!)
Safety too, is a plus in these vehicles and they have a “chiseled” appearance that leads one to think that they must have been carved out of granite, rather than assembled from pressed sheet-metal! The fit-and-finish screams high-end assembly and especially considering the time-frame, these were outstanding vehicles.
Since these beasts were not cheap to produce, the prices too, reflect the “efforts” put into building them. The base price, when new, for the 400e series started around USD $55.000 and the 500e started around USD $75.000 (and this in early 1990’s currency values!) Yet, compared to the 600 series Merc’s (which typically hovered around USD $130,000 range,) both the 400e and 500e models were relative “bargains.”
Look for well-preserved, unmolested examples! Avoid those with severe wiring issues (though many on the roads now have received replacement harnesses,) and those with body damage and/or rust!
A well preserved interior is the sign of “love and care” and should be something that one looks for, when deciding on which car to purchase. While it can be significantly cheaper to purchase a “molested” example; it is far cheaper, in the long-run to simply purchase a well-preserved vehicle to begin with! The cost of renovations on so called econo-boxes can be high and the cost of renovations on ANY Mercedes can be very high, if not astronomical! Again, avoid abused vehicles!
The high build quality, coupled with the typical driver demographics for these particular vehicles mean that there’re many well-preserved vehicles still around! (These vehicles were typically intended for the middle 50’s age group; folks not typically known to have a lead foot!
My particular W124 400e has a great paint job, nearly perfect interior, instrumentation, etc., and (knock on wood!) most everything work as should (sunroof, climate control, power seats/windows, etc!) The wheels too, are exceptionally well preserved. There is no rust anywhere that I can see and in fact, the only downsides to my vehicle is the problem with the left brake light and issues with the factory OEM radio.
Would I recommend this vehicle to others? Most certainly; provided of course, one opts for a well-preserved example. Otherwise, the moneys needed for repairs would be better spent on a coupe or convertible variant Mercs (and not a sedan!)"
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