1986 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 560SEL 5.6 Litre V8 from North America
I love it more and more with every drive
Transmission - A week or so after purchasing the car, it would shift roughly occasionally. The dealer told us it needed to be replaced. However since we just got the car, they offered to cover most of the cost and we paid $500. However, mistakes were made, the oil pump wasn't hooked up properly the first time it was replaced, destroying the newly installed transmission, later on, the transmission seized while the service manager was testing the car out. Now that it's on its fourth transmission it still shifts roughly, the odd time, like it did before. But I've experienced the odd harsh gear change in a new Mercedes with the new seven speed transmission.
The timing chain was just replaced at 206,000km as preventitive maintenance, and apparently just in time as one of the guides, or rails was already broken. Apparently it had been worked on before, but the tensioner was never replaced.
Other than that, nothing has really developed since. The clock never worked, the cruise control works about 5% of the time (though I have no need for it) and the air conditioning is out of freon.
The odd time the radio display gets a bit garbled (though it doesn't bother me), and the suspension could use a bit of work. However that's a wear and tear thing, and the car has been incredibly dependable.
I've driven and experienced a lot of Mercedes, and though I love the power and refinement of the newer models (The CL600 being the most impressive car I've ever driven), getting back into the 20 year old 560SEL doesn't feel like a downgrade.
The fuel economy for city driving is dreadful, however it makes more economical sense for me to commute in this car than to take the bus.
It's incredible reliable and has started for me every time (twice the battery has been dead, once due to a rear interior light being left on over night).
It cruises beautifully down the highway. It never feels like it is going that fast, and has such grace while also feeling like it's glued to the road.
Perfomance is pretty good too, though it feels like you really have to push the car to achieve rapid acceleration. It doesn't really have effortless power the way a newer w140 S500 does, though the acceleration time on paper isn't much slower. The transmission generally starts off in second gear unless you really hit the pedal. 0-100km/h takes an official time of 7.4 seconds for the North American 560SELs.
The interior is very well put together. It's business like and quite conservative. It's incredibly roomy and has a few nice toys, like the memory front seats, and power rear bench (though I'd like the coupe style individual rear seats, which were an option).
Overall it's probably one of the best cars out there. The prices of these cars in my area have really dropped due to gas prices, but they offer so much over the average new car.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 4th June, 2006
Your comments on the transmission problems would lead me to suspect that your mechanic might not be as good as you'd like or expect. I've had a 560SEL and 500SE and would only think of taking them to an independent specialist for any work.
Do this, and they'll run and run like everyone says.