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.

General Comments:

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

19th Jun 2006, 07:35

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.

1986 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 560 SEL 5.6 liter V8 from North America


Solid engineering, impressive performance, built to last


Just the usual 1986 Mercedes problems:

Cracked dash board

Worn cracked seat leather

Finicky seat adjust switches

Stereo not working

Sunroof not working.

Gas line under gas tank drips gas.

A/C not very cold.

General Comments:

Other than the above minor problems, the mechanical heart and soul of the 560 SEL is solid as a rock.

The 5.6 V8 is smooth as silk. The acceleration is impressive for a 2 ton, 20 year old car with 200,000+ thousand miles, especially the acceleration from the range of 70 mph to 85+ mph. Passing slow traffic going uphill is a dream.

The cornering is not that bad for a big heavy car.

The styling is timeless. The classy look of this car will always be pleasing.

I'm a little worried about the maintenance cost, but prevention is the key to long life out of these cars.

I can't wait to put another 200,000 miles on this car.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 15th September, 2005

19th Sep 2005, 00:33

Make sure you have the timing chain replaced if you don't know when it was last done or if it hasn't been done in over 100,000 miles or so. It is VERY important to replace the timing chain, guide, and tensioners on the 560 at intervals of around 100,000 miles. These are not zero interference engines, and if that timing chain lets go you could be looking at quite a hefty repair bill (e.g. rebuilt 5.6l M117 long blocks are ~$5k+).

19th Sep 2005, 18:36

I totally agree, the timing chain should be checked and replaced if neccessary because a jump timing can bend the valves severely which can cost heavily. Since the 560 SEL has the automatic load leveling suspension mechanism, make sure it is working properly, if not, then it needs to be adjusted or replaced.