1989 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 300SEL 3.0 from North America


Unbeatable luxury and performance for the dollar


Valve guides.

Paint faded.

Radiator neck broke off.

A/C compressor changed twice.

Tires should be Michelins, and they are just expensive, ($200 +/-). Cheap tires will not perform or balance properly.

General Comments:

If I did not have a great mechanic, I would not love this car like I do. If you want to keep the car in pristine condition, there are several common breakables that will need to be fixed.

The car now drives and runs better than most new cars, and I like the style and design better as well.

The inline six is economical and has plenty of power. One of my favorite things to do is hear the tires chirp as it hits second gear.

Amazing handling for a big car. No Caddy or Lincoln can compare within ten years.

I am considering upgrading to larger rims and higher performance tires. Possibly installing the lowering spring kit. I would like to hear any feedback on these types of mods, and what I can do to squeeze even more power from the I-6 without ruining the reliability?

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 16th August, 2005

18th Mar 2007, 18:27

I own a 1989 300SE. I bought it with 120k on it and it now has 200k.

I have had to replace the air conditioning compressor, two power window motors, and neither of the power seats work now.

It burns 1-2 quarts of oil between oil changes, and it is hardly economical on gasoline, which is to be anticipated considering the caliber of the car, however I have owned a Cadillac and two Lincoln's with V-8's and they both got better fuel mileage than this V-6 Benz.

I also feel that the American luxury cars cruised better on the highway as far as engine noise. The SE sounds like it's revving out at 85MPH.

I know this car has many miles on it, but the Caddy and the Lincoln were more dependable and less trouble than the SE.

Don't get me wrong, there are things about this car that no American car can compete with, especially the handling of a car this size. It takes corners like a Honda Accord. But I think all around, I prefer the feel and ride of an American luxury car. Save the German auto's for European roads, that's what they're designed for.

19th Mar 2007, 08:42

If you wanted a floatly, uninvolving American car why did you get a Mercedes? Makes no sense. And I don't understand your autobahn comment. The autobahn is full of long, straight highways just like American roads.

25th Mar 2007, 10:56

I didn't take any comment personally, so I don't know why you would say that. But your posts make no sense. Who buys a large luxury vehicle (outside of a Maserati Quattroporte) to go tackle curves? That's not its purpose.

And what European roads are you talking about? The autobahn is where the average speeds are higher, but on most other secondary/tertiary roads it's the same as America.

10th Sep 2008, 10:31

I have ended up with a 1988 300sel that has started to grow on me. The body style is a classic and with 250k still runs really well. I would like to make this as close to a daily driver as possible. Is it better to rebuild the engine and trans or maintain the car until it really needs the surgery?

20th Nov 2008, 15:08

If it ain't broke then don't fix it!!!

10th Jul 2009, 23:34

I need to replace the front calipers on my 89 300SEL.

Anybody know if the system is Bendix or Teves?

1989 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 500SEC 5.0 petrol from UK and Ireland


Beautiful muscular lines, mighty performance for price of a modern tin hatchback


Worst fault was water ingress into the boot (was like this when I bought it, but didn't spot it). This resulted in the structural member under the parcel shelf corroding. Had to be sorted at around £2,500. Apparently not an uncommon fault - so check carefully in the boot. Look for signs of water damage on the boot carpet and stick your head in the boot and look at the space under the parcel shelf - not easy, but worth it.

Also had a new exhaust at £1,200 - but it was its first replacement at 105,000 miles.

No mechanical problems.

General Comments:

I ran it as an every day car and it ran flawlessly throughout the time I had it.

I switched from a main dealer to a Mercedes specialist - better service and cheaper.

Loads of modern standard extras - given the age airbag, ABS, mem seats, etc.

Sold it because the paint started to get tired and needed tidying up.

Missed it badly so I bought another one a year later (this year). Fantastic 1990 car with only 26,000 miles and 2 owners. Looks new and I can see no reason why I would ever want to sell it.

Surprisingly inexpensive to insure.

Buy one!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 7th September, 2002