1990 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 300 SE 3.0 straight six cylinder from Australia and New Zealand


The world's best car - but count mine out


Fuel pump relay overheated, and caused the fuel pump to cut out regularly, which was a dangerous thing to happen where I live, and took weeks and a painful amount of dollars to find.

Distributor cap went soon after purchase.

Suspension was never right, and I kept fixing niggles and replacing bushings pretty much weekly.

Brakes tended to catch little stones, and required surgical removal by a shop.

Water pump died on me.

Air conditioning stopped working soon after purchase.

Climate control started acting erratically after a few months.

Oil loss turned out to come from leaking block, horrendously expensive to fix.

Transmission noise started to develop after one year of purchase.

General Comments:

This car was an eye-opener for me, teaching me that Mercedes-longevity can indeed be a myth. I have not had this much frustration and aggravation with a car since owning a very troublesome Citroen CX 15 years ago.

This came doubly unwelcome, as I had purchased the car specifically because I was in need of a reliable, solid car at the time, and this Mercedes turned out to be anything but. Sadly, I can't even say it's my first bad Mercedes; I just keep believing in them, who knows why.

As a car though, it was a delight. Beautiful, poised, timeless, amazing ride comfort, and guaranteed to get you the attention of anyone, at least where I live.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 25th June, 2007

26th Jun 2007, 09:12

Hi, I was considering a 300 SE as a possible replacement for my present car, (volvo 240) but after reading this I don't know anymore.

You said your previous car was a Volvo 850- I am also looking at them. Was that any better?

27th Jun 2007, 13:58

When you buy a 16 year old car it either has been well maintained or you need to get it up to a certain operational level. My experience, MB of this vintage takes about US$ 2000/year to maintain once you get it to that level. Odd as it may sound, it's a philosophical decision on how well and for how long you intend to maintain the car. For me, a car that originally sold for 65,000 can be kept for the rest of your life, if you are so inclined. I ask myself if I'd want to be driving a pristine 20 year old Honda or MB.

1990 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 560 SEL 5.6 liter V8 petrol from Australia and New Zealand


One of the best cars ever built. I could afford a brand new one - but why waste the money?


The air conditioning compressor failed and needed reconditioning.

The vacuum operated air vent bellows in the dashboard failed, requiring replacement.

I have another 1986 version of the same car (560 SEL) and these are common problems with the W126 vehicles. Otherwise there are only the normal day to day things like brake pads, etc.

General Comments:

We have 2 of these cars. The other one is a 1986 build vehicle which I have owned for 11 years and which now has 220,000km on the clock. Given the outstanding build quality and reliability of the older car, I could not resist buying the 1990 example when it came up for sale – with a genuine 14,000km on the clock (despite being 10 years old at the time).

I have since travelled a further 50,000km in the car.

It is in virtually brand new condition. These cars were probably the most over-engineered Mercedes ever built – that is why in real terms they were the most expensive. The result is a car which is incredibly reliable. Occasionally little things wear out – but in 11 years of owning both cars, neither has ever stranded me – except when I left the lights on and flattened the battery.

The 560SEL is huge. Incredible rear leg room and excellent interior finish – although a little sparse by some standards. Ride is firm, but that is good, and the handling is excellent given the fact that this is a 2 tonne family saloon.

It goes like the clappers. It normally accelerates starting in 2nd gear and moving up through to 4th. However if you are in a hurry, put your foot hard on the floor and it will select the little used 1st gear, and the car jumps forward from 0 – 100 kmh in just 7 seconds. Effortless. That is very good even by todays standards.

It looks good too. Much better than the 1990s model which followed it, and more “classic” Mercedes than the most recent ones. It does of course have a reputation for being the car of choice for just about every mafia boss and 3rd world dictator for several decades.

The fact that Mercedes built this chassis for 12 years (1979 to 1991) is testimony to the quality of its engineering.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 22nd December, 2006

26th Feb 2008, 09:51

I appreciate your comments, they did help me in making my decision to purchase. Thanks a lot.

12th Jul 2008, 16:21

I am the proud owner of a 1989 560SEL. At 197700 miles the original paint and interior are in excellent condition, even though the previous owner no longer loved the car. I've had to put a couple thousand into mechanical restoration, every penny well spent. When I sit at a stop light, I can't help but feel a little smug when those lesser cars are checking out my ultimate ride.

17th Nov 2009, 01:24

Hi, I am based in Auckland and am looking for a 560SEL. Can you help?

18th May 2011, 19:34

The 560 was the best sedan in the world for any money. 75k dollars was a fortune of money, when a average size chicken house in N.Y. in the finest neighborhood was about 180k. Until 1987, when BMW hit the market with the 750IL with the 12 cylinders; the car that changed everything in every way.