1991 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 300SEL 3.0 six cylinder from North America
Grand, elegant, diplomatic, fast, well-built!
Plastic side of radiator cracked, requiring entire new radiator ($900 at dealer).
A/C blower stopped working, requiring replacement.
A/C control unit started sending cold air when warm air desired (and vice versa), requiring replacement.
Transmission became slow to shift into reverse, requiring many new parts and gaskets.
Upper control arms on front suspension are shot at 150K miles. Time to replace.
She goes through brake pads, but that makes sense for such a big, heavy machine. (Don't ignore the brake-pad warning light until it goes off, which it does eventually. Then you'll be buying new rotors, too, as I did -- once.)
An amazing, fast, solid, comfortable, high-quality, well-designed car! Absolutely in love with it after all these years. Wouldn't dream of a new S-Class -- too forgettable and not enough "Mercedes-ness" anymore.
Quality of materials and fit is better than anything new. Glossy wood. Unbelievably fresh-looking leather after 155,000 miles. Feels like you could stand on the open gas flap. Door hardware and latches that are almost "over-designed." Glove box door lines up perfectly with dash. I could go on and on.
Quiet details continue to impress after seven years of ownership, such as wood trim on the dash that "wraps" around ends of dash, where it's only seen when doors are open. A turn-signal lever that is weighted perfectly. Simple, push-button switchgear that has a positive, solid feel to it. Even the chromed trim around the doorhandles where you insert the key is elegantly beveled and sculpted.
Rear legroom in my long-wheelbase W126 is positively generous, even when front seats are moved back. Everyone gets ample legroom in the stretch S-Class. First comment any backseat passenger makes!
The 3-liter six-cylinder engine is smoother than most V8s. It's a little slow off the mark (this is a big, heavy car!), but once she's wound up, there's power on tap. Silky smooth (a cliche, but true) and very, very quiet.
Brakes and steering a dream, with just the right balance and feel. I've never been afraid to fling this one around corners, despite its size.
A grand presence when parked or moving. I think Bruno Sacco and M-B got this W126 absolutely right in the aesthetics department. There's an absolute "rightness" to the lines. For such a physically big car, the folds and contours of the body make it appear remarkably light and agile. Same goes for the inside styling. Nothing jarring or zoomy or overstyled. There's a real Mies van der Rohe ("Less is more") quality to every line and surface.
Can you tell I'm in love? Nothing like approaching this authoritative, diplomatic machine, slipping onto that perfectly supportive seat and slamming that door. Thunk! Nothing sounds like it! Twist the key and glide away in all that leather, wood, solidity and absolute elegance.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 20th November, 2003
24th Nov 2003, 21:04
I absolutely agree. That car you have there is, in my opinion, the last over-engineered MB.
I once accidentally slammed my fingers into the door frame of my 300SE. My fingers looked like they had come out of a cartoon after I managed to get the door back open. You could only imagine the pain and agony that followed after. Those cars are almost TOO solid.
Anyway, I have three examples. I have a 300SE, a 300SDL, and a 350SD. I never plan on getting rid of any of them. You just cannot replace them, plain and simple. The long wheelbase model is definitely the best choice for road trips, but it sure is hard to park, isn't it? Not too different in length compared to my full-ton 3500 extended cab 4x4 pickup truck.