This car has been extremely reliable in terms of getting from point A to point B, the engine and transmission not even hinting at trouble, both in town, and on long drives, including terrible heat, cold and mountainous terrain, dirt roads, and roads in bad condition.
For town driving, this car is slightly sluggish, owing to the weight and size. Step on the accelerator with any exuberance however, and it goes like a rocket. It has good pull-away power from a standing start, and further acceleration when already at some speed is blinding.
Gear transitions are excellent, and the transmission responds well to situations where more speed is needed, delaying some transitions to allow faster acceleration. When the throttle is opened at speed, a lower gear is selected almost immediately to produce massive torque delivery.
In first gear, selected only when the transmission is shifted to "low", this car will tackle almost any incline with ease, and traveling down hill in lower gears allows conservation of brake pads as the massive compression does most of the slowing down.
The car's weight allows it to negotiate high speed corners comfortably, with not even the slightest hint of going off balance or spinning out of controle.
Fuel consumption on the long road is excellent, considering the size of the car. Most interestingly, there is almost no difference in consumption when driving with or without the air conditioning unit, showing the large in-line-6 2.8 litre engine has power to spare. Extra weight from heavy loads doesn't have much of an effect on power or fuel consumption either.
The power steering allows for relatively easy town driving and parking in some seriously tight spots. It won't go where a Fiat Uno will, but it fits into most of Bloemfontein's tight parallel parking spots easily.
The breaks respond almost immediately and have massive stopping power. Response varies ofcourse to the ammount depression on the pedal, making it easy to modulate the breaks at crawling speeds, and still being powerful enough to stop the car quickly in emergency situations.
Inside, the car is comfortable, seats are still in excellent condition. Noise levels are very low, and the air conditioning unit maintains pleasant temperatures even when the outside temperature reaches over 30 degrees Celsius (approx. 100 F) Armrests in the center and doors for all passengers are a wonderful luxury, which is standard on these models. Unfortunately this unit was ordered without headrests for the rear passengers, still, the back seat is extremely comfortable. The interior of the car is still like new, everything is in excellent condition.
The boot provides ample space for shopping trips and the drive on vacation.
Instruments on the dash are within easy reach and well arranged, although the absence of a rev. counter is a slight disappointment. The center of the dash shines with classic style. Turn-dial controles operate the air conditioning, fan speed, and separate heating for systems for the two front passengers. Air may also be directed to the front foot wells, creating airflow under front seats and delivering heating or cooling to rear passengers via the foot well (which is a contiuous floor space under the front seats, running through to the rear)
Headlamps are powerful and provide an excellent view of dark roads. The level controle, allowing the beam hight to be adjusted from the dash for different loads, is an extremely handy addition to the 1980 model. Powerful wide-angle, short range fog lights are a valuable safety feature, installed standard on all W123 models.
The car's exterior is still almost perfect, barring one or two very minor blemishes and some paint on the boot that will need a slight bit of work. The understated, but abundant use of chromium steel (a practice that would die out starting with the 1982 W123 series) gives this car a wonderful character, and catches the eye of collectors at car shows, and passers by in the parking lot alike.
We purchased this car for roughly $1800. This is wonderful value, for a reliable and luxurious town and long drive car. This is the second of two W123's we purchased in the year, a review of the other one (a 1979 model) is forthcoming.