1990 Mercedes-Benz W124 260E 2.6 M103 from UK and Ireland
Absolute engineering quality and absolute comforting pleasure
For a 26 year old vehicle that is used on a regular basis, amazingly nothing has gone wrong that has prevented my use of the vehicle.
I have carried out some required maintenance to the vehicle, including replacing most of the front suspension.
If you haven't driven a Mercedes from this era, you really should. I previous to buying this car had driven all manner of "top of the range" Ford and Vauxhall etc, which profess to be luxury vehicles; I can state quite categorically they are not even in the same league as a proper Mercedes. You just have to drive one to really understand. Bear in mind my W124 was bought for £495 with galactic miles on the odometer; having never driven one I didn't expect much, but WOW, my first drive out of the forecourt was shocking, it literally glides over the road surface, it irons out undulations and potholes like you would not believe, it feels very heavy, but not in a bad way.
It's like being surrounded by several feet of concrete, but at the same time cushioned by the finest quality German leather and wood; all this with 26 year old suspension components that were at best in dire condition. I lived with it for a while, but driving above 55 mph really took away that special driving experience, as it was like trying to sail a yacht across the English channel. Eventually I did change all the front suspension links and control arms, and now it tracks beautifully up to 100 mph and rides even better.
It is not equipped well up to today's standards, but luxury cars back in the 80s and 90s weren't all about gadgets, it was about providing the most comfortable, cossetting place to be, and that's what Mercedes did with this car.
The engine is another surprise, it is utterly smooth; by smooth I'm talking balancing a 20 pence on the cam cover at 2000 RPM and it will sit motionless; this combined with the superb ride makes for an uncompromisingly comfortable car to drive, although when you need to push on, the 6 cylinder engine does make a certain roar that is very much unlike the odd sound that comes out of someone's Vauxhall Astra with a stupidly enormous backbox exhaust; it sounds like it means business.
It's a shame then in this regard the 2.6 M103 never really delivers; it has the bark but not much bite, 166BHP when new and you really have to work it when pushing on; kickdown is necessary to overtake and accelerate quickly pretty much all the time; there really is not much low down torque, mid range is acceptable, but for a single OHC engine, the power is unusually near the top end. Now combined with a decent manual gearbox, this wouldn't necessarily be a problem, because at least the engine sounds good, however the automatic gearbox here is rather a lazy contraption that does suck quite a lot of power; it is not keen to change down on time; for example when you're pulling onto a motorway slip road uphill, you find yourself using kickdown.
It is however in keeping with the rest of the car, and changes up and down very smoothly. It's probably an unfair to be so harsh towards the drivetrain after nearly a quarter of a million miles, and it is very reliable, so I forgive it for its lack of power; after all, it is not a sports car and has never tried to be one.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 3rd December, 2016