1992 Mercedes-Benz W124 400E 4.2 Litre V8 from North America
Under-appreciated Jewel of a Car
Wiring Harness Issues - typical of this year and model when exposed to salt air as this one was in S. Florida.
Electrical Gremlins - even after replacement of harness, mysterious waning lights would activate and deactivate - never a related "failure".
Air Conditioning and ventilation are a constant disappointment, but not unexpected.
I believe, after owning seven Mercedes Benzes, that this may be the most unheralded, overlooked, all-around satisfying sedan a person can own. Although it cannot compare (performance-wise) to the 500E of the same vintage, its performance is still inspiring - without the expense or fussiness of many of the Mercedes performance cars. It is relatively inexpensive to own, feed, and insure, but can gobble up HUGE expanses of asphalt very quickly, and with surprisingly calm.
The 4.2 litre V-8 develops more horsepower than the 5.6 monster V-8 (yes, less torque) with far less weight, thereby preserving the E-Class's superb handling. And, incidentally, the ability to do tail-out corners with the V-8's assistance is one of the great joys the 400 passes along that 300E owners do not get to enjoy.
It is a stealth car, with no visible performance cues to hint of its capabilities, or tip off watchful officers of the law. It has the ability to be tweaked to near-500E performance levels - but it seems ridiculous to try. It is such a truly satisfying, ever-dependable package just the way it is.
The 4.2 is a little thirsty around town (much of that is my fault, I'm sure) but on the highway, geared as it is, fuel consumption is nearly identical to its six-cylinder counterpart.
Okay, the ventilation and air conditioning are sub-par, but you knew it was a Mercedes Benz when you bought it. That's part of the deal. Not as bad as my 560SL, not as good as the 500SEL, pretty much what you learn to expect from Mercedes. If air conditioning is the most important consideration to you, buy a Buick.
One last note. I have driven, leased and even bought one of the MB's built in the 21st century, and found them to be a huge and expensive disappointment. The build quality in 1992 is something to still marvel at. Logical, mechanical, beautifully engineered and pragmatic (if expensive) to repair. I will continue to seek out beautiful low mileage examples of these cars to own and preserve. Would not have another new one, even if it was a company car. I trust a 15-20 year old Mercedes to get me safely anywhere. The new ones only contribution to my life was expanding my list of available tow truck drivers.
I believe that I have found my last car.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 6th September, 2007
I owned a 400e before I went for the 500e, and agree 100% with the comments. I don't get how 270 bhp in the 400e is greater than 325 bhp in the 500e. In any case, the 400e is the best family car I have ever owned. Secondly, I was getting 27 mpg on the highway with air conditioning running.
I would love to tweak the engine with either twin turbos or a supercharger, and kick some freeway buttresses.
I have had a 93 190e 2.6, then a 96 C280, and now a 93 400e.
The climate control I am happy with, having preference to the dial temp control versus the LCD display of my C280.
There are a few performance mods you can do, even though it performs very well in stock form.
My transmission starts in 2nd by default, but I've done a simple "1st gear over-ride on the fly" to resolve that. Also since the 93 has a 11:1 275 HP compression ratio vs the 92's 10:1 268 HP, swapping out the LH module (ECU) from the 92 to the 93 will provide another 15 HP @ WOT (Wide Open Throttle).
Something I haven't tried as yet, but know others that have with satisfied results.
Like as stated, the 400e is a "sleeper" or overlooked performance car. Many wannabe street racer kids with their tuned imports are finding that out in my local area. ;)
It may be because the 300e is more common and not as quick, 217 HP if I remember correctly (IIRC).
But I have to admit that the extra HP may get me more "in touch" with my local law enforcement. So be forewarned, if you haven't had this kind of HP before.