w123 280CE Coupé Review

Reading Time: 7 minutes

The most biased review ever..

The 280CE model from w123 is one of the most under appreciated classic from Mercedes, maybe because w123 was so common and people didn’t really notice the rarer coupé among the numerous sedans. Now most of the sedans are rusted away and the luckier coupés are left so people start noticing these cars again. While the 200 is absolutely dull, the 230 quite modest, the 280 is nothing but boring with a big 6-cylinder twin cam! As you might notice this will be the most biased review ever since I’m reviewing my own car. Run now if you are looking for objectivity and rationalism! Or bare with my endless ranting about the 280CE. I don’t really care if this article will be too long either.

front of w123 280ce

 

It is still light years ahead in road feeling compared to American cars of the same era, which has as much feedback in the steering wheel as when steering an oil tanker.

First Impressions

This particular model from 1984 is pretty much premium in the amount of extra equipment you could get. We are talking automatic transmission, direct fuel injection, leather seats, air condition, Electric sunroof and windows. Makes it more like a modern car in terms of comfort. What it doesn’t have is the rare ABS brakes and airbag that was optional on late w123s.

The first impression of getting in to any w123 is the large steering wheel. Although power steering is standard equipment, the big steering wheel makes for even more effortless steering and comfort while being true to the era. It is still light years ahead in road feeling compared to American cars of the same era, which has as much feedback in the steering wheel as when steering an oil tanker.

The trunk on this car is huge which is a good thing if you are transporting dead bodies, guns or just bringing lots of beer..

The second impression is the front seats, they are quite comfy and nice, but the adjustment is not perfect. The adjustment height wise is quite small, making things difficult for not that tall people that wants to look over the large steering wheel. I actually like the back seats more in the coupé, although I don’t sit in it anymore after I got the license. They are surprisingly high quality for the relatively small space. It even has an armrest, two headrests and have seat belts for all 3 passengers in the back. Although I would not recommend to put 3 adults back there, the car fits nicely 4 adults with their luggage. The trunk on this car is huge which is a good thing if you are transporting dead bodies, guns or just bringing lots of beer to a barbecue, and seriously drink the beer at the party and not while driving!

beer in trunk
How to fit 7 crates of beer

Third impression is when you turn on the engine. It starts immediately with a nice 6 cylinder orderly roar. M110 is the engine designation for the double camshaft 2,8L engine and comes with direct fuel injection when the letter E (Einspritzung) following (hence the E-class was named when they ditched the carburettor altogether in later models). The M110 is which makes this car fast from the other options.

m110 engine 280ce
Peek into the engine bay to see glorious things

The Mighty M110

The good things about the M110: It always starts. It is very powerful and rev happy. Smooth running even when badly maintained (this is not perhaps a good thing since people become lazy with maintenance). Never have problems with overheating. Bulletproof cast iron block that will outlast the car if serviced properly.

higher RPM = better acceleration

The bad things with the M110: It is quite thirsty (~10L/100km) when driving on country roads. It requires manual valve adjustments at regular intervals for optimal performance, also the valves can be quite loud if you want complete silence. It can use some oil under harsh conditions.

Mercedes M110 engine
M110, the beastliest of all the w123s.

I am quite impressed of what Mercedes done with the exhaust system on this model. It will be smooth and semi quiet on normal use, but still with a hefty sounding engine when stepping on the throttle. Makes things more interesting when the windows are down and entering a tunnel full throttle.

Compared to modern cars this car is not fast, but the sound of the engine combined with the sensation of accelerating when stepping on the throttle actually make it feel faster than it really is. The car is quite light at under 1500kg which makes a big difference to heavier modern cars. The automatic transmission have the highest gear (4th) running at higher revs than what is normal on modern cars, it will be at quite a lot higher RPM than most people are used to. It is around 3500rpm at 100km/h, so it can get a bit noisy at highway speed and also the fuel consumption goes more up. What is the reason for this? Before they wanted better throttle response (higher RPM = better acceleration) and made the cars for the drivers rather than being so constrained by environmental regulations (which is a good thing btw). So I think with this car you have an insane throttle response where the car accelerates so good so you don’t need to shift down unless you are really in a hurry. This is actually a drivers car for people who likes throttle responsiveness and fun in overtaking situations down the country road.

Just open the sunroof and enjoy the sunburns as you cruise down the road on a warm summer..

The feeling of speed is a cool feature since it will make you appreciate the drive more at “relatively lower speeds” and keep you from loosing the license. I have driven the S600 which is of course much faster and more powerful, but which feels a bit dull and somewhat slow before reaching 140km/h, due to the silent engine and heaviness, there is about one tonnes of difference between these cars! I actually prefer the 280CE over the S600 in terms of drive feeling.

Read the review on the S600 here: Mercedes Benz S600 W140 Review

mercedes benz w123 280ce rear
Simple design, but yet effective.

When driving the 280 for a while it is impossible to not appreciate the drive comfort on this car. It is a country road cruiser that takes you to the destination in a stress free environment. Just open the sunroof and enjoy the sunburns as you cruise down the road on a warm summer day, or simply keep the windows shut and get some colder air from the air condition unit and avoid sunburns all together.

Spartan Interior

The interior is quite Spartan in terms of few buttons and simple design, there is no unnecessary swag like a Rolex clock in the dash or silly cup holders. There are 4 big round vents in the dashboard which can blow warm or cold air in your face. The two middle ones are just for fresh outside air while the two on either sides doubles as the warm or air conditioned air vents.

Did I mention the heating unit is two zoned? I really got surprised when I got this comment from friends which are also car enthusiasts, that grew up with newer cars of other brands than Mercedes that didn’t have this “luxury”, I didn’t even think of the feature before since I just took from granted that every car had it. Apparently not, and now I appreciate it a bit more.

..you become over confident and suddenly one day you actually run out of fuel.

I really love the instrument cluster and the dash. It gives you all the information you need and nothing more, like the RPM and time in glorious yellow and orange colors on top of a black background. I really hate the ambiguous check engine warning light you get on modern cars, and you can’t even tell what’s wrong. Sometimes it is just nice to know basic stuff like engine temperature and oil pressure indicator.

Driving Mercedes through mountainous terrain
Driving though Dovrefjell in a classic

What I dislike about the w123 instrument is the fuel gauge. It can become unreliable after 30 years unless you cleaned and serviced the gauge sensor in the tank. Also the gauge seem to be very slow in the beginning and then suddenly drop down to half in a seemingly short period of time, then you can drive on empty tank forever thinking it will never run out because you did this so many times and the tank can in fact hold up to 80 liters when full, and you become over confident and suddenly one day you run out of fuel.great scott meme

..the passengers like to control the music from their flashy smart phones so I let them.

Usability

What do I use this car for? Well it has become a car I use in the summers due to all the road salt they use in Norway, if I lived in hotter climate I would be using it all year around for sure. I have even been using this car as commuting for some months, and it was a bit stressing because I this car is teasing me to drive faster. So I wouldn’t recommend this as a commuters car. I am mostly using it when I’m going on vacation and with that doing long road trips, even going to the mountains and around fjords, even if that means going on gravel roads. No problem, it is not mint condition and the car is meant to be used, not stored in some clean room somewhere. The dirt can always be washed off.

The car also doubles as the spare car in the family which is used when the modern daily driver cars break down, which seem to happen rather a lot these days when the modern car AI decides that it doesn’t want to be used that day.

Some people like to keep it original and still have the original radio and cassette player, although I like nostalgia I appreciate high quality sound and installed a more modern sound system to make the car more usable. Actually all the original speakers are also replaced because the original ones were absolute crap. In some aspects of technology things have come very far! Also the passengers like to control the music from their flashy smart phones so I let them.

280CE in canyon

DIY Maintenance

The 280CE is definitely a DIY mechanics car..

Old Mercedes are not the easiest cars to do your own maintenance on, but not the hardest either, which is why I’m going such lengths with this web page to show you how it can be done. The 280CE is definitely a DIY mechanics car if you do some research and will bring the budget down on owning these cars significantly. I could even afford owning a w123 when I was a student since I did most of the maintenance myself, implied I din’t drive every day due to the fuel costs. So nothing should stop you owning a 280CE if you like fiddling with your own car. The parts are still stupid cheap for w123s, but it is also starting to rise and getting harder to find rare parts like the chrome bumpers.

Why own a 280CE?

If you want to have a cracking time driving in comfort and style then it is worth a shot! It is not super special and there are quite some to be found out there, so the entry price is doable for any car enthusiasts not willing to put a mortgage on their old cars.

Now the low point in price has passed for the w123s and the prices are increasing super fast especially for the coupés and the wagons, time to get on the w123 train before it becomes overpriced like the cruder and less refined BMW E30. Go for it!

Cheers!

me driving the mercedes 280ce
The car also needs a driver.

Review of “Flagship” Mercedes Benz S600 W140

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The kind Yakuza from Japan

I have been driving the S600 for some days now, in the city, on the highway and more curvy roads in the country side. It is what you can expect from this kind of car: Comfortable, powerful, luxurious, spacious and surprisingly anonymous. It is all what CEOs, diplomats, kings, (or drug lords) can wish for. This is truly an impressive car of by any standards. What surprised me the most is the way it makes you relaxed and do not eager you to drive fast like in a smaller more sporty car, still even when this can reach 288km/h if you remove the electronic speed limiter which is electronically set at 250km/h. What makes this car special are all the perks, accessories and massive comfort, not the ridiculous huge engine which is just a bonus.

Mercedes Benz s600 W140 rear
Rear end of the huge S600, looks even big from this angle. Still anonymous though, only the S600 badge reveals true nature, should be removed for cloaking.

As you turn on the ignition it makes a muted roar and then idles quiet, you can’t even tell the V12 M120 engine is there. It’s actually the most disappointing thing with the car, the engine noise, because it is non existent most of times. Makes sense for keeping the car quiet, but also removes all the fun with having such a powerful car with 400hp. When first driving it you really get surprised just how long and wide the car is, it takes some time to get used to. Driving it along it is like it can drive it self, braking is done by your big toe and steering by your little finger, although I do not recommend this of course. This S600 specimen is from 1996 and is 20 years this very year, but it feels like any modern German luxury car, in fact it feels years ahead of 15 year old newer Range Rovers. With only 58.000km on the odometer it is basically unused and from its Japanese background it makes it more interesting. Still even if it was ordered new in Japan it has the steering wheel on the left side for making it more special when used in Japan. Some buttons and menus in the navigation/radio screen are in Japanese though.

Interior Console Mercedes Benz W140 S600
Interior Console with the V12 badge clearly marked on the gear lever. Why so many buttons though?!

What put me off the most was the acceleration when pushing the throttle just to get up to normal speed. Not a slow one in the traffic!! With that in mind you can drive this like any other car just easing off the pedal more and especially if you have a cake in the back seat unsecured. Driving in the city the car is very comfortable and fast out of intersections, the only problem is narrow roads and parallel parking, but there are parking sensors to help out.

Everything with this car is electric, all the seats including the back seats, electric mirrors, electric windows, electric headrests front and back, electric curtains for the back window, electric servos for closing the doors (yeah you never have to slam the doors, just push the door to the end and they will close the last inch automatically), electric adjustable steering wheel, electric sunroof, electric etc…. and the list goes on.

The S600 has every accessory as standard equipment which is cool and why it was so damned expensive when it came out. The W140 is the biggest and most expensive S-Class model ever made and it didn’t sell well after the legendary W126. It was over-engineered, too pricey compared to the competitors, somewhat dull design and maybe just a little too big even for these kind of cars. After the W140 Mercedes went on a more safe approach with the next model with more success.

So how is the M120 engine? Well it is the most quiet beast of all time. Not sounding like a V12 as you might expect, only a slight orchestral V12 rumble when provoked. Oh God it is willing to drag you along, and the fun does not even stop, it just pulls more and more, I felt the most violent acceleration was when you pass 140km/h. This is truly an engine for high Autobahn speeds, which has very comfortable low RPM when cruising in the mid 100s. It is very easy to loose the license in this car since speed is this car can only be percieved when looking at the speedometer. Speed is unnoticeable, you really have to look twice at the speedometer and double check every time.

Mercedes Benz S600 W140 Engine
The beast of an engine, the M120 with only 48 valves!

Even though this might seem like a sports car, it is not. It’s huge and heavy, even with adaptive damping system and stability things like electronic ESPs of all sorts it feels big. My mind keeps me from going crazy fast since I know this car is big, I don’t even want to go fast, just cruise along at a comfortable pace, arriving in style and not exhausted from overtaking a million times. Even though overtaking cars in this thing is so easy it’s not even fun in the end. Saying this, the handling of the car is amazing and it can be used as a sports car down curvy roads, but it just feels wrong. Keep an eye on that fuel consumption though, it is not insignificant and the 100L tank is for sure needed.

Could I live with this car? Sure! Could I live with the fuel consumption on a daily basis? No. Could I parallel park this every day in the city? Maybe if I had the patience. Could I take all my family and my house for an epic vacation/road trip with this car? Definitely!

I took some family members on a ride with this thing, they were quite impressed. Especially the back seat with the champagne fridge and so many electric play buttons and all sorts of fun stuff are amusing. Not often a car is more fun in the back seat, that really sums it up for the S600, even though it is so cool and drives like a charm, the backseat is in face a better place to hang out. Being in this car is like sitting in a cloud drinking champagne with your legs stretched fully with the AC blowing chilly on a hot summers day while you raise the rear blinds by the flick of a button to conceal your luxury from the dreadful world outside.

I would recommend this car for comfort seekers and for presidents that don’t mind sitting in the back seat. Driving can be done by more professionals that knows how to drive economically so they don’t use up all the petrol in one night. And that means driving efficiently, comfortable for the passengers and utterly boring.

Mercedes Benz S600 W1400 Front

Cheers, Robs out