By on November 27, 2018

What do you get when you combine the sporty personality of Porsche with all the comfort and luxury of a Mercedes-Benz sedan?

The answer is this E500.

In the late 1980s Mercedes found itself riding a wave of popularity. Building quality automobiles of restrained and tasteful luxury had served the company well for quite some time, but competition for the luxury car customer was heating up. Japan had ideas, and BMW was throwing its performance in Mercedes’ face. Competition emerged across the continents as the promising Nineties drew near.

However, designers and engineers at Mercedes were preoccupied with development of the new W140 S-Class sedan. There wasn’t bandwidth for other big projects, and something had to be done. Enter Porsche.

Mercedes contracted with Porsche in 1989 to develop a new performance-oriented sedan. Its task? To take the rather staid W124 E-Class and turn up the volume.

The existing small engine bay was crammed full with the 5.0-liter V8 from the R129 500SL. The front end had to be widened in order for the engine to fit at all, which is why the 500 E wears flared front fenders. The extra heft from the large engine meant a suspension rework. All that was left was to fit the four-speed automatic from the SL. It shifted 322 horsepower through the rear wheels, for a 0 to 60 time of 6.1 seconds. Top speed was 161 miles per hour.

All was well, and the car was ready for production — apart from one small issue. The new, beefy shape of the 500 E meant it did not fit on the assembly line with the regular E-Class cars. Time for another telephone call to Porsche.

Deepening their ties, Mercedes hired Porsche to build the 500 E at its factory in Stuttgart. Porsche had extra capacity at the time, since the company was going through a bit of a rough patch. Stuttgart was happy to oblige. Though production started in 1991, the process of getting these cars to buyers was complex.

Mercedes manufactured the parts and shipped them to Porsche, who then hand-assembled the 500 E’s chassis and body. The cars were then shipped back to the Mercedes plant and painted. Painted bodies traveled once more, to a different Porsche factory in Zuffenhausen, which installed the V8 and completed the car. When each 500 E’s grand tour was complete, 18 full days had elapsed.

The 500 E continued unchanged through 1993, and had one final model year in ’94. At that point its name was changed to E500. This coincided with a facelift of every E-Class model. A limited, special run of 120 cars emerged in 1995 to meet continued consumer demand, making for a total production figure of 10,479. Mercedes was ready for future performance models after the end of the E500, calling upon its in-house tuner AMG for such development.

Today’s Rare Ride is for sale in Germany by superb dealer and restorer Mechatronic. It’s a late-run model with a special edition interior of purple, blue, green, and black kaleidoscope-effect leather. Fantastic. It can be yours for about $73,000, and is importable into the US next year.

H/t to Adam Tonge for pointing out this awesome E.

[Images: seller]

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26 Comments on “Rare Rides: A 1994 E500 – the Porsche Sedan by Mercedes-Benz...”

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Porsche was definitely in dire straits at the time. This is before the high-profit Cayenne and Macan, and before the brand figured out how to get its clients to pay hundreds of dollars for color-coded key fobs and nonsense like that. It was also toward the end of the air-cooled era for Porsche, and no one was sure the upcoming water-cooled Boxster and 911 would please fans.

    But yes, the 500 E/E 500 is an excellent gem in Mercedes-Benz’ history. The power and performance were seriously fast by 1990s standards, and are still competent today. Fortunately, this car is very understated compared to other W124s, so you might encounter someone who doesn’t know what they have and are willing to let it go for pennies. I think that very thing happened to Doug DeMuro at a local car dealership.

  • avatar

    There is a typo…this body should called a W124.

    Thanks for the reminder of a great car and its Porsche ties.

  • avatar

    Now THAT is a car.

    I was browsing the San Diego craigslist a while back (not sure why), and saw a high mileage but clean w/maint records W124 400E with a power-steering leak for $1200. All I could think about was hopping on a flight with a replacement line and some tools in my luggage, then blasting back East across the desert in a real autobahn stormer.

    • 0 avatar

      They are beautiful, in their way.

      But by modern standards, well, that 400E is 275HP and 295lb-ft, and no less than 25 years old, and will be showing it; it’d also need a suspension rebuild, almost certainly, and god help you with the climate system.

      Better off buying almost any new V6 or some of the turbo I4s, in every practical respect.

      (Source: Practical experience with aged Mercedes.)

      • 0 avatar

        Practically speaking sure, but a generic modern 2.0T leasemobile compared to a classic Mercedes v8 in the legendary w124 chassis? Not even close.

      • 0 avatar

        “that 400E is 275HP and 295lb-ft, and no less than 25 years old”

        I’m pretty familiar with the w124 range. The 400E engine is quite impressive, even by today’s standards. The letdown on the car is the tall gearing and wide gaps between gears. 1st gear gets you to about 50 MPH, which means somewhat leisurely 0-20 sprints. 4th gets you (with a tailwind) to 155 governor, but the engine isn’t quite at redline. The 500E redlined at 155 due to more power and lower gearing.

        As nice as the 400E is, you might really be happier with the 3.2L 24-valve engine from an E320 (1995, 1996). What you lose in power and torque you partially make up for with less weight and lower gearing.

        • 0 avatar

          Ah, the M119.975 V8. The W210 ‘97 E420 I recently sold had that motor.

          I’d describe it as a competent but somewhat lazy V8. It was powerful, but in a smooth and relaxed kind of way. Didn’t want to be rushed, didn’t want to rev eagerly. Like I said, lazy but competent.

          Never had any mechanical issues with the motor and the car, which I inherited from my grandfather when he died (if my memory is still intact I must have gotten it with about 98,000 miles, give or take a few hundred miles). Sold it with a relatively low mileage of 120,000+. Hardly drove it. Reliable but thirsty.

        • 0 avatar

          I had a 1994 E420 for almost 10 years, can confirm what SunnyvaleCA and W210Driver said. It’s a lazy but powerful V8, and it’s kind of a dog off the line, but it’ll cruise competently and comfortably at 100mph. The major flaw with it from the factory was the really tall 2.73:1 rear end. One other thing to beware is the 124 chassis was not designed to accommodate a V8 from the start, so working space is extremely tight and the car is not fun to work on (I’ll never forget how annoying getting the passenger side valve cover off was). If I had to do it again I’d go 500E, or just get an E320 S210.

  • avatar

    This is probably my all-time favorite car. It made my day seeing it as a rare ride!

    I had the good fortune to ride in a 1992 model. It was built like a freakin’ vault, cleanly designed as to not attract undo attention, and sported enough power to do whatever was asked. The car doesn’t scream “AMG” in your face… awesome.

  • avatar

    I had a coworker who built an 500E wagon. He’s had people offer him stupid money for it. These cars were very cool.

  • avatar

    Am I the only one would here who’d consider Mechatronic as a possible vacation destination?

    My dad had a 400E of this vintage, and that thing was stout as hell. Can’t even imagine how amazing this car would be. 100% lust.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh man, this would be a trip. They’ve got some amazing stuff, like a couple of W188 300 Sc models, some nice W111s, a 600 Pullman, a Bugatti Type 57…

      Wow, just wow.

  • avatar

    Ahhh yes. I was a bit depressed after yesterday’s review of a BMW X3, but now we’re talking.

  • avatar

    It really is a great cruiser. See many of these in Europe still.

  • avatar

    Not normally big on modern MB styling. I love this era, however, and this one is the most handsome of them all.

  • avatar

    I had a ’93 as a daily driver for about 4 years. Still the best all-around car I have ever owned. I still miss it.

  • avatar

    I’ve always loved these cars. And that interior is just over the top. This one is well traveled; delivered in Leipzig, exported to Japan when new, then shipped to the UK, and back to Germany.

  • avatar

    Even with the wide fender flares, this car still screams (or whispers) pure understatement.

    Today’s performance AMG Mercedes’ are so guady. Actually, between say an E63 AMG and E43 AMG, I find the smaller-engined model to be better at blending design elegance and sportiness into a more “understated” package than the flat out gaudy and over-the-top ‘63 model, which is simply too aggressive for my rather conservative tastes.

  • avatar

    Even with the wide fender flares, this car still screams (or whispers) pure understatement.

    Today’s performance AMG Mercedes’ are so guady. Actually, between say an E63 AMG and E43 AMG, I find the smaller-engined model to be better at blending design elegance and sportiness into a more “understated” package than the flat out gaudy and over-the-top ‘63 model, which is simply too aggressive for my rather conservative tastes.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    It’s a shame that these things will never, under any circumstance, kick down into first gear.

    Source – Tim ‘The Tool Man’ Taylor.

  • avatar

    Great looking car. Definitely beastly.

    However, I am not sure that the “soul” is Porsche overall. I don’t think these cars were great handlers, from what I have read.

    But I welcome the chance to change my mind, if anyone is offering free test drives.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I;ve only seen one of these in real life, it was rough around the edges, some scuffed paint and bubbling around the a pillar.This was 10 yrs ago.
    I bet Mechatronic could shoehorn a modern 7spd trans for only 30 grand or so, to make it perfect.

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